Elfaged told Retrak outreach workers that 3 weeks previously he had been sleeping in the middle of the road on the central reservation when a car had run over his foot. The driver didn’t stop so he was left there in agony and with a bad injury (a deep, infected wound about 10 cm long and 5 cm across) and no prospect of medical help. The outreach workers encouraged him to come to the Retrak drop-in centre for medical care, but he was very hesitant. Finally, after much cajoling, he agreed, but then whispered: "but there's a problem!" staff asked what the problem was, and the reply came: "well, actually, I'm a girl!"
Elfaged was actually called Meseret and had been disguising herself as a boy for the past 3 years to stay safe. She told Retrak that her strategy to protect herself on the street was to shave off her hair, dress as a boy, wear a big old overcoat to cover her body, and hang around younger kids who wouldn't ask so many questions or realise her gender!
Meseret came to the clinic at the Retrak drop-in centre and after a course of antibiotics and daily dressings the wound healed. Meseret started to attend the education catch-up classes with the other street children. One quiet afternoon when most of the other children were not around, she began talking with one of the social workers and for the first time confessed that she had a mother and father, although they were separated. She said she really wanted to return home to her mum and that she was sick of street life and the pretence of living as a boy.
The social workers are now working intensively with Meseret to help her achieve her dream of returning home and are slowly helping restore her self-confidence which has been eaten away by years of suffering and living on the street.
Update! June 2011 - Meseret has now graduated from vocational training to be a hairdresser and is about to embark on working for the first time! More info here.
*Children’s names have been changed and they are all happy for us to share their story with you