Young, alone and 30 weeks pregnant, Samira arrived in need of advice and support on how to navigate her and her child’s future.
Kara FVS first became aware of Samira* when we were contacted by Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre asking us to consider her referral to our crisis accommodation.
Samira was an 18-year-old Afghani woman. She was 3 years old when her family moved from Afghanistan to Australia as refugees. She grew up in the south eastern suburbs of Melbourne. She had two older brothers, and together with their parents they attempted to raise her within the boundaries of their strict religious culture.
At 10, Samira was returned to Afghanistan to live with her paternal grandparents. Samira later said it was because she was rebellious. In June this year, the International Red Cross became aware of Samira’s abusive living conditions and together with Federal Police support returned Samira to Australia. As it was unsafe for Samira to return to her parents, she was supported by Safe Steps until she entered Kara FVS. Samira was 30 weeks pregnant.
Samira was a delightful young woman who was open to learning everything we could teach her. We had to keep in mind, she left Australia when she was 10 years of age, English had become her second language and rarely used, and she had been very tightly monitored and isolated in Afghanistan. She had never lived independently, managed her own finances, never shopped or cooked for herself, never caught public transport. Melbourne was no longer familiar to her. Learning everyday daily living skills was a priority. Added to this, an innocent young woman who had no understanding of child birth.
We worked collaboratively with a major hospital, surrounding Samira with further supports, the antenatal social worker, birthing clinic and classes and hospital volunteers teaching Samira, in a very short time period, the changes which were about to take place in her life.
Meanwhile, Kara FVS continued to work with Samira on her living skills, providing psychosocial family violence education, researching long-term housing options and gathering all the necessary baby equipment she would need in the next month.
Before long, Samira collected her hospital bag and following a short labour delivered a very healthy baby girl she named Laila*. We were fortunate to secure supported housing, specifically for young and vulnerable mothers, which Samira and Laila moved into shortly after hospital discharge. We visited her a few weeks later. She welcomed us into her home and proudly showed off Laila. Samira has chosen not to contact her family. We have linked her into a young mother’s Afghani group as well as a supported playgroup for her to meet other mothers as well as a social outlet for her. She has been provided with details for trauma counselling when she is ready.
Despite the suffering and abuse Samira has endured, we were fortunate to work with a strong resilient young woman who now has the opportunity of living a safe and happy life with Laila.
*Not their real names