Hawa Turay

I want to encourage women about life.

I’m from a beautiful country called Sierra Leone and I just want to give a little of my life story. I first came to the UK when I was seven and went back to Sierra Leone when I was seventeen for a holiday and got stranded there, as my father believed I would be better off in Sierra Leone.

Things were very difficult for me during this time – relearning the different culture and language. I had left my friends in London and a way of life that I was accustomed to. However, I was able to make the best life for myself that I could.

In 1991, civil war broke out in Sierra Leone and I was caught up in it. It was a very dreadful time as I witnessed young children and adults being killed, limbs being  hacked off. During the 24 hour curfew, no one was allowed outside on the streets and to save myself from being taken way by men with guns, I had to cut off my weave with a butcher’s knife and mix charcoal with vaseline to darken my face and skin, because these rebels were looking for young ladies that were fair in complexion to be their sex slaves. In addition to this daily fear, there was no food and it was dangerous to go out looking for food. Days and nights were littered with gun shots.

I was devastated, lonely and scared.

The war and what I experienced still haunts me but I am one of the blessed ones to have family in the UK. They arranged for me to leave Sierra Leone and make a new life for myself. I am certain that had it not been for my family, I would have died. If not at the hands of men with guns, through the psychological impact. I cannot fully describe the hell I witnessed but somehow I’m still standing and fighting because that’s what life is all about; and sometimes when you want to give up, you need hope and the help of others to prop you up till you find your strength again.

Resettling in the UK wasn’t without its challenges. I was detained and sent to Yarls Wood in Middlesex, which was further very traumatism – a story I do not wish to tell at this time.

After being released and ready to start my life —- wait for it—
I got diagnosed with grade three Breast cancer.

I was traumatised and devastated but I had faith that I will beat cancer. I went for all my treatments and operations with God by my side. It was tough and painful but I went through it praising God.

I want every one to focus on your self, take care of yourself, be possible, encourage one another, love your self and others, life is too short

Hawa Turay