Kafiya Dawi’s father was her world, until he left her family and made her question anything she knew about family, love and trust. She has spent years trying to overcome the scars he created, and while it hasn’t been easy, she has become stronger and a teenager that is now in control of her future.  

I write this as a 16-year-old Muslim Somali girl who is currently going through a lot, including an absent father. My family is very complicated to say the least. It’s me, my non-verbal autistic sister and my mother. I also grew up with older siblings, but that’s a different story.

When I was younger my mother was the breadwinner. She worked as a janitor living in a Section-8 townhouse in southwest Minneapolis. My father was a taxi driver for some time, but mainly took care of us. I was the ultimate daddy’s girl. I would often get very jealous when my sister would get the slightest attention from my dad. But my father loved me, and he would proclaim me as his favorite. He was my world.

My father was deeply tribal. He would often tell me, when I was as young as 8 years old, that he would be angry if I married a man who was not in our tribe or close to it. I thought he was a respected man because of his devotion to the tribe, but I would always hear stories of how disliked he was and also how he had a bad temper. This was the start of many bad things.

It all started around September of 2009. I was in 4th grade, and he left his 8-year-old intellectually disabled daughter and his 9-year-old (me) to go to Somalia. Why he left, I will never know. When he did eventually return, it was March. Six months had passed. The time he was gone was a hard one for me. I was argumentative with my mom; I was disrespectful at times. It took me years to realize there’s a correlation between my father’s absence in my life and my behavior.

This wasn’t the first time I was crushed. My paternal grandmother died a year before my dad’s departure. She had a house, and she promised to give that house to me, my sister and my mom before she passed. But my dad took the house and gave it to his new wife. In that moment, not only was I devastated, I was faced with the harsh reality that men often choose other women over their daughters.

After that, it continued. On November 5th, 2013, my father was packing his bags to go to Somalia. I had recently turned 14 years old. He told me that he would be back in a couple of months. So I waited. Days turned into weeks, which then turned into months. I slowly but maturely began to lose hope and convinced myself that not only would he not return anytime soon, but that he would never return.

But after a few years, I took control. I started therapy of all sorts like yoga, aromatherapy, counseling, and they all worked. Until this March, when I found out my father’s new wife was pregnant. This was the most depressed I had ever felt. I felt betrayed, hopeless. And felt like you can never rely or even trust anyone. Even if they are very close to you, because they turn around and stab you in the back.

Since then, I continue to work at bettering myself, and my life, but it’s hard when hardships get in the way. I’ve faced a lot, and I’m worried there will be more, but I know that what I’ve gone through has made me stronger and I have the power and control to turn things around.

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