What you need to know:
- Irene remembers one Monday in April, when she received a call from her husband’s lover.
- Less than two minutes after ending the call, her husband called her, threatening to punish her for being rude to his lover.
The world may be marking the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence (GBV) but for Irene (surname dropped), it is 365 days against a rather hopeless life.
The 30-year-old, nursing a five-month old ‘miracle’ baby is a GBV survivor. She is uncertain where her life is headed.
“I want to feel my life,” she says.
“To have food and shelter for my children and myself. I want to break free from imagination of depending on a man for financial support. That I don’t want ever again in my life,” adds Irene who is about to finish her third month in a rescue centre based in Karen, Nairobi County.
She is here because she was almost starving to death with her little one. For one year, she lived with her husband, a security guard, who sexually assaulted her and tortured her psychologically.
He overtly engaged in extra-marital affairs. Instead of breaking off from the marriage, she preferred to harden off, for a simple reason; provision.
“I got married because I needed someone to provide for me. I come from a very poor family. My mother is mentally challenged and my father died. So, where could I go when my other three siblings look up to me for help,” poses Irene, the eldest of the four children.
This was her second marriage. She was 23 years when she first got married for the same reason – escaping from poverty. She got a daughter, who is six years now, from that marriage.
Irene remembers one Monday in April, when she received a call from her husband’s lover. She informed Irene of their plan to take away her baby once it was born. She was angry and her response was similarly provoking.
Less than two minutes after ending the call, her husband called her, threatening to punish her for being rude to his lover. Even with clarity and knowledge of the danger she was in, Irene stuck on.
At 6.30pm, he arrived home.
The greetings, she says, were a blow to her face and a kick to her seven-month-old blown tummy. She reached for the bed and slithered underneath as he looked around for an aid in weapon to use in his episode of battery.
On second thought, she presumed it was a good time to escape. But before she could reach for the door, he hit her on the ankle, causing her to flip over. Then, the bleeding from her private parts started. Scared to see the blood, he ran away.
To her luck, the landlord offered to take her to Mama Lucy Hospital where she was treated. Meanwhile, the neighbours looked after her daughter.
With no place to go, she returned to the same room and sent for the biological father to her daughter to come and collect her. He did and she is still under his care.
For the period up to delivery of her son in June, Irene attempted committing suicide using different means.
“I tried to strangle myself with a rope. But I could become too weak the moment I tried to tighten the node,” she says.
“Then at different times, I took pesticides used to kill cockroaches and clear ticks and fleas from animals. But here I am. Sometimes I have acute stomach pains and I think it’s the effect of the poison,” she observes.
She could go hungry if none of her neighbours gave her food. This continued until and after she delivered at Pumwani Maternity Hospital. Her delivery was normal without complications.
By this time, her neighbours had begun asking around for any help for her. Finally, in September, a star shone on her when one of her neighbours linked her to the owner of the Karen-based rescue centre, her current home.
But she is unhappy!
“How am I going to educate my children if I stay here forever? My mind goes blank every time I think about that,” she says.
Her worry is further compounded with the fact that: “I don’t have any certificate for skilled learning. I studied up to Class Eight. So, I cannot say I have any better skills to secure me a job.”
“But I can run a salon since I learnt how to manage the business through apprenticeship. All I need is at least Sh50,000 to start the business. If there is anything that is going to come out of these 16 Days of Activism, then it got to be funds to support GBV survivors rebuild their lives,” she reckons.