What you need to know:
- Purity Nkatha Mwirigi never thought she would ever become a victim of domestic violence.
- Her step-father would beat her mother up every evening for no reason and this pained her a lot.
- Her major setback would, however, come a year later, while in Form Two, when the father threatened to kill her and throw her out of their home over unknown reason.
Purity Nkatha Mwirigi always counted herself lucky for being born and raised in a happy family.
Although she knew a number of children who were growing in violent families within her backyard Timau in Meru County, she never thought she would ever become a victim. Her glowing smile would, however, be shrouded in agony as her parents’ marriage turned rocky years later.
What started as simple disagreements between her mother and stepfather would drastically grow into violence that saw life at home become unbearable.
“He (father) loved us so much but suddenly turned violent on my mother. He would beat her up every evening for no reason. This pained me a lot,” Ms Nkatha recalls.
The violence started in 2005 when she joined Form One at Kisima Mixed Secondary School.
The family’s sole breadwinner stopped providing for them, forcing her mother to seek casual jobs. On several occasions, Ms Nkatha and her siblings slept on empty stomachs.
“I hoped the fights would end but the situation kept worsening. He (father) rarely provided for us forcing mother to struggle singlehandedly to keep us going,” she tells nation.africa.
Threatening to kill me
Her major setback would, however, come a year later, while in Form Two, when the father threatened to kill her and throw her out of their home over unknown reason.
“Wielding a panga, he chased me away while threatening to kill me,” the first born in a family of eight recalls, saying seeing her mother’s tear-filled eyes that day broke her heart.
Ms Nkatha’s case is not isolated. Many children are exposed to their parents’ fights yet discussions on domestic violence focus on perpetrators and victims, leaving the young ones as helpless spectators. This makes them grow with bitterness and a majority, according to studies, become withdrawn and antisocial.
To protect Ms Nkatha from her violent father, the mother sent her to a friend who promised to help her secure a job in Malindi, Kilifi County.
Unfortunately, her mother’s friend wanted to introduce her to prostitution and other indecent street jobs forcing Ms Nkatha to turn down the offer and she was kicked out of the home.
Only parcel of land
All this while, the violence back at her parents’ home continued. Her father started unleashing violence on her siblings. He eventually sold their only parcel of land, forcing the mother and children out.
“My mother (due to stress) fell ill and moved out with my siblings and rented a house within Meru town,” she says, adding that for fear of embarrassing her family, the mother never reported the matter to the police.
While loitering in the streets of Malindi on the night she was ejected by her mother’s friend, a Good Samaritan offered to host Ms Nkatha for a few days.
She started seeking casual jobs at local hotels and shops and used part of the earnings to support her siblings and cater for her mother’s medication.
All this while, she still desired to go back to school but the casual jobs could not support that. Fortunately, she met a male friend on Facebook in 2012, who surprisingly helped her get a job in neighbouring Lamu County.
“We met online and he told me he was in Lamu. I asked if he could assist me get a job. I risked and relocated. He assisted me to get a house and paid for me,” she recalls.
He later assisted her get a job with a mobile service provider that earned her Sh8,000 a month.
The stranger who would later turn out to be her husband, was then a teacher at a local school in Lamu.
The 2014 insecurity in Mpeketoni forced her to seek transfer to Isiolo and as destiny would have it, her husband was also deployed to a school in the town.
Then a God-sent opportunity landed on her doorstep. A stranger, an activist Irene Kendi who fights for girls and women’s rights, offered to pay her school fees in 2018.
Having gone through the ugly childhood ordeals, including not completing her education on time, which she blames on her parents’ woes, Ms Nkatha developed the urge to assist victims of gender-based violence (GBV).
The 32-year-old now works with government institutions and other partners in educating women in Isiolo and Meru on GBV. She trains them on how to report cases and refers victims to nearby rescue centres. She also sensitises residents on the need to ensure their children transit to the highest level of education.
“I have gone through a lot of ugly things but I find peace in educating the community on the need to embrace dialogue in solving disputes,” she says.
The mother of one who targets homes, churches and markets in her campaign, plans to register an organisation to push her advocacy.
She also intends to recruit women and men to assist her in outreach educational programs targeting far flung areas in the county.
She encourages victims of GBV to share their experiences as that will encourage others going through similar ordeals to open up too.
“By sharing with them my story, many are encouraged to start life afresh and stay positive,” an elated Ms Nkatha says.