I rose beyond my stepdad's defilement and graduated college

Joyce Wanjiku, 28, from Eldama Ravine poses for a photo during an interview with Saturday magazine in Nairobi.  Photo| Tebby Otieno

What you need to know:

Joyce Wanjiku, 28, ran away from home at 12 after defilement by her stepdad. Today she is a food and beverage graduate after a children’s home raised her

When I approached Joyce Wanjiku for our already scheduled interview at a venue along Ngong Road in Nairobi, it was not easy for her to share her childhood memories. For instance, when I asked her the number of children in her family, her first response was, “Let me start counting because...,” Then she laughed before pausing, and with a smiling face she counted…”1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9.”

Joyce now 28, is the firstborn in a family of nine. Her biological dad died leaving her mother with two children (her sister and herself). “I had not gone to school yet when my dad died,” Joyce says.  Her mother later got remarried.

However, life took a turn as her relationship with her stepdad was very sour.

 “My stepdad would beat me mercilessly. There was no love from him. Life with him was very difficult. At that time, we had moved to Narok from Eldama Ravine and my parents practised small small-scale farming to earn a living. In 2007, when I was 12, I decided to run away from home because my mum feared my stepdad so much that even when he beat me she could not even talk. To her, I was always on the wrong side and I deserved the beatings.

Apart from being a small-scale farmer, my stepdad was a charcoal burner. He would ask me to help him carry charcoal from the forest. This happened regularly and in the process, he started defiling me. He did this more than once and he would still beat me. He drove his anger towards me. Whenever he came home drunk late at night, he would shout out my name to open for him the door. 

The day I escaped from home, he had beaten me so much that I decided I could no longer stay in the same homestead with him. Along the way, I met one of the pastors within Narok who took me in after listening to my story. I shared a hostel with students who are boarders in a school run by the church. After some time, church leaders called me. They wanted to trace my parents and inform them of my whereabouts. Together we went home and I introduced them to my parents then I returned with them for the sake of my safety. I already told them that I did not want to stay with my parents.

When I revealed the defilement incidents they reported my stepdad to the police station and he was arrested. We attended court hearings twice but before we could get a final ruling, I was shocked to find him a free man at home. I was speechless.

In 2011, the church leaders introduced me to Anita Children home in Ngong and I was accepted as one of the many rescued children. It is while here that I officially sat in a classroom as a student. Because of my age, I was admitted straight to class five and continued with my basic education until 2014 when I sat for my Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams. By that time, I had already turned 18 and I preferred joining college where I studied Food and Beverage for two years.

Life at the children's home was better than my own home because I was taken care of. It is a norm there that once we complete our studies we are reintegrated back to our families or relatives. I really did not want to go back to my family. Fortunately, by this time I was already in a relationship and so I got married in 2018 and we are blessed with a daughter who is now three. Now that I am a mother, I am giving my child the best that I can afford because as a child I was not given the best life. I want my daughter to grow up knowing that I love her.

There are good stepfathers out there but I know there are also bad ones who mistreat children. So I would encourage stepfathers to love their stepchildren and make them feel like their own because you never know how life turns out. How they will treat you will depend on the amount of love you showed them while they were young. The last time I was with my parents was last year, December. My stepdad has not changed. He is still a violent drunkard.

I always wish the best for all mothers including my own.  My future big dream is to move to the US and work there as a chef. In the meantime, I am still searching for a job here. I hope I will get a job and earn from my, food and beverage skills.”