Relatives tortured me as a girl, today I front children's rights

Florah Nkatha Mugao the founder of Frolics of Hope Africa, an organisation based in Nakuru that deals with the rescue children from violence.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • At 31, I'm already a mother to 39 children, which the organisation has brought under protection. 
  • Children's rights should be taken seriously, and when their cases are dealt with expeditiously, it will be a deterrent to others.

"I was a bubbly kid while growing up with my siblings in Tharaka-Nithi County. My parents were teachers; with my mother a primary school and my father a secondary school one. You would say they were a perfect set of parents and we did not lack.

I'm the second born in a family of four children. Life would have been normal but from a young age, we the children did not have a normal life. You see, my parents were in an inter-tribal marriage with my father being a Meru and my mother a Kamba. My grandmother did not approve of her son's marriage to my mother, and she transferred the hatred she had for our mother to us, children. We were like a bad omen. But because our parents had taught us to love everybody, we loved her no matter how bad she was towards us.

Grandmother loved hurling verbal abuses and other unprintables at us.

I recall a time my parents had left us under my grandmother's care and we were very hungry. Out of sheer ingenuity, my brother decided to boil raw pawpaws to quell our hunger. Grandmother confiscated the 'food' and ordered us out of the compound calling us caterpillars. This left a permanent mark on me. I could not understand how someone who was supposed to care for us could turn against us.

In 1995, I lost my sister from a car accident. Someone had tampered with the breaks, and the car carrying my family members rolled downhill and fire erupted. I suffered some degrees of burns. My hand had a deep cut that an artificial metal rejoinder had to be fitted. It is still implanted to this day.

Throughout my primary, secondary, and university education, I was more introverted. I often hide to cry. I masked my tribulations well.

I graduated with a bachelor of commerce in finances and later did a Masters in the same field. I then worked as a manager with Old Mutual, and it was during this stint that I felt I was not living a fulfilling life. Throughout my journey of trauma and healing, I never got any psychological support, either as a child or as an adult.

This compelled me to start my organisation known as Frolics of Hope Africa. I knew there are many children out there undergoing the worst form of abuse or trauma than what I endured, and Frolics deals with rescue and protection of such children. We rescue children from violence like family violence, tribal clashes, sexual violence, and gender-based violence.

It is sad to see children growing up broken, with some ending committing murders or as suicide cases. Many children are exposed to abuse by those they trust. The youngest case I had rescued was that of a three-year-old child who attempted suicide. If at such a tender age the child could feel unwanted, what would happen when such children reach the age of 18? They feel totally broken and see nothing worth living for.

We seek to restore hope and give such children a bright future, and a reason to live. God has allowed me to live, and I do not want to see another child growing the way I did. It can also be traumatising for children growing without parental love when their custodians or adoptive parents are abusive.

I lost my parents in the most horrific of ways. When I was 17, my father was hacked to death by his brother in front of the extended family in December 2007. In January 2008, we were evicted from our home and luckily, that was the year I joined university. I was lucky to get a full scholarship from USAID to pursue a Master's program.

My siblings, a younger brother, and sister have also been beneficiaries of scholarships through the Equity's Wings to Fly programme.

The sad fate that befell my father was to befall my mother as well. She had by this time returned to her maternal home. I was then at University. The killer of my father was released on bond after four years in custody and he tracked down my mother to her parents' home and killed her with poisoned arrows. That was in 2011.

Life became a living hell such that, when I was in campus, I had to be on the run for my safety. It was to be so for the next 11 years. I have had to sire ties with my relatives to date. When my father was killed, I was seen as a minor who could not testify as a witness.

My late mother used to joke that I love children so much that, if I was to have my own, I would give birth to over 20 kids. I'm not married for the trauma that I underwent made me fear marriages. I'm scared of going through what I saw our mother go through in the hands of her in-laws.

At 31, I'm already a mother to 39 children, which the organisation has brought under protection. My mother may have prophetically charted my path.

We are petitioning the government to review the Children's Act. The Act, as it is currently constituted, doesn't protect all children. It is lenient to abusers. Children's rights should be taken seriously, and when their cases are dealt with expeditiously, it will be a deterrent to others."

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