Winter Akoth

Winter Akoth speaking to teenage girls about identity at St Mark Primary School in Nyalenda Slum, Kisumu County in July 2021. 

| Pool

Winter Akoth: I got into an early marriage to fill the void after my father abandoned me

Having been neglected by her father because of being a girl, Winter Akoth, 34, discovered her passion for giving hope to teenagers and mentoring them to discover their identity and pursue their dreams in life. By

 “I truly treasure my mother's sacrifice to ensure I became the woman I am today. The lack of a father figure caused me a lot of emotional and psychological pain as I often wondered why my father would abandon my mother because of giving birth to only girls and preferring to marry two other wives who had boys from previous relationships.

I am the second-born in a family of four girls and my mother struggled to raise us up in Nyalenda Slums in Kisumu County. I lacked the most basic needs and sanitary towels were a luxury. I dropped out of school in form three because of a lack of fees and life took a tragic turn. My mother did all she could to give us the best, but I still missed the father figure in my life.

With the void brought about by the lack of a male figure, I got into a relationship that led me to be a mother at 19. I faced so many adversities such as social stigma, financial and new life adjustments stress, with no emotional support as my mother was busy parenting other children.

With no options, I settled in the marriage which lasted for 11 years, and gave birth to three children. The environment was toxic and I remember I was once locked out of the house with my children and had to spend the night in the cold.

Violent

Several times, my husband became violent, drunk heavily, and had multiple affairs. After years of living in denial, the truth of my failing and abusive marriage became apparent, shattering my world. I felt hollow, disgusted, and even depleted. I thought something was wrong with my family which made my father forsake us and now here I was going through the same ordeal in my marriage. I was grieving and working hard to make ends meet for my children.

I found love from my family and this reminded me that life was precious despite the pain. I started rebuilding my life and my perspective changed. It is at this point I decided to rescue young girls and boys who are neglected and abused at a tender age because the void ends up having a huge impact on their future.

In 2020, I founded Truevine International organisation which aims at empowering teenagers and I use the platform to create awareness to parents about the importance of effective parenting.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly three in four children or 300 million children aged 2-10 years suffer psychological abuse at the hands of their parents or caregivers. If not well handled, consequences of child maltreatment bring in lifelong mental health and social outcomes. That's why it's important for parents to be aware.

 Through our organisation, we offer free mentorship, sanitary towels to girls, education on various subjects such as drugs abuse, homosexuality, and sex. We also host a teens talk trailer on my YouTube page, Winter Ogacho production, to enlighten parents on what to expect from their teens and also provide platforms where they can interact with teenagers from diverse backgrounds.

After interacting with most children, many have expressed their concerns about not being understood in their teenagehood, which makes them vulnerable to peer pressure. Boys who are raised by mothers alone lack the male figure in their lives and this hinders them from comprehending their role as leaders in society. This explains why there are many failed marriages as most men lack models to imitate and, this affects the whole society.

On the flip side, young girls who lack a father figure in their lives are vulnerable to abuse in the future as it becomes hard to clearly define love. With this in mind, we have worked hard to create a platform where girls and boys can interact effectively and share issues they face at home and in society at large.

So far, our program has reached out to over 250, 000 girls in Kisumu and partly in Homabay and Siaya County.

Greatest achievement

My greatest achievement has been seeing the lives of young boys and girls transformed. I believe that changing one teenager at a time equates to changing future generations. No matter the challenges presented at home, they are growing up to become assertive, confident, and determined to achieve their goals in life.

Caregivers are also learning parenting skills which play a crucial role in having functional families where children's rights are protected. The future can only get better.

Still, I encounter some challenges. Inadequate finances are one of the major challenges I encounter since there is so much to be done, but the resources are limited. I use part of my earnings from my business to support the initiative and with time, God has brought a lot of friends who have also carried this burden in their hearts.

Winter Akoth

Winter Akoth speaking to teenage girls about identity at St Mark Primary School in Nyalenda Slum, Kisumu County in July 2021. 

Photo credit: Pool

I look forward to running a teens programme on a TV station to create a platform for discussion on issues affecting teenagers. I am also looking into creative ways I can reach more boys and girls and offer mentorship.

I advocate for positive parenting since it builds healthier relationships between parents and children. This approach makes parents more sensitive and responsive in interactions with their children and this will mould them into happier and more optimistic adults.

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