Hope, resilience, determination and focus are written all over Lilian’s face. ‘Am conscious of my mistakes, but all I need is a second chance’ discloses Lilian. Amid the hardships in Lilian’s life, she still believes that one day, the sun will go down..
“My name is Lilian* Am 16 years old. I am a single mother to a 5 month old baby girl. I live in Mukuru Kwa Njenga slums, Nairobi.
When I was about 8 years old, my mother moved me upcountry-Western Kenya-to live with my grand-parents for she could not afford to feed and take care of her 5 children. She ‘distributed’ us to relatives and remained with only two of my siblings.
Life upcountry was not as tough as life in the city. At least we had food and most of the other basic needs. I was enrolled to a nearby primary school. I loved school and stayed focused. I made new friends and was a darling to many.
Life changed when my grandmother passed on. My 86 year old grandfather was not as hardworking and caring as my grandmother…Nevertheless, I continued with my education. I sat for my KCPE exams and garnered 300Marks emerging one of the top students in the school. I was very happy.
My dreams of joining a secondary school were trashed away simply because my poor mother and alcoholic father could not afford to pay for the required school fee for Form1. I got called to some of the best schools in Western but sadly I could not go.
Poverty and misery was glaring into our eyes. I lived with so many cousins. We used to scramble for food and steal each other’s clothes. Some of my cousins had to leave since life was becoming unbearable.
At 13, I started my menses. There was no one to buy for me sanitary towels. For two years I used old clothes and rags as pads. During heavy flow, blood would leak and stain my clothes. I would become a laughing stock to my peers. I chose to avoid school whenever I had my periods.
Being idle in the village, and having lost hope for education, I decided to get a boy who would marry me, at 15. I later on got a boyfriend-a Boda Boda rider. He was great. He bought me pads and gave me money. We used to see each other quite often. He said he loved me. I loved him too. We dated for about six months without any intimacy. Then one day I agreed to have sex with him for the first time.. Little did I know that life would take another turn!
How could I have sex for the first time and get pregnant? I wondered…My boyfriend denied responsibility for the pregnancy. I got very distressed,embarrassed and scared at the same time. I did not tell anyone, but with time my protruding belly spoke for itself. When my mother heard of the news, she was very upset and wanted me to get rid of my pregnancy!
I refused and stood firm to my decision. She picked me up from the village and brought me back to Nairobi. I knew she was going to force me to abort. To my surprise, she did not! She changed her mind. Ever since she has been quite supportive.
Then on one bright day, while basking outside the house and enjoying the the sun rays that softly and sweetly sipped through my skin; benefiting from the natural Vitamn D, as my baby took a nap, I was approached by an organization that works to help girls who had dropped out to school due to various factors, to re-enroll back to school. They said they were called DREAMs IC . I did not believe them, I thought they were traffickers. I shared the news with my mother when she returned home from her house to house cloth washing business. She encouraged me to find out where they were. Later that week, we went to visit them to verify their legality. I was shocked to meet other girls at the Centre whose situations weren’t different from mine.
I did not sleep that night! I was very excited! And thanked God for yet another chance at life! I immediately joined the other girls together with my baby-whom I drop at a day care at the same Centre. Life has never been the same. I was given my basic utilities plus my baby’s. We were so happy!
I have completed the six months learning program under the DREAMs Innovation Challenge. I too have secured a slot at a nearby day secondary school.This coming January, I will be going back to school. I have been given a back to school starter pack containing all the basic essentials and am really exited to get into a secondary school. Am also grateful that my mother has offered to help raise my baby.
I always dreamt of becoming a Neurosurgeon. I believe this is the perfect opportunity to make my dreams come true! I thank DREAMs IC for their support. Because of them, I will realize my dreams..
NB: Name has been changed to conceal identity of the girl..
About DREAMs IC
DREAMS Innovation Challenge is a project that was started with the understanding that in Kenya adolescent girls and women bear the the brunt of the HIV endemic, with females in the 15-24 age cohort accounting for21% of new infections (Kenya HIV Estimate Report 2014)
Low education attainment from dropping out of school is one of the factors that predispose girls and young women to the risk of getting HIV. This project targets adolescent girls and young women aged 15-24years who have dropped out of school and are from resource poor households who are at risk of early marriage, expectant or have children, community members of Siaya, (Sihay, Nyalenya) and Nairobi (Kangemi and Mukuru) as well as duty bearers, service providers who are responsible for supporting the participation of AGWYs in education and transition to secondary school.
The project dubbed ‘Keeping girls in School’ seeks to address the livelihood that girls and young women will drop out of school as a result of lack of support to effectively deal with gender related issues, specifically puberty, sexual reproductive health and HIV thus increasing their vulnerability to HIV.
Girl Child Network (GCN) is working in partnership with LVCT Health, Grow and Know, and Afrucan Voices Foundation under the coordination of Trocaire on the DREAMs IC Project in rural Siaya and the urban informal settlements of Nairobi to address the underlying access, enrollment and retention issues among girls in secondary school.