Mid December 2017, I set out to meet amazing girls at the Bridging Centre in Mukuru Kwa Njenga, Nairobi. A drive through the overpopulated, shanty housed slum, with seemingly narrow pathways dotted with overly delighted kids engulfing the whole neighborhood in screams and yells of joy as they darted across the road, playing polythene paper stuffed soccer ball, I finally arrived at the bridging Centre which is situated adjacent to a hospital deep within the slum region.
I met and interacted with a couple of girls. Rhoda caught my attention. She is a courageous girl. She is confident, smart and assertive. She posses unique skills and adorns a ‘tom boy look’. She has been through a lot in life… Here is her story
“My name is Rhoda* I am 18 years old. I am an artiste. I love to rap, I do spoken word and write scripts. . My stage name is Rapper G! I live in Mukuru Kwa Njenga. I have dropped out of school not once,twice, after Form 1 and now Form 2 due to lack of school fees and few dicliplinary cases here and there.
Rapping/Spoken word is the only way I get to somewhat express and release the pain and heartache that has mauled me throughout my life.
My mother is a vegetable seller. My father lost his job three years ago and has been unable to get a descent job ever since. Life at home became tough. My mother was struggling to feed, shelter and school me and my three younger siblings. At 17, I departed home in search of a better future.
Unknowingly, I entered into gang life to protect myself from lots of ghetto trouble. My best male friend inside the gang further protected me from other gang members. He later on persuaded me to leave gang life for he feared for my life. He said it wasn’t just my thing and that I was wasting my life. I heeded to his advice. To be safe, I had to shift places.
I decided to look for a job and turn over a new leaf. I easily got a job as a waitress at a local bar close to where I lived. Six days into my new job, my boss and his three friends drugged me and raped me the whole night, in turns..
When the drugs cleared from my system. I woke up feeling dizzy and with a throbbing headache. I was half naked, blood stained and my body pained as though I had been beaten thoroughly. I tried to get up and walk but fell down like a drunkard. I lay still, hoping that it was just one of those crazy dreams and it would soon be over.
In my hullucinations, I heard footsteps moving to my direction. I slowly opened my eyes and saw my boss. He was smiling. He ordered me to get up. He dragged me through the back door to his car and asked for the direction to my home. He drove me home and ordered me to give him my dirty, stained clothes and also asked me to take a shower. I knew I had been raped. I peed in a basin inside my bathroom. My vagina pained! I coined throughout my peeing!
I showered for about an hour while crying my heart out. I kept staring at the blood stained water as it made its way through the sewer hole. I walked out of the shower, the bastard was still standing in the middle of my tiny living room. He told me what he and his friends had done to me.. I swear if I had a gun I would have shot his brains out! He asked me to sleep and never tell anyone whatever had happened and if I did he would kill me! I fell on my sofa and pretended to sleep. When he left. I took the bloody urine. Poured in bottle and took it to a nearby hospital. I was immediately admitted. They did tests on me and gave me medication. After one day, I was discharged from the hospital and handed back to my parents who had been informed about my ordeal.
I hated being a woman. I felt dirty and unworthy! I felt guilty! That was my second worst sexual experience since I had just lost my virginity a month prior to the rape incident. Loosing my virginity was a painful experience. I hadn’t gotten over the pain yet!
To date I have never pursued justice because three months ago, my parents and I reported the incident at a local police station and the police officers laughed at us and told us without concrete evidence we were wasting our time.
Nonetheless , I have been receiving counseling at local councelling Centre.
Trust me, I can never fully heal..
With the support of DREAMs Innovation Challenge,I have decided to go back to school. They too are offering psychosocial support and counseling at the Bridge Centre near my home. I feel safe with them. I also use the computers at the Centre to write and edit my scripts. I have written so many pieces on Gender based violence especially on rape and defilement ..
In January, I shall be going back to school to perfect my spoken English and perfect my English writing skills. I love art and art is my life and my future.
I sincerely thank DREAMs IC for believing in me..
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 Secondary Schools‘ 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 African 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.