It is 7 o’clock in the morning and, once again, the City of Kisumu is a beehive of activities. Bodabodas crisscross each other, the matatus are hooting, children walk to school carrying loads of books as the adults walk to work with one mission: to “put food on the table.”
As the sun rises above the informal settlements of Manyatta in Kisumu, Faith, a twenty seven-year-old single mother of one daughter, opens the doors to her saloon kiosk. To her, it is a new day, a new dawn and just like everybody else, she must embark on a struggle of survival. I stand patiently as I wait for her to finish cleaning the kiosk housing her saloon before we begin our interview. She had agreed to grant me an hour of her time between 7:30am to 8:30 am, before her first client arrives.
“I don’t know how to begin,” she says at the start of our conversation. “But what I know is that I am never going back to that marriage again.” It turns out to me that Faith had just come out of a toxic marriage. “He used to come home drunk, angry and sometimes dirty every other day. When he got home, he would kick anything that came his way; cups, plates, chairs… even the table.” I sit pensively as I listen to Faith narrate the ordeals she underwent courtesy of a man she later described to me as “the most violent man I have ever met in my life.”
“I had no job at that time,” she continues. “He was our family’s breadwinner, and so I entirely depended on him. Anytime he got home drunk, he would completely decline to give me any money and when I asked, he could beat me and throw insults at me in the presence of our daughter. At times, he could even throw objects at me, but I would miss.”
At this point, I take a closer look at her eyes and I notice that tears have started gathering at her eyes, ready to trickle down anytime. She struggles to hold back her tears as she unravels the miseries from her past, a past she remembers with nostalgia and lots of regrets.
“One day he came back home drunk. As usual. The only difference was that on this day, I was prepared and ready for him. I was ready to fight back, to earn back my respect… I had had enough. I intentionally asked for some cash from him, of course he refused and in his usual way, began hurling insults at me. When I told him to stop, to respect our daughter and our marriage, he punched me so hard on the face. I fell down on the sofa right behind me, blood was oozing out of my nose, our daughter tried to stop him. He pushed her away. I fought back, but he was stronger than I. I did not lose hope. More blood was oozing out of my nose, and my daughter was crying.
In the middle of the yelling, the punches, the cries and the blood, a neighbor got in. Baba Jimmy, a heavily built man, stronger than my husband at that time. Baba Jimmy intervened, and manages to stop the fight. At this point, I made my decision, I am leaving. Enough is enough. I decided to set up my salon, to be independent. I decided to take care of my daughter alone. ‘It shall be well,’ I promised myself.” Silence follows her last sentence.
I ask her whether she allows her daughter to see the father, but her answer is clean, blank and straight to the point. “No. I don’t want her to grow up having a bad image of men. I want her to learn from me that she can be independent; that she can work hard by herself, and that she can stand up for her own rights.”
At this point, her first client arrives; we have to stop. We bid each other goodbye and wish each other the best of that day. I exchange greetings with her client as I leave the salon. I look back to see her working, exchanging smiles and words with clients around her.
It Shall be Well.
Written by Martin Nyawara