My name is Agnetta Auma. I am a 33-year-old mother who lives in the slums of Obunga Kisumu County, Kenya.
I sell fish to support my four children; two boys and two girls. I was married to the late Austin Odhiambo, who died in a road accident.
I was born the firstborn (and first girl) in a family of five children. My childhood was great: I was my father’s favorite. Regardless of how I was never a top student at school, my dad always encouraged me never to give up. My mother and other four siblings, however, were never comfortable with how close I was with my dad.
At the age of 11, my dad passed away. This was the worst experience ever. Since then, my life started changing from worse to worst. I guess this is the opportunity my mother and siblings waited for a very long time. With the way I was never one of the top students at school, my mother started claiming that there was no reason for her paying my school fees due to my poor performance. Instead, she wanted me to always help her with the house chores, or even find out how we could keep up with our basic needs in the house. She used to say that, as the firstborn, I was to find a way of catering for my younger siblings’ needs.
I had no option but to drop out of school at the age of 12. My mother sent me away to one of the richest people in our community at that time, the Onjiko family, to work as house help. As long as she was receiving my salary by the end of every month, she never cared about my health or how I was coping up with that place.
Mr. and Mrs. Onjiko had a son who was in high school. My first days in their house were good, and they welcomed me in a very nice manner. Mr. Onjiko would always come home early and find me doing my normal house chores, and all he would do was just say hi and go to his bedroom.
So one day as usual he came back home early and this time he found me asleep in my room. All I can remember is that I felt so helpless I couldn’t even try to defend myself. Mr. Onjiko suddenly pounced on me and started squeezing me. I tried my best by screaming, but it was hopeless since there was nobody around to save me, not even the neighbors. After he finished, he warned me not to say anything or else I would get fired. I remained silent.
That evening, I cleaned the entire bedsheet and the clothes that were covered in blood. I was a very naive girl, and I didn’t know how terrible it is to be raped. I just resolved to clean my clothes, in silence.
Days went by, and my periods stopped coming. I thought it was normal, since I used to hear some of my friends say that periods could be irregular. My cravings for certain foods also appeared. I think this is where Mrs. Onjiko started to notice how strange I was behaving, together with how my belly was growing. I was so young, it never crossed my mind that I would be pregnant.
At that time there were no pregnancy kits, so she decided to take me to a midwife to take a look at me. They found out that I was almost 6 months pregnant. Mrs. Onjiko was so disappointed and wanted me out of her house immediately. Before I left, I told her that it was her husband’s. I never came back.
I knew I couldn’t go back to my mother’s, so when I left their house, I turned to the streets. When I was almost due to giving birth, I met this man who offered me to work for him as a house help. I really needed a place to stay, especially when I was soon to give birth, so I had no option but to accept.
After a few months, I gave birth to my first son, who is now studying at university. The man that offered me a job at the streets, Austin Odiambo, ended up marrying me and also accepted to be my son’s father. Who could ever imagine? My life was at peace with my new family. As years went by, I later gave birth to 3 more children. After my husband’s death, it has been very difficult to manage taking my children to school while working, but I will never allow them to drop out.
As much as what I earn is little, I promised myself that I would make sure my children go to school and have a better life than I did.
Life should have been better for me. Instead, I will make sure it is the best for them.
Written by Steasy Atieno