A problem half-solved

A problem half-solved


My name is Sharon Otieno from Kisumu Kenya living in the slums of Manyatta.

I am 34 years old. I am a mother of four. I am currently jobless but I do laundry for people for livelihood. I am married to Emanuel Onyango who is now 48 years of age currently jobless.

I got married at the age of 20; my parents were poor so I had to get married early to reduce the burden of staying at my parents’ house. So I had to go to Nairobi since my husband was working there. I got my first child at the age of 20 and my second born at the age of 21. My husband was providing for me and at the same times my family back at home. Life was good and I was living my dream.

After 12 years of marriage, my husband decided to take an early retirement because he wanted to vie for a political sit. That’s when everything started to change.

All over sudden my husband started coming home late, he would be seen with lots of young women and when I asked him he would get mad and tell me that it was a strategic move for his political sit. The money he used to give us for food he could not afford claiming that he has used all his cash for campaign and that we should wait for the result of the election that’s when he will be able to give us money for food. This made me start borrowing money from my family.

When the result came out my husbands had failed and that’s when life started becoming tough. My husband became so much depressed and all he could do was drink and argue. The landlord kicked us out of our apartment coz of our rental areas. That’s when we moved to Kisumu since my husband was afraid of shame.

Life in the slums was tough and we had to stay in a small room and during that time I had 4 kids and my husband. This forced my husband to start taking illicit brews just to make him drunk. When drunk he would come and chase us out of the house claiming that we were the people responsible for his loss.

To make the matters worse he would even come with strange ladies and chase us away. Since he was a well-known person I could not report him to the village administration or should I say that they did nothing about it. He would beat me up in front of my kids because he came home and found nothing to eat.

I also became depressed but what kept me moving was my kid, that’s when I started doing laundry to at least feed my family and pay my rent. To make the matters worst he could sometime come and steal my savings for alcohol. It reached a point where I had to beg my neighbors for food and at times even shelter. 

When my kids come back for holidays they usually help me do the laundries for extra cash for their school fees. As to my family they decided to ghost me since they also thought I was the one behind my husband’s misfortune 

What I can tell my fellow women is that we can do it.

When we come together we can stop this kind of mistreatment from our spouses and anyone involved.

It’s time we say enough is enough and we should also be empowered women.

For we are the core of survival of man.

Thanks to everyone involved in this project. a problem said is a problem half solved.


Written by George Odiero


It shall be well

It shall be well

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

Justice will be Served

Justice will be Served

My name is Sofia. I am 26 years old and I live in Kisumu. 

My story starts out with me just looking for a better future. I got through my education up to high school level, so I moved to Kisumu from my rural home in Siaya, to seek greener pastures.

Soon, I got a job in a marketing company. There, they would give me kitchenware products to sell to customers at their doorstep. I would walk for kilometers just to hit my daily target, from which I would get a 10% commission on goods sold. They would often relocate me to continue selling, too.

All was well until I started getting complaints from my employer: I was no longer making huge sales for the company, and I needed either to adjust, or lose my job. I pleaded, but she refused to listen. “Sofia, don’t be an idiot! You are a beautiful young lady, highly gifted!,” she said. “Now get out of my office and get me higher sales.”

I was so broken, I didn’t know what to do. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t beat my target. Soon, male clients started to say they would be willing to buy my products only if I slept with them…

One chilly morning, I was sent to deliver products to some random customer, and then head back to the office for another assignment. My employer sent me 150 Kenyan shillings to commute to Mambo Leo and back. I quickly changed my schedule and headed straight to the place.

When I rang the doorbell at the gate, a skinny guy in his mid-forties opened the gate and welcomed me inside. He was home alone. He said his name was Bruno. He offered me a seat in his sofa, received the products and examined them carefully… He offered me tea, but I rejected it: I explained that I didn’t take tea or meals during work. He pleaded me to accept, and as I refused, he told me to check my phone. Bruno had already paid. I had 7000 Kenyan shillings instead of 4500 in my account. I told  him about this mistake, but he ignored it. “The excess is your tip.” he said.

I got a little troubled, so I just thanked him and begged to leave…. He told me to wait and asked me if we could be more than just clients, and go a little intimate… I refused and told him I had principles. “Fuck principles!,” he shouted, as he rushed for the door, closed and locked it. I was so confused, I didn’t know what to do. He came towards me, but I ran towards the kitchen. All doors were locked. 

I tried to scream for help, but my efforts were empty. The compound was big; no one was able to get whatever was happening in the inside. He approached me, laughing sarcastically. “You’re mine bitch, come to daddy, nice and easy, I’ll take you slowly…” He locked the door and went to his living room. He turned up the music loud.

I was locked here for about 2 hours 30 minutes, when he came back and demanded me to comply if I ever wanted to be freed. It was evening and darkness was falling. I had no choice. I agreed.

When he was done, he opened the door and told me to leave.

I left in a hurry. I didn’t even remember to wear my panty, I called my boss immediately. She acted so okay and not bothered, that it was normal. Nothing new. “Io ni hali ya kazi,” she said. “That’s the nature of work.”

The following morning, I woke up and didn’t report to work. I went straight to the hospital to get tested for HIV/AIDS. They came out negative, but I was also given these drugs, commonly known as PEP, to prevent me from being exposed to HIV. I was also given an emergency pill, and was advised to be cautious, that such cases were on the rise… Some much even worse than mine. I was also advised to go and report to the police station, so that actions could be taken.

When I reported to the police, the officer in charge agreed to help only if I fueled their van. I had to part with two thousand Kenyan shillings, as I was determined to make Bruno pay for what he did to me.

We went to his home and arrested him, he was taken to the police station and informed on all the charges he was found guilty of, which he strongly denied and asked to speak to his lawyer. He was put away in a cell, and I was instructed to come back the following day to continue with our case. 

When I came back to the office, my boss told me my services were no longer required. I had to look for a new job.

The following day, I went back to the police station to follow my case. But when I arrived, I found out Bruno was no longer there. The police told me they didn’t have any evidence against him, so they released him as they conducted their investigations.

I kept on coming back to check on their progress, but they kept on pushing dates… The officer in charge of the case went as far as wanting to have sex with me, so he can speed up everything and take my rapist to jail. Soon, I lost hope and gave up on the case. I never came back.

I started job hunting. I would walk into offices, organizations and companies, asking for casual jobs. One day, a ran into women Empowerment organization. The lady in charge was a  feminist and  gender-based violence activist. We had a long conversation: she wanted to know where I came from, my level of education, and why I was looking for employment. She also asked if I would be interested in any college training. I chose a fashion and design course.

Right now, I’m married and a mother to a 3-year-old girl and a 1-year-old boy. I have a small shop where I do my lovely job of making traditional African clothes (kitenge), sewing and mending torn clothes with the sewing machine I was gifted back in college, after successfully completing my course.

Justice wasn’t served right to me. The police claimed that my rapist had fled out of town, and they would update us once they got hold of him. I still wait. My business is not well paying, and I still don’t have enough capital to expand it, but so far, I am happy.

My life is good, and justice will be served one day.

Written by Joans Arodi

The Downward Spiral

The Downward Spiral

Partying was my thing. Weekends were the best part of my life.

Talk about jam sessions, ramogi nights, mulembe nights… I can’t even exhaust them. Life was as easy as “one, two, three.”

Mum… that lady used to get into my nerves. “Hey! Don’t do this… Hey, don’t go there… What time is it?… Do you even respect yourself?” She was always nagging! I wished to get married as soon as possible just to get out of her sight.


One particular Friday night, I had been enjoying jam sessions from 6pm, when I met this young man. Handsome, well-built, tall, dark. His succulent lips… Oh! No lady could pass him without saying hi.

Let’s call him Vic.

Vic came to me smiling: for once, I froze. I couldn’t imagine such a handsome guy could ever approach me. “Hi, Maureen,” he said. “Hi too, Mr. Stranger,” I replied, blushing off. My blood was rushing; my heart was beating very fast. My hairs stood up.

I was young, fresh, still in high school. I had never been in a relationship before. He said his name was Vic, but I called him Vic, the Handsome Man. He gave me his card to call him once I got home, and even ordered an Uber for me, saying that young and beautiful girls like me should not be out this late… He sounded like my mum. But of course, his deep voice got me to leave the session and go home at one word.

I got home and I couldn’t settle. His image would not leave my mind. Of course, it was late and as usual my mum came to nag me, but my Vic’s voice was the only one ringing in my head.

I went on seeing Vic day in, day out. He was self-employed; he had this good business that gave him a lot of money. He used to spoil me. Talk of money, a phone, good dresses, shoes!… In fact, the latest fashion in town. I had found love at my young age! My friends couldn’t talk me out of it.

At some point, I was not even going home.

One day, Vic proposed to me and said he loved me so much, that he wanted to make me his wife, to be with me for the rest of his life. I couldn’t resist such a good act. I said yes. But something came up: “I am 35 years old,” he said. Fifteen years older than me! But I couldn’t hear anything: “Age is just but a number, Vic. I love you, and I want to marry you.”

That was the best day of my life. He treated me three times better than he used to do. Took me shopping and even took me to a salon. I plaited my favorite style braids. I went home much happier than ever before.

When I broke the news to my mum, she started hurling insults at me. I threw insults back to her. She even pulled me by my braids. I packed everything, called her a loser, and left to Vic’s place. Vic took me in, happy that now we could spend all of our minutes together.

We started jamming and going for every party that came our way. My life had completely taken a different direction. Vic loved me! More than my own mother ever did.

Soon, I became pregnant. I was expecting a baby boy from my handsome Vic! He was good, and very supportive… until I gave birth.

Things started changing, Vic could not see me in the eye. He started to sleep out, and would not even make time to look at his baby boy. He disappeared.

Rumors had it that Vic was once married. I found out on my own that Vic had another wife who was into cultism, and had used the cult on Vic after he left her. What? What did I get myself into? Is this cult causing Vic to behave this way? I was more scared than ever before.

Vic stopped providing for his boy. The baby had no clothes, no food, …nothing. Vic wouldn’t allow me to work, either. How did he expect his boy’s need to be met? I was so frustrated. This was not the Vic I married.

I later found out Vic was cheating on me with a lady I saw daily, who lived just nearby. It was heartbreaking for me, and asking him about it was the worst mistake of my life. From that day, Vic became a real animal. He would beat me mercilessly; my baby boy was old enough by then, and used to cry every time he beat me. Life became a living hell. 

I found out the girl Vic used to cheat on me with was infected with HIV. When I confronted him, all I got was slaps and punches. He told me not to talk ill about her, because he also picked me from a club. “You are just like her,” he said.

I packed my belongings and went back to my mother. Mum was very angry at me. But I regretted everything, I wished I had listened to her.

When Vic came back for me, he pleaded, saying that he had changed. I followed him back home, sure of his change of heart. But this time round things were even worse. He would bring women over and have sex right before my eyes. All I could do, was watch in pain and anger. My son would look at me and say, “Mum, sorry.”

Every time I spoke, I would be beaten. I got to a place where I would just quietly watch him do this in our home. For my own peace and that of my son.

Time passed, and Vic’s business collapsed. He became broke. Me? I got a job. But all the cash I got, Vic would take, claiming that the moment I got paid, I would cheat on him. Vic would lie that he was saving the cash on my behalf, but rather he would use it on prostitutes. I said nothing.

With time, Vic became ill. He had contracted HIV/AIDS. He became so bitter, and vowed he would not die alone. Vic would force me to sleep with him, so he could  transmit it to me. I was young, defenseless. Every time I refused, I was beaten. I was full of scars, far from resembling that beautiful girl that once blushed off at his presence.

I contracted HIV/AIDS. “I wish I heard my mum. How did I ever fall in this downward spiral?…” I was broken… For how long must we suffer, for us to know we are hurting?… We need to talk, we need to be heard. My story is just one of many others undergoing abuse and violence. My voice is their voice. And when I speak up, it becomes yours.

We are one. And we seek dignity, justice and peace. Speak up!

Written by Georgina Otieno

The Girl Behind

The Girl Behind

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