By Benard Ogoi, AMWIK
For Alice (not her real name), a standard seven pupil at Daniel Comboni Primary School in Nairobi’s Korogocho, thoughts of suicide have been regular for her since the untimely death of her parents in 2011. At a tender age of only nine years, the incident almost crushed her desire to pursue education and live a good life. She had to start living with her step brother in the city soon after.
Unknown to her, a place she was now to call home would quickly turn into her worst nightmare. “One evening my step brother’s wife ran away after their frequent quarrels. She was horrified when her step brother came to where she was sleeping late in the night, “He came and started opening my blanket,” tears roll down her cheeks as she recounts the ordeal.
“He had the habit of touching my private parts every time the wife was not around,” She says of the half brother who was now her guardian, adding, “If he had defiled me maybe I could have become pregnant or even contracted HIV/AIDS virus.”
Notwithstanding her tender age, Alice also had to endure heavy household chores and a cruel step-sister. “I was being mistreated and allocated all house chores while my nephews did nothing,” she remarks, adding that any mistake would cause her a night without food. In one incident she delayed after experiencing a long queue at the vegetable vender’s stall, “ My step-sister beat me up senselessly and left a lot of bruises on my body,” she explains amid tears.
The 15 year old last born in a family of three girls and a boy opens up about her plans to end her suffering by committing suicide. “God is my only savior. He has helped me because many times I wanted to commit suicide,” she notes.
She is also quick to commend her teachers for supporting her in overcoming the challenge. “They linked me to a well-wisher who rescued me and with whom I stay with to-date,” she remarks.
The teachers went further and enrolled her in AMWIK’s radio listening club in the school where she has learnt about reproductive health challenges facing young girls in the slums. “Now I’m free and understand that I can make it in life. With the knowledge I have gained,” she notes, “I wish to mentor and help others so that they don’t go through what I have experienced.”
The Association of Media Women in Kenya has been at the forefront in awareness creation to strengthen sexual and reproductive health and rights knowledge among 13-19 year old teenagers in Nairobi’s Kibera and Korogocho informal settlements. The school-based project supported by the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education, RFSU, has mentored young girls like Alice, by enabling young people in schools to understand the risks associated with underage sex, teenage pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and other STDs, self defense against child defilement and use of contraceptives among other key reproductive health issues.
AMWIK Executive Director Marceline Nyambala says young people and their parents lack information, don’t have the right information, or have misinformation on matters sexuality.
Section 9 (2) of the Sexual Offenses Act 2006 provides that a person found guilty of attempted defilement of a child is liable upon conviction to not less than ten years imprisonment.
Similarly, attempted incest, which involves an attempt to defile or rape a sister or brother, would attract at least 10 years imprisonment if an accused person is found guilty of the offence. Section 22 (1) defines brother and sister to include half brother, half sister and adoptive brother or adoptive sister.
There is need for accelerated access to information for young girls and even boys in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 3 on ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages. Target 3.7 of the goal envisions the need to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education.
Alice is safe but many are not; we hope society, parents and young people will access information and for those requiring justice this will be possible!