THAT’S WHAT IT IS!!
Lina was 15 years old when her mother, Rhoda, got married to Boda. She was happy for her mother and since Boda was a man who owned a string of shops in Soweto slum, Lina knew that finally her dream to sit for her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education would be fulfilled. She wanted to be a teacher because she knew that , that was the only way she would help to provide for her mother and her siblings.
Their house was not a place many people would call a home. It had paint peeling from the wooden wall like some diseased skin, patches of the sky shone through great yawning holes of the wooden roof. The inside of the house reminded Lina of a doll house disemboweled ,utterly destroyed by a child in a temper tantrum, but all this did not dampen Lina’s spirits to make a better home for her family.
Boda would come to live with them and Lina had a feeling that he would reconstruct the house. The idea of having a father figure in her life was so exciting for her. On this particular day, she was busy tiding up the house and cleaning everything so that her ‘father’ would be happy with her for her hard work. As she was working her mother was preparing herself so that she could look presentable to Boda. The anxiety in the house doubled up with excitement and even Lina’s siblings who were too young to understand what was happening seemed excited just because everyone else was.
“Mama do you think Boda will pay fees for my standard eight? Mama do you think Boda will buy me new shoes? Mama do you…?”
“Lina stop asking so many questions , and make the house, Boda is not coming here to sort out our poverty issues, he is going to be my husband not some charity organization!!’ her mother with an angry tone!
Lina went back to work; she convinced herself that if at all Boda loved her mother he would pay for her school fees.
‘Lina kimbia ufungue mlango, Boda ameshaafika!’ Lina’s mother said as she did her final touches to her hair.
‘Karibu ndani,’ Lina said.
Boda entered the one roomed house, and gave Lina the paper bag he had brought which was full of goodies for her and her siblings, and food stuff, flour, sugar, and teabags. Lina took the things to what they termed as the kitchen, which was one corner of the room. She then left the house so that her mother and Boda could have some time of their own. She took her siblings with her.
‘Lina huyo ni nani akona mummy kwa nyumba?’ her youngest brother Daudi asked.
‘Huyo anaitwa Boda na atakua daddy wetu! Atatulipia school fees ya shule! Kwanza Daudi utasoma ukue unaendesha ndege!! Ngoja tu utaona!’ Lina said with a cheer in her voice.
‘Basi ataninunulia gari ile ndogo,mum aliniambia hana pesa ya kununua toy…?’
‘Chochote unataka utapata Daudi usiwe na wasiwasi!’ Lina replied as she led her siblings to the playground where she distributed the goodies and played with them. They were so happy and everyone else in the slum could see it.
After playing for almost two hours Lina heard her name being called.
She quickly knew it was her mother’s voice she ran to the house, cleaned off the dust on her legs and entered the house.
‘Enda uite kina Daudi, Boda anataka kuwaambia kitu!’
She called her siblings and they were all standing in front of Boda eagerly waiting to hear what he wanted to say.
‘Naona mmefurahia kucheza huko nje! Nilikua nataka kuwaambia kutoka leo,mnaeza niita dad, tumeongea na mama yenu na ameniambia kua alikua amewashow juu yangu,kwanza wewe Lina najua ulikua ukijua!! Chochote mnataka nitawafanyia ,msiwe na shaka yoyote! Mniulize tu!!’
Lina could not hide her excitement she was so happy, that she almost felt like jumping, but she knew that she needed to maintain her cool because her mother would not like it if she ‘misbehaved.’
That night even as she slept on the floor next to her siblings she could not help but to smile. She could hear Boda snoring since he was just sleeping in what they termed as another room in the house but it was the same room only that it was divided by a curtain that cut across the room.
Life went well for them; Boda had agreed to pay fees for her and her siblings. Everyday they were assured of at least one meal. Whenever Lina came from school in the evening she would find her mother preparing meals and the only work left was fetching water.
On this particular day Lina had to go home early because her mother had told her that she would be attending a ‘chama’ meeting and that she would be late. She gathered the firewood and set up fire so that she could heat water for Ugali. While the water was heating outside, she got inside the house and prepared the vegetables.
‘Habari Lina,sikudhani utakua nyumbani!’ a voice said behind her. It was Boda, her ‘father’.
‘Mum alisema atachelewa kidogo ameenda chama!!’ she replied as she excused herself to go and wash the vegetables outside.
‘Come nikuonyeshe,nimekuletea zawadi!’ Boda said with a smile on his face.
Lina was excited and walked to where he was.
‘Funga mlango hii ni zawadi yako peke yako!’ Boda said as he walked towards her.
No sooner had she closed the door than Boda grabbed her by the neck throwing her into the bed.
‘Unafanya nini daddy!!’ she screamed
‘Nyamaza na usiniite daddy!! Nyamaza kama motto mzuuurii!!! Hii ndio zawadi yako!!’
He tore her clothes as he quickly unzipped his trouser. She immediately knew what was happening. She had heard of other girls her age talking about this in school, girls being raped!!
‘Woiye wacha!! WOIYE!!’ she screamed as her legs begun to slightly buckle; her knees were suddenly on hinges. She cried and tried to scream but his hand was over her mouth. A gust of frozen wind swept back her hair and Lina let out what must have seemed as a whisper, a prayer of her life line, which she knew was over.
He had completely destroyed her, the pain was unbearable, he heaved heavily on top of her, and his weight overpowered her. When he was done he threw himself at the side of the bed and smiled to himself. He moved closer to her ears and whispered threats, ‘Ukiambia mtu yeyote,nitaacha mama yako na watoto hao wengine nitawafukuza!! UMESKIA!!!’
She knew the truth behind those words. Many children at the age of five years were thrown fro m their homes into the streets. She did not want this for her siblings. Boda wore his clothes in a rumpled manner and left the house.
Her body tensed every muscle, every fibre inside her involuntarily tightened. She had not realized that darkness had enveloped the whole place. She did not even notice her mother enter the house.
‘Wewe Lina unafanya nini kwa nyumba na bado hujapika!!’
She shivered slightly and folded both her arms around her rising and falling chest. She could hear the drumming of her own heart.
‘Ni nini mbaya?’ her mother asked as she moved closer to the bed. A narrow ray of light streamed through the holes of the room. That is when she realized that her daughter was naked and that blood soaked the beddings. Rhoda immediately knew what had happened to her daughter. She quickly rushed out of the house for a few minutes and came back to the house pretending that she had not seen anything.
‘Vaa nguo tusaidiane kupika chakula!!’ she said with a choke of bitterness in her voice. ‘usiambie mtu yeyote kitu imefanyika hapa!! Sawa? Saa zingine lazima vitu zingine zihappen lakini unajua Boda ni baba yako akituacha hatutakua na pesa yoyote na hamta endelea na masomo yenu!! Kwa hivyo wewe jikaze usome sawa Lina!’ she continued as she tried to remove the beddings from the bed.
Lina could not believe her ears. She was hurting she could not walk, but she had no choice, she saw no hope of getting help. She would not utter the day’s events to anyone!! She hurt inside wondering why her own mother would not help her. Money, school fees and a better life, that is what it was, that is why her mother would not help her.
In slums at least 3 women are raped per week and one battered every day. Young girls are raped and not many people hear their cry! Some Mothers don’t listen to their daughters cry and at times assume the pain their girls go through just because they need the ‘means’ to leave-the men in their lives. Our society has become so rotten.
Some mothers at times are powerless, they do not know how to rescue their children because the same people who are to provide security, are the same ones violating rules and raping young girls. Cases in the slums are taken to the nearest police station but no measures are taken up. Not only does this happen in the slums but also in urban areas. Vices such as rape being put on the ‘down low’ so that ‘survival’ can go on!!
It saddens me that every time I enjoy my life a young girl is out there trying to nurse her injuries, mentally, socially, physically and emotionally. Lina represents all those young girls with no one to cry to, it is the reality of life, sadly!!