*Stacey, 40 has 5 children. 3 that she hasn’t seen in 8 years Except for a brief 5 minutes that she met her son at a funeral. The 1st three children belong to her 1st marriage. That’s how she puts it. Her only legal marriage.
Her other child, a boy was sold to her at Ksh 8000 ($80). He gave her Ksh 8000 and told her that he had sold the baby and all his parental rights to her.
All these parental trade happened after taking all her belongings from their house in the middle of the day when she has working to feed the family: heavily pregnant. He remarried a few days later and her bed, seats and everything was a starter pack for his new life. She missed 2 days of work and lost her job.
Her youngest child is 2 years old. She had the child as a 2nd wife in a marriage that ended with her in hospital and her daughter malnourished. This marriage was founded on an agreement by both the husband and the 1st wife. They needed someone to bring the joy of a baby to the house.
Stacey’s 1st marriage ended because of polygamy. “It’s not the woman that made me leave. I was okay with another woman in the homestead. It was the neglect. My 1st born almost died from kwashiokor. I had to plough in farms and toil daily to feed my children yet my husband was earning a lot of money. We had a big 4 bedroom house. He was driving. He had a lot to spare but none for us. After a while, I left. The biggest mistake I made was leave my children behind but never knowing their mother is better than death. My son told me to my face when we met at a funeral that he does not have a mother and I wonder if he Will ever forgive me for leaving. I was just happy he was healthy and he goes to a good high school now. One of the best.” She tells me as she stares. She’s always lost in thoughts. Always.
“I have almost committed murder and suicide,” she tells me. I gave birth to my 4th child in Nairobi. I honestly hoped I would give birth at night and abandon the baby. I had nowhere to live. I used to bath at my church mate’s houses. I would sleep at abandoned buildings. I had one cloth – a maternity dress. That was all I had.
Most people thought I was mad. It’s easier to be a mad woman in Nairobi and survive than be a desperate woman. A mad woman is pitied. A desperate woman is sexually abused. When you are mad only a few men will try to gain sexual favors from you or at times abuse you physically but being heavily pregnant made me less vulnerable to such – although I was almost raped but I was rescued by Maasai watchmen.
I gave birth to my son on Easter. At 1 PM. The Maasai watchmen took me to hospital and paid for my hospital bills as well. No one has been that kind to me. After 2 weeks my cousins found me. I don’t know how they did but they took me in for 3 months. I had found hope again.
The father of my child found me too. Whatever lies he told my cousins, they believed. He had come to shave his son. I was too weak to resist. He held him, shaved him and stood with him at the balcony in the 9th floor like a perfect father he was pretending to be. I was filled with hate. I struggled to get up. I was going to end my misery and my son’s. I was going to push him but my cousin saw it in time to stop me. He has never bothered about his son 7 years later. I am his mother and father.”
She laughs and calls for her 2 year old playing at the fence. She laughs and runs towards her. Such a joy! I think to myself. Children are just priceless. “My last child, they have already attempted to snatch her 4 times because they already paid cows to my mother. I met the father while working in a supermarket. They have told me over and over that my main aim in that marriage was a baby. That is why they tried to end me. They even tried to poison my baby because they said if they can’t have the child – neither can I.” She abruptly tells me.
“Huyu siwezi peana. She’s my joy.” She says as she stands up. She’s going back to help my mother finish making a seed bed. She like other women, walk around looking for a job. Some days like today – they are lucky. Other days they aren’t.
My mother, a single mother seems so attached to these women. She knows the shame and pain of walking away from a polygamous marriage.She is the lucky few that were empowered enough to pick up the pieces.
Everyone blames the woman in western Kenya. A man is entitled to as many woman as he can and Stacey staying – just like his first husband’s 4 wives, she would be dead. He is HIV positive and he refuses to disclose his status to the women he marries.
“He’s been wanting me back lately. He sends shopping at home and sends me money but we all know that I am the only woman he was unable to consciously infect with HIV.”
Stacey, like other women is the society’s ridicule. She’s a shame in Kakamega but when I look at her, all I see is a healing wounded warrior that never gave up in battle.
I will be writing stories this week on these women. Women that endure all and still smile on our streets.