Why was I even born in this world? Why couldn’t I be born somewhere else where life is well organized and health care and social services are readily available to the people? Why couldn’t I just be allowed to choose who my parents? What is the meaning of life? Why is there so much suffering? What purpose is there in it all? Where am I going? What is in my future? What do I have to look forward to? I have asked myself these questions many times and I kept asking them because I never seemed to be able to find any answer….. Well, none that really hit home anyway. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let me tell you a little bit about where I’ve been first. Then I’d like to share with you who I am and what is in my future. And thank you for taking the time to read my story.
I was born into a society that places little value on the girl child. I am the oldest of three girls that my mother and father had. My parents weren’t exactly rich but they did all they could to make ends meet. I don’t remember very much about my father, he wasn’t home for the most part. He worked out of town and had a weakness for women that kept him pretty busy. My mother was just 32 and I was eight when he died in an accident. My two sisters were seven and four. We cried when mum told us, but I think it was more because she was crying….we hardly knew our dad. As if that was enough, my mum fell sick and my aunty said she had “iba” (malaria), an easily preventable illness, but because we could not afford to go to the hospital for proper treatment, before long, she also passed away leaving me with my two siblings. Life became very difficult as my parents didn’t have any savings that we could fall back on. My aunty who was my mother’s immediate sister took us in and made us more like house helps. We were treated like trash and were made to feel as if she was doing us a huge favour. We were not allowed to go to school because we were girls and according to my aunty, sending us to school was a complete waste of time and resources.
I couldn’t take it any longer and I had to run away leaving her with my sisters. My major goal was to go out there and try to make a living so as to get my siblings out of our auntie’s claws. Little did I know of what was ahead. Life on the street was rather hostile and harsh. I didn’t have any money so I got caught up in prostitution and smoking. That was the only way I could survive on my own. I was innocent and naïve and I don’t know anything about contraceptives or HIV. The long term consequence of my smoking was also alien to me. In short, I was totally clueless. I cannot count how many men that slept with me but I know that most of them treated me badly and used me as if I was an object to be used at will. I was greatly traumatized but I couldn’t help it because I was already stuck. I became pregnant so many times and my friends advised me to terminate them all.
One Saturday morning, Pam (my friend) and I were invited by one of our numerous client to one hotel and we were in one of the bars drinking, smoking and having a ball while we waited for our clients to show up. Not quite long, we saw two well dressed women enter the bar and walked towards our table, they spoke to us nicely and gave us a packet of female condoms each. I have seen and used a female condom before but they took their time to explain how it works. Before they left, they invited us for a program in their organization and my friend and I promised to attend. During the program, we found out that the organization is actually an NGO that focuses on the welfare of young people. We were encouraged to go for counseling and afterwards, I was advised to do a voluntary HIV test because of the kind of life style I was living. I was so scared of the result because most of my sexual escapades were without protection. I did the test anyway and I tested positive. I was aghast. The counselors at the NGO were very helpful and understanding though. They told me that it is not the end of the world and that I could still live a normal and protective live. Not quite long, I began having serious bouts of cough and pains in my cheats. I went to the clinic and I was told that I had developed an ENT (ear, nose and throat) infection as a result of my constant and addictive smoking habit. I was devastated. If only my parents had not died and left me and my siblings in dire need and poverty! What a life. I’m afraid to even go back to my auntie’s house to see my siblings. I’m confused. I don’t know what to do.