I was moving in to a new neighbourhood after getting a job transfer to Kwemba town. I really needed help with getting my stuff into the house. A lady, who looked to be in her early thirties, reached out to me, with a pleasant smile. She seemed to be soft spoken and very withdrawn, but this looked like an acquired personality, almost like trying to tame a hornbill. We exchanged pleasantries, and she spent the better part of the afternoon helping me with fitting and arranging my new appartment. I knew from first instance that we would be great friends. Her name is Owala. Owala was an accountant by profession, but quit her job when she got married two years ago. I noted that she loved to wear tones and tones of make-up, scarfs, headwraps and loose clothing. It took her some weeks before she could be comfortable to open up to me. Told me that her husband told her there's no need for her to work, since he could provide, and that she should not stress her beautiful self. At first, it sounded cute, even to you, it does sound cute and romantic, right? But after some time, Owala realised that it was because of her husband's (Teya) insecurity, that her wife would start flirting with colleagues at work. Owala also shared that after several months of being married, she started seeing Teya's true colors. He had a daily routine of going through Owala's phone every evening after work, and Owala had to explain to him every message or call that looked suspicious, or from a potential side affair. Any words like "dear", "darling" "how was your day", from any male contact in the phone attracted some serious face punches and kicks in the ribs. No explanation was welcome. Speaking back was forbidden. Food that was badly cooked attracted the hot food being poured either on Owala's face or laps. Questioning Teya on coming back home late or on a suspcious affair which he (obviously) could be engaged in, attracted being thrown a chair on the face or being pushed to the wall. Sex was to be provided every time Teya felt like it. There were curfews. 5pm. Later than that would mean no moving out of the house for a good two weeks. Owala miscarried twice, because of serious beating when Teya would come back stone drunk and angry. Yet she covered all this in scarfs, make up and loose clothing. She hid all these wounds, so as not to raise suspicion. Because she hopelessly and deeply loved this man. And felt a sense of belonging being with him. Now even listening to this made be sick and disgusted. I wanted to move her in immediately to my house. I wanted to immediately report the matter and see that this man is out behind bars. I wanted to help with filing a divorce, because clearly this was not a marriage. This was a wrestler/punching bag kind of relationship. The matter worried me for weeks. Owala did not want me to say a thing about it, because this man was dangerous, and threatened upteenth times that he would kill her. But after a month or so, I could not seat well eith the fact that my dear friend was being seriously injured and her life was at risk. Other times we would not see each other because she has been remanded for coming home late. So, I plotted a plan without letting her, informed all the necessary authorities and domestic violebce organizations. I provided evidence. Wrote a statement, and filed for a separation order in court. I told Owala when the plan was all laid out, and it was too late to quit. I knew snd she did as well, that this was the best way forward for her. She had started losing weight, and her health had started deteroriating. It wasn't easy, but I knew this was the right thing. Teya did not heed to the divorce, but because he was guilty of countless sexual and physical assault, the divorce was granted and injuction orders given to prevent Teya from coming close to Owala. I helped her with applying for jobs, while she and her son was living with me. I'm glad to say that currently, Owala is doing well and she was able to get a good job at a local bank, and got herself a good house. She and her son still go for therapy sessions to help them heal completely from these traumatizing events. Please, let us all speak against gender based violence, and save a life. You can do anything in your own capacity. It does take conceited efforts. SAY NO TO GENDER BASED VIOLENCE. WOMEN'S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS.
By Valarie Waswa, Kenya
Gender and Human Rights Lawyer
Founder, Village Pillars Empowerment Project