As I sat across her on Friday last week (13th November 09), I wondered if there is anything I could say that would make it right. I wondered if there is anything I could say that would make her know that I understand that I can not empathise enough, but I wish I could. I can not even claim to feel with her, to understand her, however much I try. Aisha had been in Kenya for sometime, and I knew she had gone through a lot. I had wanted to see her, but I knew that I needed to fit her at the most appropriate time, not after work but a time that she would be comfortable traversing Nairobi. We had planned to meet for sometime, but I seemed to busy to get the time. As I sat outside the one building that she had said she could trace in Nairobi, I wondered if she would come after all. I looked at my watch and being the time conscious person I am, wondered as I realised she was 30 minutes late. I tried to get myself busy, went to a Bata shop, did some shopping of some shoes and went back to sit outside Hilton Hotel, and felt more uncomfortable. I tried keeping myself busy with reading, but this was not it, yet I couldn’t leave before I saw her. If not today, it would take some time before I managed another free afternoon. I went to a coffee shop and just as well the waiters were slow in serving me and after ten minutes went to an ice cream shop where I felt she would trace easily.
As I sat there savouring the ice cream, knowing I would start sneezing from the cold soon, I didn’t think much. What would I say to her? No idea, but I knew I wanted to let her know that I am there. I could not make out the conversation I would have with her, so opted to stare blankly as I wondered on the unfairness that she was going through. I had met Aisha during a two weeks training last year, and as we say, sisterhood is global so we had kept in touch via email. After an hour of waiting she called and I directed her. As I watched her step in, I couldn’t help but look at the beautiful young woman and think, ‘you need some sunshine’.
“I will share with you my sister”, she said and without many words, shared with me what had happened to her on that fateful day some 5 months or so ago. She had been sexually abused and physically assault by people who are supposed to be protectors of the citizens; soldiers. She struggled for a long time, and it’s a wonder she didn’t lose consciousness as the two repeatedly beat her with guns. It left her emotionally and physically traumatised. After receiving medical attention she was transferred to a Kenyan hospital thanks to the organisation she works for that has supported her through out.
As we sat and started talking I wished there is something more than a hug that I could do to help her. I was not sure if am saying the right thing, ‘you will be okay’…would she? It was difficult to see light at the end of the tunnel for her. I fully understood when she said she rarely left the house she was staying indoors and one could tell she has not got much sunshine for some time. The counselling sessions were doing her good, but it was still difficult, and only time, not sure what amount of time, would come close to healing her.
To add salt to the injury, her anguish didn’t end with the abuse that tore her apart, but it was followed by social stigma. She was unwanted in her community and her children have to suffer not only the pain of having their mother away from them, but also the taunting of the neighbours kids (who had learnt from the adults of course) that something bad had happed to her. She is an abomination in the community hence even other kids don’t want to be associated with her children. Nobody would want to be associated with a sexually abused lady! This made and still does make my heart churn, why should she be the one treated like such a shame and not her perpetrators, who are still walking scot-free and probably abusing many more women? My heart bleeds for her and other girls and women not only in her community and country but all over the world. It’s not her who should go with the label! It’s not her whose children should be made to feel the shame! The unfairness of it all! She should be getting support for crying out loud, not being scolded.
She shared that she can not go back to her country, the injustice of it all. I can not start to imagine what she is going through as she tries to figure how to end the ends meet in her for her young kids, yet the pain of her experience still feels like it was yesterday. Not only has her life’s dignity been torn apart, but now she doesn’t have a place to call home. Her work with the girls in her community can not go on, for she can’t go back home. As we parted, I could only hope and pray that she finds the strength in her to continue moving on. I could only tell her that I hold her in my heart. I believe she will be okay, she has been strong so far, and she will pull through. Her life will never be the same but am optimistic that she will make the best of her life, in time.
It’s saddening that she is just one of the many girls and women who have been undergoing the same. Sometimes it gets frustrating and feel like the work is too difficult, but we can only do our best, a step at a time, and hope to put to an end similar kind of experiences. If everyone can do something small, in the small space they have, such experiences can be a thing of the past.