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.

Comment on this Post


We could cry together, but as you pointed out, it is not enough. We need to do more. One thing we can do is raise awareness to turn public opinion against this. This unbearable violence need women to FIRMLY say NO to it.

If you have a way of opening a page where we can sign a petition to end abuse in Kenya, we could all sign it.

With much love,


Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva Tarija - Bolivia South America

Sophie, I sat speechless after I read your journal. At once, I felt like screaming and crying.... screaming over the cruelty of people, both the perpetrators and her community, screaming over the damage inflicted on this sister and screaming at my sense of helplessness. The work you are doing with the Youth Women's Leadership Institute is so vital and although we cannot turn the clock back, perhaps by supporting organizations such as yours, we can help you chip away at the pain suffered by women, such as your Kenyan sister.

I hope that you will continue to share the stories of the youth and women you meet, and want to thank you for taking a stand to speak out for the women whose voices are so often silenced. Bahati njema with all your efforts and I look forward to hearing from you again soon. Salamu za upendo. Janice

Sophie, I am forwarding you some PulseWire member's names as perhaps you can connect with them and brainstorm over some solutions, best practices and resources.

Gertrude calls for women in Zimbabwe to build strong strategic alliances to strengthen a women’s movement that can mobilise resources, network and demand for an end to gender based violence. You can read her thoughts at:

Also, please check out zoneziwoh's post about the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. On November 25th, you can join a Virtual '24 hr Forum' to discuss the issue. For more information, go to

And lastly, Stella of Kenya wrote a post "Domestic Violence: A Conspiracy for Silence" where she describes the work they are doing at the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW), where abused women find refuge. I think you would have much to discuss in relation to your shared experiences with victims of violence.

I hope this helps and please keep me posted on any connections you make through these resources. Salamu za upendo! Janice

It is really heartbreaking to see people suffering for no fault of theirs. What they really need is strong community support what they get is trauma and taunts.

You are right when u say 'If everyone can do something small, in the small space they have, such experiences can be a thing of the past" I wish all people thought like that.



I'm continuing to wonder when people will treat ANYONE as a human being, seeing in the depth of their souls.

And not, not abusing them as if they are just things. Blaming then them as if they were responsible. And the perpetrators maybe not only unpunished but maybe even "admired"...

True, this all is global. What you said of Aisha happens daily to so many, in Italy. Especially the weakest, the foreigners, the nameless. And any "nameless" person herself a creature, a world.

As Jackie said, petitions are an effective instrument. I realize Aisha in this moment feels not secure (that's terribly unacceptable, too!), and respect this. But please, inform me too if thing are to change, I'll be happy to sign and say other people too.

A point thrilling me is: why do the perpetrators almost always escape any form of social blame and punishment? That's global, as you said. Italy is no exception: in theory there are laws and norms protecting all people from abuse. In practice, when abuse happens, and the abused has no voice, then she is the "whore". Provided of course someone knows this happened.

It's no less than a culture to change...

Love And, thank so much of your efforts.



When you publish your book, please inform me. I know you'll do for sure. And, I'll be glad reading it. ;-)

I just read this post to your journal and it made me so sad, so many women are in the same situation. As a refugee from former Republic of Yougoslavia (a European country) I have to share with you experiences from there. Thousands of women who have been sexually abused by militaries and police are for ever labeled as "invalids". No man in these "now postwar societie" would ever marry them and even married women who have been through the same thing have been left by their husbands. Many have left the country, many have chosen to stay seeking help from women rights organizations, but it is most difficult for those who keep these terrible experiences inside and yet they feel lucky if nobody knows about it so that they don´t have to go through public humiliation. As you say, it is not their fault, my God it is not them who should be labeled, at contrary: they should be shaltered! Such a terrible world for many of our sisters out there, so much help is needed and it is great that there are people like you to speak out for them. God bless you!


Thanks Drita, your comments continue to make me wonder, there is so much we have in common as sisters from different parts of this world! So many sisters who are suffering for no fault of their own, while the perpetrators go scot free.....however long it takes 'we shall overcome'

Sophie Ngugi

I am a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the sky