By Matildah Edith – Youth Advocate, Homabay County
I am Matildah Edith Amondi, currently living in Homabay town. My dad passed on in 2002 when I was very young. My mother took up the responsibility of caring for my brother and me. Unfortunately, she left home without giving information on her whereabouts. I moved to my grandmother’s house, while my brother went to Kisumu to stay with my uncle. One day, while at home with my grandmother, my mother showed up and took me with her to Migori. My uncle learnt about it, came, and took me back home. This made my mother very upset with the family. I did not see my mother until the day she came to see me at school when I was in class eight. Unfortunately, I did not get to live with her then because I was staying with my uncle, who was like a father to me. I loved him like my birth father. Together with my aunt and cousins, they had become part of my family. I even forgot about my mother. Little did I know what lay ahead of me.
My uncle started touching me inappropriately. He would touch my breasts and buttocks. I was so worried, but he kept doing it until he slept with me one day. He broke my virginity, and I was so heartbroken. I did not have anybody with whom to share my experiences. He continued sleeping with me repeatedly, and I told my grandmother about it. However, she could not believe it and accused me of lying about the whole experience. Nobody in the family believed me. My grandmother kept this a secret until I began feeling sickly often. My family accused me of using sickness as an excuse to stay away from school. I was enrolled in a nearby day school. My uncle outrageously accused me of having secured an abortion, claiming that I had been sleeping around with men.
This whole experience traumatized me so much that I could not concentrate on my studies. My class performance started dropping, my health did not improve, and I would experience endless hiccups. I was taken to the hospital but did not get any help until my grandmother decided to take me to a midwife. The midwife told me I was suffering due to a taboo (chira in Luo language). I opened up and told her everything that I was going through. She advised me to run away from home since nobody believed me in the family. I decided to look for my mother through her friends. I could not get her, but I traced her family. I called my aunt, who directed me to her place in Molo. I was so happy to meet my aunt and maternal grandmother again after a long time. I shared the whole traumatizing experience with them. My grandmother was upset with everything I had gone through. They called my mother, and she was very bitter. She instructed that they return me to my uncle’s place since they denied her access to me. Since my grandmother could not afford to pay my fees, I got married at 17 years. I got pregnant, but the marriage could not work. I went through a lot of gender-based violence and decided to join the DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored and Safe) project. This is an ambitious public-private partnership aimed at reducing rates of HIV among girls and young women in high-burden countries.
Back on my feet
They helped me out and took me back to school. They trained me on making liquid soap, floor mats, and entrepreneurship. Currently, I sell akala sandals, hand-made mats, and liquid soap. I am also a mentor in the DREAMS Project. I am an empowered DREAM girl. Despite what I went through, I am a strong woman, a single parent, and working too! No matter what I have gone through, I have faith that I will make it one day.
I am sharing my story to encourage other young people going through similar cases to speak up and get help. I encourage you to boldly step out and speak up so that people can help you. Don’t suffer in silence.
Join the ongoing TRIPLE THREAT CAMPAIGN-themed ‘Getting to zero by ending AIDS in adolescent girls and young women’. The triple threat refers to the overlapping challenge of new HIV infections, unintended pregnancies, and sexual and gender-based violence among adolescents and young women aged between 10 and 19 years: a malignant triad of sexual risk and vulnerability
HIV and AIDS is now a disease affecting primarily women of childbearing age: preventing new HIV infections in women and their children must be prioritised if we are to end AIDS as a public health threat.