I was among those who were rescued from early marriages 12 years ago. When I was in class six in 2006, my father decided to marry me off to one of his friends. I was only 12 years old. Currently, the man who was supposed to marry me is around 40 years old.
I used to perform very well in school. Despite the fact that I was doing very well, he still wanted to marry me off. When I was in class eight, I had a cousin who is a lady, and was a student at the same school headed by Mr. Patrick Ngigi. She had been brought up by my mother and fully understood the situation that I was in. By the time I reached class eight, she was already in secondary school. Patrick had sponsored her education from primary school to high school.
My cousin connected me with Patrick. He heard my story, agreed to sponsor my education, and guarantee my safety too. At that time, I had already received my KCPE results and enrolled at Jomo Kenyatta High School in Nakuru. When my father learnt of the arrangement, he was displeased. He was mostly furious because my dowry payments had already been finalized, and he thought it would be inappropriate not to go through with the arranged marriage.
So, they began to worry that I would escape. Almost immediately, everyone in the family turned against me. To make it worse, they even threatened to forcefully marry me off during my holiday breaks in high school. Whenever I went home, they would invite the man to our homestead. I believe that their intention was to force me to sleep with him so that I would conceive and bear a child. They believed that I would not be able to run away, or further my studies if I got pregnant.
Their intentions really disturbed my studies and affected me emotionally. Since I feared going back home, I had to ask the school administration for permission to stay in school during the holidays. I have never felt as lonely as I did during my high school years. I felt alienated by everyone because I did not feel welcome anywhere. Although Patrick and his family constantly offered me their support and encouragement, I did not feel open enough to disclose my personal life yet. This was only because I had only known and interacted with them for a short while.
My mother was the only one on my side. She believed that I would make it in life because I showed a lot of promise in school. But, there came a time when she was forced to side with my father on the matter because he would constantly beat her to bend her to his will.
It affected me health wise, academically, and in every aspect of my life.
When my national high school examinations were approaching, I finally got the courage to disclose everything to Patrick. I felt like I could not sit for the exams with all that baggage. He told me not to worry. He promised to provide a home for me after form four so that I could comfortably continue with my studies.
After that, I confidently did my examinations. However, soon after, word got to me that my father intended to have me settle down in marriage even before my results came back. He said that my husband would cater for my university education only if he wished.
I informed Patrick of this intention, and he told me that he would come for me after school so that I wouldn’t have to go back home.
When I finished my examinations, my father came early in the morning before Patrick arrived. Luckily, I hid from him and waited for Patrick to arrive. Since the deputy principal knew what was happening in my personal life, he told my father to go back on grounds that I had already been picked by Patrick.
That was the first time I came to the safe house. When my father learnt that I was here, he sent my brother to pick me. I refused to go back. Soon afterwards, my father came himself.
When he came, Patrick took me to the children’s office to help me plead my case. At the children’s office, my father claimed that I was running away to be married off elsewhere. I had to convince him that I was not married, and that I was only looking for a way to further my education, and eventually help my other four siblings.
The children’s office understood. My father had to go back, displeased. He still calls to abuse me up to date.
But, now I’m happy because I performed well in my high school national exams. I’m now pursuing a law degree at Kabarak University. When my father learnt that I made it to the university, he cooled down. He stopped beating my mum and blaming her for helping me to run away.
I have now wholly accepted Patrick and his family as my own. My health and mental state have also improved. When I finish my degree, I will reconcile with my family. I have not given up on my parent either. Despite the ups and downs, they are still my God-given parents, and I love them.