, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 9 – It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon children are playing in a well secured compound in the leafy suburbs of Westlands, Nairobi.
Some are riding bikes, others play hide and seek and you could tell they were well protected from strangers. I even notice a security man at the main gate leading to the apartments who recorded details of every person paying a visit to that neighborhood.
But still how well protected are these kids?
Let’s now take a tour of Korogocho slum in Dandora’s eastlands area.
Here, the environment is quite harsh; almost every person fits to be a suspect. The children play freely without anyone watching over them. Some dangerously cross the road; others play close to a burst sewer oblivious of the health hazard.
I guess this is the daily life these children are exposed to with no one to watch over them.
What am l doing here you may ask?
I am in this slum on a mission – this is where children as young as eight months are turned into sexual objects. Korogocho slum is an area where hardcore criminals are known to thrive. AK 47 riffles, machetes, drugs and all sort of crude weapons you can think of are easily available here.
Since l knew my way around, l needed not to ask anyone to direct me to my first case study. I walked down a filthy path with wet hanging clothes blocking my sight.
l tried not to show that l am a stranger in the area but every household l passed scary writings flashed in front of my eyes. ‘Osama’s den’, ‘Al Qaeda base’ and another had a drawing of a bleeding heart to mention afew.
l thought to myself “what breed of children does this neighborhood raise?”
Finally, my interviewee saw me from a distance and beckoned. I hurried toward her.
Angela is a dark skinned girl in her mid twenties, she speaks little English and ghetto swahili referred to as ‘sheng’. ”Karibu huku ndio naishi.” she tells me. Angela dropped out of school while in standard seven. A year later she concieved her first child Bernice (not her real name).
"It was not easy raising Bernice since l don’t have a permanent job, the father of my child is a drug addict and very irresponsible. So l was forced to start hawking peanuts to raise some money for our upkeep.”
"As Bernice turned one year”, she pauses, tears welling in her eyes. It was not going to be an easy interview but l was on a mission and the world had to know how insecure children are.
She finally gathers her strength and continues. ”When Bernice was a year old, his father came home intoxicated with drugs. He said he had come to see his daughter one year down the line.”
With a banana on his hand he forced himself inside the house. Angela tells me she made it clear to him that he was not welcome to her house, but he insisted that he had brought a banana for his daughter. Angela softened and asked him to stay with their daughter as she proceeded to the market.
"I was not gone for long.” Angela told me. She regrets having left her little angel with a monster.
While she was away the father defiled his daughter. Angela returned to find her baby crying, and immediately sensed that something was not right.
"Unajue vile damu ni nzito kuliko maji?” (You understand when l tell you blood is thicker than water?) She ran into the house to find the father of her daughter missing she called out his name in vain.
She then took her daughter and carried her. She was wet, wet with blood she feared for the worst because in Korogocho children being defiled is nothing new to the residents.
Her daughter had to be taken for treatment while Angela had to undergo counseling to help her deal with her predicament. She has learnt to live with it and she tells me though the damage is already done her daughter never leaves her sight.
A year later the man who was meant to protect his daughter from external harm was eventually lynched by the public after he tried an unsuccessful attempt to defile another minor.
Children are defiled by close acquaintances and so there’s a need to protect them from the sex pests and for slightly older children they need to be told of the dangers facing them says Dr. Mary Mwangi a counselor who runs a clinic in Nairobi.
She says paedophiles are people well known to us, so let us take the initiave and have the culprits brought to book, she says.
Dr Mwangi advises those who find themselves in such a situation not to accept negotiations as this will encourage the culture of impunity to thrive.