, MERU, Kenya, Dec 14 – On a hill above the miraa town of Maua in Meru County, the Capital News crew meets Hellen Mwari in a small remote village called Kibilaku.
Mwari is going on with her daily chores under the guidance of her mother.
She dresses up her two children and gets herself ready to meet her visitors.
Looking at Mwari from afar, one would suppose she is a young girl who just follows her mother around.
Only on a closer look will one tell of Mwari’s tragedies of her life as a mentally impaired woman since birth.
Mwari cannot speak for herself. Her mother who understands her best narrates the tribulations of her needy daughter and her children who one can best describe as products of rape.
“(Huyu mtoto akili yake sio mzuri…) this child is retarded, she does not remember things, you tell her something and she completely forgets the next minute,” she explains.
Despite being mentally ill, Mwari is a mother of three after she lost her second born son whom she dipped into a pot of hot tea when he was just weeks old.
“Mwari had four children, but one died when she dropped him in hot tea when she was sieving it, she now has Mose and these two,” she says as she points at Mwari’s 10 year old daughter and four year old son who from time to time giggles and smiles clearly demonstrating his joy and the innocence of a child.
Mwari’s first born son Mose who is now 17 years old is nowhere to be found.
He ran away from home after he could not take the insults and discrimination from neighbours and age mates who kept telling him that he was the son of a rapist.
About five years after Mose was born, Mwari was pregnant again.
Time dragged on until Mwari got her 4th born son.
During the interview it is noticeable that Mwari is completely disoriented. She seems to be seeing what her mother whom she is sitting with cannot see. From time to time, Mwari stares in all directions clueless of her surroundings.
Her mother describes Mwari as a miracle baby.
When she was pregnant with Mwari, she thought she had three miscarriages after heavy bleeding within intervals of three months.
Although she thought her pregnancy was no more, little Mwari was still miraculously growing until she delivered her in 1975 but realised she was mentally ill.
“I was bleeding a lot when I was pregnant… I thought this baby was actually out of my womb, because the bleeding was heavy with a lot of cramps and I was convinced she was out, but she was still there, I bled for many months again I thought she was dead, but still she lived on,” she recalls that together with her husband they were happy that they had received God’s gift of a firstborn child despite her condition.
Her hopes that Mwari would one day grow up to be a normal child faded away when she stayed in one class for three years forcing her out of school. “She stayed in standard one for three years, her younger brother even passed her and when I realised Mwari did not learn anything I got her out of school.”
Like any other woman, Mwari started her monthly periods and it was up to her mother to help her handle them from the age of 14 since she has no idea of what it was.
“When I saw she was getting her periods, I started giving her cotton wool and small cloths and I had to do it myself since she could not. All along I have always monitored her menstrual cycle,” she asserts.
Her biggest blow in her struggle of caring for her mentally ill daughter started in 1994.
She was barely 18 when her mother realised that she had missed her periods for two months.
Least in her mind was the thought that her mentally challenged daughter could be pregnant.
One thing she knew about Mwari was that she was not sexually active.
Worst of all, Mwari did not know who and how to ask her as she barely understood what even sex is.
“I know Mwari is not a loose child, she does not even understand these things of sleeping with men. I was very surprised when I discovered she was vomiting and she had no periods, I knew she was pregnant,” she recounts.
Mwari’s mum explains that rapists accost her when she sends her to the river to fetch water or firewood.
Other times, they sneak into her house and rape Mwari when she is busy in the farm or out in the market.
“When I send Mwari somewhere, the men get her on the way and ask her to follow them. Then they give her tea and rape her, other times when I leave the house they sneak in and do it in our house,” she regrets.
Her mum says Mwari has somehow identified all her rapists. Only one of them accepted responsibility. Unfortunately that is the father of the boy who passed on.
The rest of the men Mwari identified to her mother have denied having ever raped her. But she insists Mwari cannot be lying even if she is mentally ill.
“These children completely resemble their alleged fathers, but they have all refused. I know Mwari cannot be lying because I ask her to show me the person who beat her, and she shows me with time though she takes a long time to identify them,” she explains.
After coming to terms with the reality that her daughter is an easy target for rapists, she took Mwari to a hospital where she had her fallopian tubes blocked to prevent her from conceiving again.
Since pregnancy was the only proof that Mwari had been raped, her mother is worried that she will probably be raped again and she may not even find out.
Struggling in poverty where Mwari’s mother is the main bread winner of her family of five and three grandchildren, she only wishes she has the capability to have a DNA test done to establish who fathered her grandchildren and who raped her daughter.
Mwari lost her father to gastric cancer about 20 years ago and since then, her mum has been the only person to depend on for upkeep and protection.
“I don’t have the capability… if I did I would take action. I just need to have the fathers of these children to at least support them. It is very hard for me and you can see Mwari cannot be able to support them. If I get help I will thank God,” she appeals.
As we bid Mwari and her family farewell, many questions are left unanswered.
Did Mwari have to get four children for her to access family planning services?
Is there follow up on mentally challenged girls and their reproductive health needs?
But that is just to prevent her from getting children that she never planned for or probably she does not even know if she has.
Mwari has three surviving children all out of rape, will she ever get justice? Will they even stop raping her?