, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 23 – The three women sit around a table tackling their breakfast at a five-star city hotel.
One in a black T-Shirt, a red skirt, white rubber shoes and with her hair held up in a bun by a red cloth.
The second sits in a black skirt and red T-Shirt and the third in a grey skirt suit and a red T-Shirt.
Their T-Shirts read the same, ‘use my ballot not my body’ but that is not the only thing they have in common.
All three are rape victims or as they prefer to be called, rape survivors; two of them having been raped in the violence the followed the last general elections.
Another general election looms just three months away and that is why the women are here today; to share their stories. Stories they hope will get the government to act and keep the horrors they lived through from happening to someone else.
What shall we call them? They’ve asked that their identities be kept hidden.
“Kibera is a bad place,” Monica, not her real name, explains.
As I watch her wield her fork and knife I wonder how many times she’s had to tell her story.
“I cast my vote and everything was fine until December 27, 2007 and it became clear Kibaki would return to State House.”
“I even wonder why I should cast my vote this time round.”
Monica pauses to cut up her pancake, pierce a chunk of steak and put them into her mouth.
I wait for her to finish.
“It was bad. You have no idea how bad it was. If you did you’d cry.”
“I left my house the evening of December 28 to look for food. When I was at the door, my food in hand, three men pulled me down. I remember banging my head on the door frame.”
She begins to lose the grip she has displayed until now and her hands shaking, she puts down her fork and knife and takes a hesitant breath.
“They asked me, ‘what else did expect us to do except to take advantage of the opportunity presented to us?'”
“I pulled myself back inside. I didn’t leave the house for nine days,” pointing to her pelvis she explains, “my bladder was so swollen. All I could do was drink water.”
Monica who lost her husband in 2006 had no one. Her parents, daughter and sister had to come all the way from Machakos county to take her to hospital.”
“All my mother could do when she saw me was cry.”
Life has never been the same for the mother of two. “My son who was in form three at the time never went back to school. I was in hospital for close to a month and so my small hotel like everything else around me burnt to the ground.”