, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 16 – Everything else remains crystal clear in her mind, but she cannot tell what the time was.
She thinks it was past midnight.
You see, for her, a watch or any other accessory is such a luxury that she would effortlessly trade it for food or shelter.
Halima (not her real name), her five-years daughter was already snoring but hunger coupled with the chilly weather wouldn’t allow her to sleep.
So, she had decided to just lay down hoping to catch some sleep later in the night – if it came – but also hold vigilance for her daughter.
But just then, two men with bottles in hand came by.
“They did not utter a word, they came directly to me and started undressing me,” Grace Wahu, a member of the street family told Capital FM News.
It was outside City Hall, just past the Supreme Court roundabout, where Wahu and her daughter were sleeping in a sack.
The same sack she was sitting on during the interview, while her daughter could be seen playing with some other street children, just a few metres away.
On this night, in October, she thought these were just her “bigger male street colleagues” up to steal from her, but they were after something else; her body.
“I resisted but I was doing it so cautiously because I did not want my daughter to wake up, she may start screaming or turn out to be a target as well,” she narrated.
Subdued by the two callous men, she gave in to their demands. One after the other, they raped her.
An ordeal, she says lasted for a few minutes, but they did not use any protection.
“They would have hit me with a bottle if I turned out to be violent…it is better they do it to me than my daughter,” shyly, and looking away from this reporter, Wahu said.
Her voice all along was emotionless; one would have been excused for thinking she was narrating someone else’s experience.
But her eyes were betraying her.
There was guilt in her eyes, maybe because she should not be sharing this information with a male stranger or fear that I may wrongly judge her for who she is not.
The following day, exhausted, fatigued and traumatized, Wahu sought medical attention in a Kawangware clinic at around 11am.
“I am still under medication,” the 27-year-old, and a mother of one said.
“I want to stay alone with my child. I don’t want to get married…I hate men.”
After the October incident, Wahu moved to one of the slums, where she is now renting a one bedroom house.
“At the end of the month, I have to pay a thousand shillings to continue staying there. I have to borrow money to survive,” Wahu, who has all along been holding an orange cup, with some coins said.
– Swollen hand, injured head –
Lucy Wanjiku, 45, was emotional all along the interview and we had to pose several times. Every time she started crying over her past, her current life and how she found herself in the streets.
Her woes, she says, started following the death of her husband in 2013.
“He was buried in Busia County but I was not accepted by his siblings,” the mother of one said.
She came to the city, jobless but with a few savings, rented a house in Kayole but would be later kicked out after several months of failing to pay rent.
“Everything was taken to recover the unpaid rent,” she said.
Her now 25-year-old daughter was ‘adopted’ by her brother, while she promised to work hard for her future.
“I did not want to go back home,” she says, pauses, then starts crying.
After a while she says, “my father died and my mother has to take care of our three brothers, who are mentally unstable.”
“Why should I go and become another burden?” she asked.
Though she has not undergone Wahu’s experience, she has been stripped naked on several occasions. All the time, she has been lucky to escape the hands of the rapists.
She has a swollen hand after she was hit by men who wanted to rape her a few weeks ago.
“Life in the streets is hard. They come (street boys) where we are sleeping and start attacking us. They steal what we have gathered during the day,” she said.
“Many have lost their lives. If we go to report to police, they do not act, I wonder whether it is normal to them or not.”
Already, her voice is husky and full of pain as she narrates her experience.
While some get unwanted pregnancies, others are infected with diseases.
“We are usually given sanitary towels by some women at Uhuru Park, but as soon as they leave, they are stolen,” she pointed out.
And that is the story of Lucy Wanjiku, a mother of three, who came to Nairobi as a house girl.
She would later go to Mathare slums, as a wife, in 2000.
Some six years later, the husband died and left her with two children.
“I was not working, so it is only in the streets that I could survive without paying rent. My mother who is a single mother is not well up, there is no way I would have gone back to her,” she says.
But out in the streets, it is no easy.
“Other than women, they also target small boys,” she said.
She too was hit on the head after she declined sexual advances from men in the streets, and though she managed to escape, her head bears a scar.
Life in the streets is hard for everyone, but for women, it is ineffable.
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko has promised to employ members of the street families, as casual workers for the county, a move they say if implemented would greatly change their lives.