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Woman married at 13 fights to keep children after divorce


Married at 13, divorced at 24

Dawe says husband divorced her for "having bad friends".

Ms Ake Mohamed Dawe was married to Ibido Sarbo under the Islamic law in 2007 and bore three children. But one died at birth due to what she says were complications related to early motherhood.

On all the three occasions, she had to undergo caesarean section to deliver her babies.

Ms Dawe was married at the age of 13.

In 2019, aged 24, she says she was divorced through a text message sent to her phone by her husband.

ANOTHER WIFE

The man, having now graduated from university with a business degree, went on to marry another woman, this time a Form Four leaver.

This was after Ms Dawe refused to sign divorce papers from the Kadhi’s Court.

In the papers, her now estranged husband gave two reasons for seeking divorce – “having bad friends and wasting my money”.

“I said I would not sign the papers in the absence of our families. Several months later, he sent me a message reading “I divorce you” three times and that was the end of our union according to Islamic law,” said Ms Ake in an interview with Nation.co.ke.

COURT BATTLE

Ms Dawe is now embroiled in a court battle with her wealthy former husband for the custody of her two children.

“I could handle divorce, but my trouble was that he took away my children, which is punishing,” she says, fighting back tears.

The divorce marked the beginning of a gruelling battle in which the minors have borne the brunt, hobnobbing from their father’s to their mother’s house and even missing school for two terms last year as their parents tussled over their custody.

As schools reopened in January, the children were dramatically fetched from under a bed where they hid in their Kayole home and dragged out by more than five police officers who accompanied Mr Sarbo.

OVERPOWERED

“No amount of screaming or attempts to pull back my babies helped. The police roughed anyone who tried to stop their mission including my host. Overpowered and in pain, chasing after my screaming children did not yield anything,” Ms Dawe recollects.

She has accused the police of facilitating her former husband to forcibly take away the minors despite a court order allowing her to keep the children pending the determination of case on who has the right to their custody.

But Mr Sarbo had a court order from Senior Resident Magistrate Mbayaki Wafula of Marsabit Law Courts instructing that the children be taken “forcibly if need be” and readmitted to a boarding school in Nanyuki.

COURT ORDER

“The OCS Lang’ata Police Station and any other police station within the proximity of the issues to ensure compliance, including the use of reasonable force where necessary,” reads the document issued on January 6, 2020.

Ms Dawe says the order were given in her absence. Her lawyer was also not present in court.

Now turning 25, Ms Dawe feels as if she has lived nine lives already.

She remembers how the unplanned roller-coaster marriage begun.

She had cleared her Standard Seven exams at Al-Khufau Rashiidin Primary School in Moyale and proceeded for the December holidays.

Her father and step-mother had once summoned her and asked her to prepare to get married to the son of one of their family friends. She had no option but to oblige.

END OF SCHOOLING

So, instead of registering for KCPE exams in 2007, she was married off to Ibido Sarbo, then aged 20, and they moved to Marsabit where she lived with her mother-in-law as her young husband proceeded to complete his secondary school education.

“I did not know what marriage meant. The reality hit me so hard. All I did was sit beside my mother-in-law and wait for instructions to do things. I was not allowed to leave the house unaccompanied; she accompanied me everywhere, even to the clinic. As a result, I never had friends at that tender age up to now,” she says.

But Mr Sarbo claims that he married the woman after she turned 18. He uses her national identity card which shows her birthday as June 8, 1989 as proof.

DOCUMENTS FALSIFIED

However, Ms Dawe has sworn an affidavit indicating that she was born in 1994 and started school in 2001, but her age was falsified while the crucial documents were being procured for her.

“Mr Ibido Sarbo procured me an ID in which my age was falsified and a passport purporting an older age than my real age and, in fact, contradicting the age on my birth certificate,” she swore in her affidavit.

She remembers losing her first child and later moving to Nairobi as her husband started his university education.

Documents filed in court showed that they bought their matrimonial home in Nairobi, from which Ms Dawe has been kicked out.

With the death of her father-in-law in 2012, domestic wrangles escalated and before long, she had a co-wife – a neighbour who was legally married in 2016.

DIVORCE PAPERS

Mr Sarbo filed for divorce at the Kadhi’s court in 2017 and brought home the divorce papers, which Ms Dawe refused to sign.

Her husband abandoned her and went live in Marsabit with his new wife.

In February 2019 as she was away attending her sister’s wedding in Moyale and having entrusted the children to their grandmother, she got word that the children were being sent to their father in Marsabit from where they were taken to a boarding school in Nanyuki.

The young mother took the next bus to Nairobi but it was too late.

She then filed a case at the children’s office in Lang’ata but Mr Sarbo counter-filed another one in the Marsabit Kadhi’s court and also at the children’s court there.

Ms Dawe launched an application at the High Court in Nairobi, seeking for the matter to be transferred to the city from Marsabit.

TRAVEL TO MARSABIT

She argued that forcing her to travel for hundreds of kilometres to Marsabit for the hearing of the case was subjecting her and the children to hardships because she is unemployed.

“I am unemployed, have no income or bank account, no assets and no money to feed myself and my children let alone the cost of hiring legal services to defend myself and follow through the barrage of suits instituted against me in Marsabit,” she argued.

In November 2019, Justice Said Chitembwe dismissed her application seeking to have the case transferred to Nairobi where they resided and directed that a case filed before Senior Resident Magistrate Mbayaki Wafula to proceed in Marsabit.

According to the judge, quashing the proceedings before the Marsabit children’s court would not solve the dispute as the minors’ education was being affected and a quick resolution of the dispute was needed.

The judge said that should trial magistrate call for the children, the mother should ensure they are brought to court.

CASES SUSPENDED

Justice Chitembwe, however, suspended two cases that were pending in a Kadhi’s Court in Nairobi.

The court also declined to issue orders requiring Mr Sarbo to provide school fees as well as upkeep for the children.

But the young mother argued that she was aggrieved by the decision, saying that her fundamental rights and the rights of her children would be infringed upon if the case was allowed to proceed in Marsabit.

She argued that the move would cause her extreme hardships because she is financially unstable and the children need to go to school.

In the appeal filed in Nairobi on December 16, 2019, Ms Dawe said unless the court hears and determines her application, the minors, who were out of class for the entire second and third terms of 2019, may all together miss out the classes in 2020.

She said her former husband had refused to provide shelter, school fees and upkeep for the children.

CHILDREN'S COURT

The woman wants the court to suspend the proceedings in the Marsabit children’s court and restrain her estranged husband from removing the minors from her custody.

The woman stated in the court documents that her estranged husband is a wealthy man with substantial income.

She said he has assets in Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate and in Marsabit and a hotel, all earning him in excess of Sh10 million monthly income.

She wants the court to compel him to pay school fees for her children and cater for other education-related expenses as well as reasonable upkeep, medication, food and transport for the minors.

“Due to early marriage, I was forced out of school meaning I had to be wholly dependent on him for maintenance, upkeep and medical care,” she said.