There are many dates stuck in Lucy Wanjiku Njenga’s mind and such a date is December 1, 2010 when she discovered that she was three months pregnant.
She was 19 and a fresh high school graduate. Her partner was a jobless 20-year-old.
“Growing up, we both wanted to join the convent. That desire was the foundation of our friendship but with time it progressed from platonic friendship to romance. Nobody knew about it, it was our little secret.”
Having been brought up in Dandora slums, she knew what her fate would be once her parents discovered of the pregnancy.
STARTED LIFE TOGETHER
“In most slums, if you are impregnated by someone living there and he accepts responsibility, you two are required to start a life together. However, I wasn’t prepared for marriage let alone pregnancy. During that year, I had been crowned Miss Koch (Korogocho) and Miss DYMS (Dandora Youth Multipurpose Self-help group)which is a community based organisation that raises awareness on several issues including early pregnancies. I felt that I had failed the society and was no longer the girl to look up to.”
But disappointing the society wasn’t nearly as big a burden as disappointing her parents.
“My parents were disappointed in me. My mother wondered why I had decided to kill my childhood dream of becoming a nun while my father felt that as the first born child, I was a disappointment to the family.”
She resigned herself to her new married life which, in retrospect, she admits was a mistake.
“In January 2011, I moved in with the guy and this was one of the many mistakes I would make along the way. Ours was a young love and living together meant being close to each other every day. However, the whole concept of marriage was new to us and we would constantly argue about trivial things. That wasn’t the biggest challenge. Lack of money was. We couldn’t raise rent and many were the days we didn’t have food in the house.”
WALKED HOME TO EAT
Dandora is constituted of many phases and a pregnant Lucy would walk all the way from Dandora Phase Four to their home in Phase One for a single meal. Her husband depended on menial jobs for survival. She couldn’t work herself because she had been diagnosed of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG), a condition that would often leave her anaemic and dehydrated.
All she wanted was some pampering but the husband thought that she was pretending.
“HG in pregnancy is a condition that most people don’t know how to deal with, “she points out.
BUNDLE OF JOY
After their boy was born in June 29, 2011, she resolved to go back home against her dad’s will because her ex-husband couldn’t provide for both of them.
“Looking back, I think that he was quite lazy because he couldn’t go out of his way to find work. Unless he was called for a job, he would just stay in. But, what do you expect from a20-year old who had other aspirations than starting a family?”
After going back home, she got a job with a marketing company before enrolling for facilitation skills training with Hope Worldwide International and would occasionally be invited to mentor students in different schools on Sexual Reproductive Health.
This earned her some money and although not much, it was able to sustain them without any support from her ex-husband.
In spite of that, the two remained in contact and would call each other from time to time.
“I felt like I had a new life although my son kept having recurring coughs. One morning, I realised that he quite unwell and I took him to the hospital. That is another date that remains stuck in my mind and I can still recall the doctor’s voice when he disclosed that I was HIV+. I felt dejected, betrayed and in that moment, I felt my world crumble in my presence. I didn’t know what to do or who else to turn to except my ex-husband and I found myself in his arms again. He was the only man I had been with. When he tested for HIV, the tests came out positive as well.”
LOST THE FIGHT
“On February 13, 2012, our baby lost the fight and passed on. I didn’t have anything else to live for and since he was the only person I had closure with, I moved in back with him. Another big mistake. This time, I thought it would be different because I was still with Hope Worldwide International and often I would be called upon for products marketing jobs.
At 21 years, I became the bread winner. My money was our money but seldom did he contribute in buying food or paying the house rent. Loneliness engulfed me but I stayed put because in spite of all I was going through, I still loved him.
I knew that, that wasn’t what I had bargained for in life. That I was made for better and destined for greatness but didn’t know how to get there. As though forbearing responsibilities wasn’t enough, he started beating me and turned to be a control freak. It was for him to decide if I would go to work or not.”
CHEATED ON HER
Barely three months after getting back together, word in the hood had that her ex-husband was cheating on her and she confirmed the rumours when she came home one day earlier than expected and found her husband home with another woman.
After eight months of living together, she called it quits again.
“That was the final straw and my wakeup call. As if the universe was waiting for me to make that move, my life got a meaning. Before the end of 2012, I participated in a beauty pageant held in town and I got mentors who helped me get back to my feet. I also got a job with NOPE (National Organisation Peer Educators) as a trainer of sexual productive health. I started taking medications and taking better care of myself.”
In 2014, at 23 years, heaven smiled down at her and she found love again. This time, with the most hardworking and understanding man she knows.
She met her 24-year-old husband at the Go-Down Arts Centre studio. When he started making passes at her, she referred him online and requested that he reads articles written about her. She had been down this road with many suitors before and many didn’t reach out after discovering that she was HIV positive. However, her being positive didn’t scare the hubby away. He reassured her that he had fallen in love with her character and kind heart and that her HIV status was “such a small thing”.
“I am at a happy place now. A mother of one and a wife to a man who makes me want to be a better person every day. Last year, I was invited by National Empowerment Network for people living with HIV in Kenya (NEPHAK) to give a presentation in Geneva, Switzerland and I almost turned down the invitation because our baby was only seven months old. However, my husband encouraged me to go for it and promised to watch over our baby."
Lucy has attended conferences and meetings to advocate for girls and women to be at the centre of HIV response in countries such as Namibia, USA-New York and Washington DC, Uganda and South Africa.
She is the founder and team leader of Positive Young Women Voices, a CBO based in Dandora that advocates for the challenges facing young women and girls such as teenage pregnancy, poverty, access to friendly health facilities and information.
"My life has had many twists and turns. Through the pain and all that I went through, I learnt to be resilient and to never take good people for granted. All I have now to give back is love because the universe has blessed me with much and to it, added peace of mind.”
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