Women with Disabilities go through a lot of hardships and one of them is Gender Based Violence (GBV). At some point, it is due to lack of financial independence and lack of proper support systems. At some point lack of access to and non-affordability of legal services makes it hard for women with disabilities to either report cases or even get through the legal processes successfully. At the end, this makes justice to be a mere wish and not a reality in the world of women with disabilities. The society needs to be sensitized about the effects and intensity of GBV that women with disabilities are going through in silence. And on the other hand, women with disabilities need to be open enough and share the challenges they go through because there is definitely someone somewhere interested and willing to help. Families of women with disabilities also need to be supportive to them in such for justice as well as preventing possibility of GBV occurring to them. If I had not opened up to my family, I don’t know what my life would be at this moment. I consider myself a bold and strong woman. I go through challenges but I don’t let them break me, I ask for help when need be and do my part in order to make my life worth living.
My name is Wambui Mukami, I was born in 1985, a last born in a family of six, we were brought up by a single mother. My disability is as old as myself, I was born with the left hand dysfunction. My right hand supports the left hand in every chore that requires both hands or at times, I use my right hand in doing everything. Through the hardships, I sailed with determination and hope for a better future like any average woman in the society. The worst of my hard life came when my mother passed on when I was in form three (in 2003). My older siblings were not in a position to help me through the remaining part of my studies. Through well-wishers, I was able to complete high school and what followed was the experience of what I term as real life.
It was so hard that I was forced to work as a house help in various homes to earn a living. In 2006 I lost a sister who used to be of great help in providing my basic needs. I felt that life was so unfair, she left a daughter. With the growing hardships in life, I decided to look for company and solace in a man I loved and was dating, I got married at the age of 22. This was the experience that turned around and made me feel as though I did not fit in this world. The man I loved and got married to turned against me and he would physically abuse me even publicly. This made me feel so disrespected but like any other woman, I was optimistic and hopeful that it would work so I still held on to my marriage. My husband would not mind my being disabled whenever he wanted to hit me. At the age of 23 I got my baby girl who lifted my spirit and gave me a reason to live. Despite the violence in the marriage, I would look at her cute face and get the urge to fight on. My left hand’s dysfunction wouldn’t stop me from taking care of myself and her. Any time we had differences with my husband, I would run away with my girl and after a short while, I would go back to him because I felt I needed support since I was not financially stable.
The story of my life started changing in 2012 when an opportunity to study came by. I joined Machakos teachers college with the support of my brother. At this moment, I was still in the marriage. When my husband assaulted me publicly for trying to stop him from a fight, I felt so helpless and embarrassed because this happened as my daughter watched innocently. That is the day I decided to leave and not to go back to an abusive marriage anymore.
As I progressed with my studies, the father of my daughter now started asking me to go back to him. I was reluctant and now I was threatened with the demands of giving him my daughter. He reported to the children’s office claiming that I was a full time student and could not take care of her and his wish was granted. She used to stay with the grandmother from her father’s side. Now I started being frustrated because all I had was controlled permission to see my own daughter and not to live with her. At some point, I could be barred from seeing her and only talked to her through her teacher. I thought hard and I had to improvise means of accessing her which was acting nice, obedient and polite. One day I went to see her in school only to find that she was not there, my world crushed because she was all I had and she was the reason I smiled and worked hard in college. I did not give up with trying to access her until I was able to meet her.
Upon finishing college, I started fighting for custody of my girl, at some point it was difficult due to some issues of bribery that ended up blocking me from accessing her. My family stood with me and supported me until I got her back, I then proceeded to Kenya Institute of Special Education and now I am a special needs teacher and a proud mother of one lovely girl who is the reason I wake up to work hard every morning. My advice to women with disabilities is that, we should not keep to ourselves when we are abused, it is not our fault, it is not a shameful thing, it is a painful experience. Find a confidant, speak out, fight for your rights and arm yourself with any talent, idea and qualifications for a job, business or anything that will make you independent so that you don’t have to endure abuse just because your abuser is your provider. There is no battle that does not have a tactic to won, all one needs is to be brave and come out to seek for help.