By Rose Wanjiku
Come November, Jackie Mutere’s daughter will turn eight. Three times in the course of her pregnancy, Jackie tried to procure an abortion, but each time, fate intervened to buy the young life inside her more time.
The first time Jackie was preparing to go to the clinic, her eldest daughter came home from school for fees, and she handed over the money meant to pay for the abortion.
Already a mother of four and widowed, Jackie recalls: “I could not bear the thought of carrying the child to term.”
She had been raped right inside her house at the height of the post-election violence on January 16, 2008, by a man she knew and discovered a month later that she was pregnant. “I wanted nothing to do with it. I decided I had to abort,” she says.
“The second time I went to the clinic, there was a crackdown on quack doctors so I went back home,” she says. Abortion occupied a legal grey area before the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 and was carried out secretively by a few medical officers at exorbitant charges.
Jackie found another clinic for the abortion, but when the day came for the procedure, the doctor had to leave for field work and asked Jackie to wait until the evening.
She did, but the doctor never came back.
“By this time, I was so frustrated since days had gone by. I could not believe that I could carry the baby to term, but I had no option,” she says.
As Jackie nursed the pregnancy, her children and relatives had many unanswered questions.
“I have four other children and I had to tell them something. I told them I had a tumour and was working to have it removed. What else was I supposed to tell them? It was even worse to face my in-laws because I was a widow,” she says.
Jackie made a last ditch effort to get rid of the baby. She decided to give it up for adoption as soon as it was born. She went to the Child Welfare of Kenya to register the unborn child for adoption.
“I told them to come for the baby when I delivered because I didn’t even want to know its sex,” she says.
At this point, she smiles, and adds wistfully: “She is a resilient one. She even refused to be adopted.”
On the day Jackie delivered, the children’s officer who was supposed to come to Kenyatta National Hospital to pick up the newborn did not show up and his mobile telephone was off. Jackie says it is off to date.
“The matron, who knew that that the baby was supposed to be taken away, was off duty. When I woke up from the theatre, I heard a baby crying. The more the baby cried, the more I became irritated. When I turned to my side, I discovered there was a bundle next to me. When the baby could not stop crying, my motherly instincts kicked in and I decided to look at it.
“It was the sweetest thing I had ever seen. When I held it in my arms, I gave a long sigh,” she says.
Jackie decided to keep the baby and named her Morana, a name borrowed from the Maasai name for a warrior, moran.
“Today she is called Princess Morana Bernadette. I named her also after my mother. She is such a flower to me and a fighter. I tried to kill her three time, but she refused to die. I tried giving her for adoption, but it did not work out,” she says.
She has spoken many times about her rape, but says it is never easy. “I am still finding closure,” she says.
Jackie went home with her newborn baby, but she was emotionally unprepared. She barely stayed home for three weeks. She got an infection due to her Caesarian operation and had to be re-admitted to hospital.
“From November when I delivered, I stayed in the hospital until January, the exact same day I was raped.
“He [had] knocked my door and since I knew his voice, I opened up for him. He claimed that it was not safe outside.Immediately he came in, he started beating me up. We fought for a few minutes, but he eventually overpowered me. He stripped me naked and raped me, all the while accusing me of belonging to the enemy tribe,” she says.
Like is often the case with depression, most of her days were dark especially because of the thought that the man who raped her was never arrested.
She says the police told her they could not arrest him because she went to report three days too late and there was no evidence.
“I felt dirty and I was ashamed. I only gathered courage after three days and I was turned away by the police,” she says, and takes a deep sigh.
“Rape victims go through harrowing experiences,” she says and goes back to her story on the women she met while she was going through counseling at Kenyatta National Hospital.
“I was going for counseling and I was finding it so hard to cope. I wondered, if I was having such a hard time, what were other women going through especially those who had been raped and had children?
“I talked to one of the women and found out that there were children born out of rape everywhere and all of them were malnourished and abused. Many women could not accept their children the way I did mine,” she says.
Jackie says she was devastated to learn that so many women had been raped during the post-election violence.
“It was sad to see mothers, who could barely cope with life raising children they did not want in the first place,” she adds.
As a first step, Jackie took up feeding some of the children but realised that they needed more than food. She also realised that the mothers needed help, too. That is how she started Grace Agenda, an organisation that works with women who were raped during post-election violence.
The women receive counseling and an opportunity to learn life skills.
For the past five years, Jackie has been pushing for State recognition of sexual violence survivors from the post-election violence, but little progress has been made.
“These children are around eight years old today. In 10 years, they will be voters, will they ever be told how they came into being? What would you think if I would have told my child about the tribe from where my rapist comes from? Would I tell my child to hate all the people from that tribe?
She says some of the women have been unable to cope almost 10 years later.
“Last year, one committed suicide. Some of the women I talk to are disabled because of the rapes and others gave birth to children with disabilities because of botched abortions. These women and children suffer in silence, but who cares about them?” she poses.
Jackie says closure means different things to different people, but the first step is acknowledgement.
“Survivors of sexual violation during the post-election violence are seeking State recognition. We are seeking audience with President Uhuru Kenyatta,” she says.
She says if perpetrators can admit what they did, that would be part of closure. Political leaders have not made matters easier for survivors, and their pronouncements further increase the despair.
“When the ICC cases collapsed, the message was all Internally Displaced Persons had been settled and everything was okay and people should move on. How about the women who were raped? Should I go to stay at an IDP camp for the government to recognise what I went through? Why is it that nobody acknowledges that women were raped? And even for the IDPs, did anyone talk about sexual violence?” she asks.
Jackie is tired of hearing that all post-election sexual violence survivors want is money. This perception, she says, makes it easy to keep shaming and intimidating survivors.
“Who is ever going to pay me for having a baby? How much money should I ask for being raped?” she poses.
The government and other policy makers should know that reparations means more than giving survivors money.
“It means taking care of their mental health, it means being acknowledged and it means getting some form of justice,” she says.
“How much money can an eight-year old, who was raped by a policeman possibly get?” asks Jackie.
“Just because there were national prayers after the collapse of the Kenyan cases at the ICC does not mean there were no victims of rape and other atrocities,” she says, adding that Parliament should hasten the adoption and implementation of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission report.