Jane's Story


This story and photography is part of the exhibition Ethical Storytelling: Feelings and Memories.


Untitled Story - Jane

I was born in a coastal town of Kenya called Mombasa. I'm the first born in a family of four. Later my parents broke up and we were raised by our mum single handedly. She had to start selling mnazi, a coastal drink to make sure she put food on the table and take us to school.

Unfortunately after all her efforts I still didn't sit for my KCSE examination which really demoralised her and she gave up on the whole issue of education. My siblings had to stay without secondary education because mum thought it would just happen the way it did to me.

According to her I wasted a lot of her cash just to end up getting nothing, not even a certificate. It became my every criticising point. Whenever I make a small mistake, mum will be at it. 

"I wasted my money on you what do you have to show?" 

I was so stressed and depressed to a point I couldn't get out of the house neither talk to anyone because of shame. I had become the laughing stock of the family and community too.

My siblings thought i had denied them a chance to further their education while mum thought i wasted her money for nothing. I didn't live in peace, everytime I would receiver blame. At times i thought of ending my life but an inner voice told me 'you have so many reasons to live. Gather yourself and start over again you shall overcome. Life has ups and downs its never easy and remember nothing comes on a silver plate'.


For a moment I thought and said let me cry to my creator for strength.  After the prayers I still didn't get out. Like an hour later I didn't know where I got strength from. definitely God had answered my prayer it was so soon I couldn't believe it. I got out of the room started by greeting everyone and I could see shock all over their faces. "Mungu ni mwema" my mum exclaimed. There was an a moment of silence for a minute. "Mum am so sorry for everything please find it in your heart to forgive me" I concluded. On hearing this she hugged me happily and replied "i have forgiven you my daughter"

Now it was time to find a job and hustle as you know being a first born responsibilities are usually very many. You are expected to hustle and help your parents to raise your siblings. It was the hardest time for us in life. My bro had just completed class eight but couldn't continue with his education, mum had no funds at the moment because of me. We had a case with my former school for not registering us for KCSE. So she wasn't doing her business we were up and down going to court for the case hearing hoping we could get justice. It was never mentioned as they never showed up in court after the principal was released on bail, as you know this is Kenya. "Mwenye nguvu mpishe"  they say the director of the school silenced the case and up to date justice was never served.

On the other side my dad couldn't take my bro to school all his money was spent on drinking. He drank on a daily basis. At this point we thought of his brothers, maybe they could offer a helping hand. One promised to take responsibilities of his nephew so at least we got some hope, little did we know they were empty promises as he never fulfilled his promise.

My mum had to pick herself up. She decided to drop the mnazi business and started mitumba business. It wasn't easy as she had to go door to door. For me i had to get married due to pressure and stress because I couldn't secure any job in Kenya as i had no certificate to show i went to school. It was a come we stay type of marriage there was no wedding we did it kienyeji. My in laws came to my parents for negotiations and that's it. Dowry wasn't paid in full they just did the introduction part of it. My marriage life was not easy too it was on and off and by this time i was already pregnant. My husband made a confession that he had impregnated someone else before me. I was stressed despite the fact that they weren't married but it really ate me up. I had no option but to stay and raise my daughter and of cause take care of my family. The other lady couldn't let me be at peace despite the fact i was ignoring her. She used to call me i didn't know where she got my number from and that wasn't important at all to me. I had to block her from my phone. She started calling my husband late at night and claim to be bleeding so that my husband could go over to her place. At times he would try to decline because when she was told to go to hospital she will refuse saying that he must go and take her to the hospital, so i would tell him just go i will be fine don't worry about me. Later he realised she never bleeded cause on arriving she would pretend it had stopped she did all this to get attention and hurt me. I almost lost the pregnancy due to stress. So we decided i come back home and stay with my mum away from the stress. I never knew i had given them a chance to live happy together.


After some months i gave birth to a baby bouncing girl. I informed him but he never came only to show up after four months. He came saw the baby and went back. He used to stay far from us. I continued living with my family in Mombasa while he was in Nanyuki with the other lady. At home there was no peace, everytime my family would mock me "ati umeolewa na uko kwenu". At times i would cry but then stop on remembering it's not good to cry while breastfeeding. This went on for over two years. My daughter was now two when my husband told me to go and stay with his parents before he could start staying with us. According to him he was staying in the servants quarters at the compound where he was working, which couldn't accommodate a family so he had to find a good and big house. I lived with his parents for 3 months and he decided to start a small business for me at least i could get busy. I now had a duka to keep me busy so i couldn't think so much. 

It was barely a month and things went wrong. I already knew we were two wives but i could do nothing about it because at home there was no peace. I'd rather stay in my in laws house though things weren't any better just that I was using lemons life had given me to produce lemonade. Again I thought and said I must save my marriage. I will go nowhere at my young age. Leaving wasn't my option. So I continued staying with his parents and him with his other wife.


At this point in life it was God,my daughter and I. My family back home never knew what I was going through to them I was happy. To cut the story short my in laws took everything I had in my business in the name of i had breached the contract. The landlord and my father in law are the ones who signed a contract of the stall I was using for the business. It was already end month and I couldn't pay on time so I talked with the landlord that he could give more days to clear my rent. The same thing i told my father in law and he asked if i had told the land lord. I replied yes he has given me five  more days. To my surprise he told me to pack everything that belonged to me and leave his house,vacate the stall too and never be seen anywhere near their premises. It was at night i had to call my friend to help me. My father in law continued go and pick every stock in the duka an live it open. i should not find you there tommorow. I took my friend with me to the duka to do as instructed little did i know they had told the neighbours when they see me they should call them. I was packing my stock when i heard a bang at the door "it's me your father in law open". On opening he was accompanied by my mother in law and their last born daughter. "Stop whatever you are doing i will take everything from this shop it's my son's money" he said. I didn't say anything all i did was watch them take everything and leave. I was now leaving with my friend who was not even married she was still single. From whatever she saw she really hates men and to date she says she will never get married. She says she witnessed violence in her family too.  It was now a week and life got tougher. My friend and I came up with the idea of travelling to Gulf. We both travelled to my family house back in Mombasa because we could no longer pay rent and her home was in central so we chose the nearest. At this time my mum had travelled to start her life in Taita. She took with her our last born. So my brother and sister were the only ones present at home. This now being my daughter's third year and I was now divorced. Very funny divorced by the parents without any good reason and not the husband.

My bro had started doing vibaruas as a turn boy in heavy commercial vehicles and finally did driving from his small savings. On the other hand my sister was plaiting hair at home.People would follow her to the door step for the hair services. So my bro was the one helping mum. It really gave me headache seeing that I couldn't give a helping hand that's when my friend and I started the process of going to the gulf. I decided to go and hustle in the gulf even though the stories we heard from the other side were terrifying. I took the bull by its horns so that I could help my brother and mum put food on the table. 

Unfortunately death robbed me off my brother through a road accident and all my dreams were shattered. I lost hope everyone in the family was stressed. I felt like it was the end of the world for me. We had so many plans together so sad we couldn't fulfill them together. My mum was broken, you can imagine our bread winner was no more. Tears never stopped rolling down my cheeks everytime i remembered any of our plans together. How are we going to survive i asked myself many questions without getting answers. But why? Death is so cruel so unfair. It seemed like the world had come to a stand still. I wished it could swallow me. My bro was my favourite he was the best sibling i will ever have and am never going to see him again.

It took me time to heal but all in all i had to pick myself up and continue with my dream of going to the gulf in search for greener pastures. Life in Kenya wasn't easy, i had a daughter who depended on me for everything apart from my mum and siblings. The journey started well as planned. I travelled to Nairobi where i would board my flight to Qatar. My agent told me I was going to work as a cleaner in a company. On reaching Nairobi we were now two. The agent introduced me to a colleague whom we were travelling with at Tom Mboya street from there we headed to the airport. We spent hours at the airport before we could board our flight. It was to land at around 2300 hours. While at the airport we were asking each other questions, mixed reactions, our documents were mixed up so at this point we realised we were on our own. Only God was with us.  The ID of our next of kin was not the ones we gave the agent but it was already late as we were at the waiting bay. This time, not sure of the work we were going for as the visas were written house keepers as we asked everyone told us this was just a house job. We were many at the waiting bay, everyone going to a different job with a different company.

Finally our flight took off and after 6 hours we landed safely at Doha international airport. It was the saying that goes "ukiyavulia lazima uyaoge'' now i was ready for any work i got there as long as i was paid. We took our bags as we waited for the person who would pick us up from the airport. A driver came and picked us up and we were taken to an office. After relaxing for some minutes we were taken to an accomodation where we found other Kenyans who were already working there and in the morning we were taken for medical and back to the office. Later that evening we were picked up by the same driver. I thought we were going back to the accommodation. Just the two of us were taken to a house some kilometers away from the office. The car stopped at a residential gate. A young boy came out looking very happy he was talkative and he said to us "is it you?" Both of us were like me? Pointing at ourselves. The driver turned to me it's you. I alighted wishing my colleague all the best where she was being taken to. I got in, everyone was like Mash Allah it was an extended family. I was shocked. I didn't expect to land myself in a residential home. But what do I do? I had no option but to stay. 

I was now a housekeeper doing all the house chores. The house was very big it was four storied building. I had to clean it on a daily basis, do washing,ironing and do the cooking as well. The family consisted of nine children, the parents and the grand parents too. As if those chores weren't enough the madam could scold me everytime she got the chance to. I would wake up at 5 am and sleep at around 3am very tired that's at times they had to wake me up. Since the day i arrived i had not communicated with my family back home. On asking for means of communication that's when i realised  i had awoken the sleep. Now madam spoke her mind out. "I never allow my employees to have any form of communication in my house". Confused at the same time, shocked I couldn't keep quiet I had to speak. Madam without communication then i don't think we will go along well. Later after some days she brought me a sim card cause i couldn't stop bothering her. On seeing my phone she was at it again in my house. You can't use a smartphone and even if it's not a smart one you can't use it during working hours. It's meant only for the bedroom.

Days past and things never seemed to change.I told myself that it was just for sometime maybe when we get used to each other things will be easier. The time i arrived the house was very dirty and disorganised. It took me days to put it in order. After several days my body was very painful from sleepless nights and too much work. I had back pains but there was no way i could relax work had to continue no matter what. Few days later the washing machine gig spoiled it could no longer wash clothes so i had to do it manually (hand washing). You can imagine if using the machine it would take several hours because the clothes were peeled and I only stopped washing when I thought it was enough for the day. Most of the clothes were kanzus and they were white thus needed extra care. And God forbid the children were very big body wise  Mash Allah. I would do the washing in the morning and in the afternoon while ironing at the same time that's after preparing lunch and washing the dishes too. I washed the clothes with my hands for three consecutive days at this point my legs were swollen due to standing the whole day i barely sat down. My hands could no longer wash anymore they were very painful. I pleaded with madam to take the machine for repair all she could say was "I can't pay you for doing nothing in this house" to her it meant me washing the clothes using the machine it was like a favour to me. I thought for the remaining hours of the day and by the time morning came i had a solution. I had decided i will not stay so i had to leave their premises. Qatar not being my motherland, I didn't know where to go. A thought came into my mind to call the police. On receiving they asked where i was so i had to tell them my street,zone and building numbers for them to come and pick me. I was ordered to wait at the same gate which i had given the building number. After about half an hour they were there to pick me. 

On our way they asked me so many questions and for a moment i thought they were taking me direct to the airport for a moment i was happy but again i said i won't be sure unless i boarded my flight back to my country. I was taken to police headquarters everything was noted down only to land myself in a police women cell not having told anyone at home. No one knew my whereabouts. When I got in I found my fellow Kenyans inside. I felt good but not that much remembering no one at home knew where i was. I could imagine what she was going through because the first and last time I talked to her I told her things were not good and she should continue praying for me. I stayed for five days in the cell before i was taken to deportation. That's when i called my sister and told her i was safe and they should not worry about me. She told me mum was very sick and hospitalised due to pressure and ulcers. I told her to tell her am okay and i will be coming home anytime. On arriving at the deportation i met more Kenyans again i spent a night there. Next morning i was called and they asked me if i could pay ticket for myself. I told them i had no money with me and they told me to call my family back in Kenya so that they could send me my air ticket. This confused me more. who will i tell to pay my ticket? Mum is at the hospital i can't tell my family such news that am supposed to pay my own ticket before i could travel back home. Luckily came a representative from Kenyan embassy and assembled all Kenyans asking each and everyone why she was still at the deportation. When it came to my turn i explained that i was told to pay my own ticket before i could go home. He asked me my name and told me your case is already solved on hearing this i was so happy and kept praying but could be soonest. I left to the accomodation for some moment of silence with my creator. Immediately after finishing my prayer I heard my number, which was the system of calling someone followed by the country name. On arriving they told me to pack everything I was going back home. I was the happiest on that day. After sometime now I can go back see my family and finally be free from all pains and relax my mind. On arriving at the JKIA airport in Nairobi i called my mum on hearing my voice she received instant healing and by the time i arrived in Mombasa she had fully recovered and she was discharged the next day.