Fate made Eunice a mother of children she did not bear, yet she is determined to see through the responsibility
Evelyn Makena @evemake_g
Weary, hungry and distressed, Eunice Kinanga hobbled into an office in Nairobi’s central business district on a Monday morning. For seven consecutive days, she has trekked from Dandora Phase One to town and back in search of a listening ear. But it was not the tumult of trekking on an empty stomach that had induced her distress.
The 17-year-old had greater burdens to worry about. She had three siblings to take care of, and one of them to bury. For days, she has been on a frantic search for well-wishers to help raise funds to bury her brother whose body has been lying in a Kisii mortuary for nearly three weeks.
Born in Kebege village, Bomachoge Chache constituency, Kisii county in 2000, Eunice describes her life as one tainted with misfortunes. The father, a tea picker in Kericho, was always a distant figure in their life, rarely visiting them. Her mother, on the other hand, developed a headache whose cause was never diagnosed.
Being the firstborn and only girl in a family of four, the responsibility of taking care of the family when her mother was too ill fell on her. “There are times when, I would leave school in the middle of the day to ensure that my mother took her medication and then go back,” she remembers.
She was only 10 when her mother succumbed to her illness leaving them with their absentee father. The same year, her father took Eunice and her last born brother to live with him in Kitale where he had been secretly living with another woman. “My other two brothers, one of whom is my twin were left in our rural home in Kisii on their own,” she says.
Under the care of their stepmother, Eunice and her brother were mistreated, overworked, constantly beaten for even minor mistakes and even denied food on some days. “She had four children of her own, and all her attention was on them.
My brother and I were more like intruders in the house,” she says. A year later, her father brought her two other brothers to live with in Kitale. But the two could not endure the mistreatment and ran away barely a week after moving in.
The same year, her father who had left employment in Kericho to settle with his new family in Kitale, sold the Kisii farm and disappeared. “He only left a small section where our house stood and a graveyard where his four wives, including three who he had married before my mother, were buried,” she says. Three of her deceased stepbrothers were buried there as well.
With no trace of her father, Eunice continued living with her stepmother until she completed Class Eight in 2014. Amid the chaos, she scored 279 marks. “My stepmother said she could not raise fees for my secondary education.
So she kicked us out of her house,” she adds. The two went back to their father’s house in Kisii. Living in a graveyard was a big concern for her siblings and she longed for a way to leave the place that triggered sad memories.
Then a woman in Kisii offered to take Eunice with her to Nairobi in 2015 where she worked as an onion vendor. Eunice quickly learned the trade, started selling on her own and could even afford to rent a Sh2,000 house in Dandora. Soon, she brought her two younger brothers who had been staying with a cousin in Kisii to live with her.
All seemed to be working well for the minor until she fractured her hand during a tussle with city council askaris at Marikiti market. “I could no longer work and took time off to recuperate,” she says.
The younger brother succumbed to the lure of the streets and he ran away from home again in December last year. The 13-year-old was traced in a mortuary in Kisii weeks later with his body severely mutilated.
The past two months have been the most agonising for Eunice who is determined to give her brother a decent send-off and pay an accruing bill of Sh77,000 to the mortuary. Only one paternal uncle is alive but he is unable to help, she says. “I have told him about the plight of my brother but he says he has no money to help,” she says.
After selling the few household items in her house in Dandora and fundraising among her colleagues in Marikiti and village mates in Kisii, Eunice has been able to raise 46,000 which she has already paid to the hospital.
But despite the heavy responsibilities that face Eunice, her optimism is evident. She is hopeful that light will shine in her dark circumstances. Her face beams with joy as she shares her future aspirations.
The young girl often dreams of going back to school and becoming a magistrate. “I have always been the person that resolves conflicts whenever they arise at home. My brothers always listen to me,” she says with a twinkle in her eyes.