Twenty-year-old Eunice Akinyi (not her real name) is a trafficking survivor. She was only seven when she was trafficked from her home in Migori by a woman claiming to be a family friend.
Today, the frightened little girl is a confident young woman, who has set aside the trauma she suffered and is now pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at the Technical University of Kenya.
She has met with two of the country’s First Ladies— Lucy Kibaki in 2007 and Margaret Kenyatta in 2014 and is one of the Wema Centre choir members who have performed for different dignitaries over the years.
“I was four years old when my parents separated and I went to live with my father. I can recall my mother as a very hard-working woman. However, when she disappeared from our lives in 2003 I was told she had been eaten by wild animals.”
Just when she thought life could not get worse, she lost her father.
“In 2004, l went to live with my 94-year-old grandmother after my father died. Living with my grandmother was tough. It became worse when she lost her sight and was no longer able to provide for me and my brother. We had to depend on the goodwill of friends and neighbours. We would go from house to house begging for food,” she says.
And going to school became difficult for the two siblings.
“We at times went to school for a term then dropped out. I remember one of the teachers telling me that I could make something out my life, if I just settled down,” she adds.
But since young Akinyi had no one to take care of her, it became impossible to settle in school.
“I was seven years old and in Class Three when a woman who claimed to be my mother’s friend came to visit me and told me she wanted to go live with me in Mombasa where l could also go to school. She told me not to tell my brother or my grandmother,” she says.
She could not contain her join. At last, her dream to go to school full time would come to pass.
“I did as she suggested. I did not breathe a word of our conversation to my kin. We soon travelled and arrived at the bus station in Nairobi at 11am. She asked me to wait for her there as she went to sort out something. She never came back.”
Akinyi waited for her host for two days hoping that she would fibally show up. She never did.
On the second day, Akinyi started roaming around the streets and met with a group of street children who “adopted” her after learning she had been abandoned.
“Life was bad. I would carry people’s luggage for a few shillings so that I could eat… In the streets, you must have a ‘protector ‘ or you have to “marry” an older street boy for your own safety,” she says.
After three months on the streets, exhausted from the frequent run-ins with city askaris and being treated like a property by the street boys, Akinyi was fed up. One day, she met officials from Wema Centre from Mombasa who were doing street outreach missions and agreed to go with them to Wema Centre on only one condition: that they take her to school.
“l got a sponsor through the Fun for Action Through Education project. I finished my Kenya Certificate of Primary Education and got 382 marks and a B in Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education four years later,” she said.
Her first seven years of life have moulded her into a woman of steel — fluent and confident.
She does not understand why the woman who promised her a good life in Mombasa disappeared on her leaving her to the mercies of street children — who later became her family. She dusted herself up and decided to focus on the bright side of life.
Her advise to those who find themselves in difficult situations: “Do not look down on yourself because of the challenges you are facing. Focus and you will find your way out. Life is not where you are but where you are going.”