I got married when I was only 18 years old to a man who was 15 years older than me. My mother forced me to get married to him, simply because my husband was the richest man in our village who had managed to get to the university, had a degree, a good reputation in the village and had secured himself a good job in the city. Our family and his were close friends, and as soon as he expressed his interest in me, my parents would go to any height to get us married.
With nothing else to do, I accepted to get married, with the promise that he would take me to school. It was a grand wedding, followed by a colorful send off as he was taking me to live with him in the city. I was scared, the only things I had were a pretty face, form four certificate and many, many big dreams. The furthest I had gone was our local shopping Center.
The first few months, things were perfect, he was a patient teacher as he helped me get familiar with the city life, he got me enrolled in a college where I would pursue public communication, and paid my first year’s tuition fees. I was too grateful.
Things started changing one year into the marriage, when we had our first child. With the many responsibilities that come with children, he first refused to continue paying my fees. He said I should stay home and be a mother.
I was too heart broken, but with no means to get money for fees, I had to drop school and take care of my little girl. He went from being the perfect guy, to something I can’t describe. He became an alcoholic who would not go a single day without alcohol. He started abusing me physically. He would pick up fights with me every time he was stressed and unleash hell on me. I would call my mother for help and all she would say was that I should stay and try to be better wife. God knows I was doing everything that the best wife would, what else was I to do?
Things never got better; he would go for days, without leaving a single penny or food in house. He would beat me to a pulp in the watch of our baby, and all she could do to help was scream helplessly. I wanted to run and never look back so bad, but I didn’t have a place to run to.
My mother swore to disown me if I ever left my husband’s house. My in-laws said I was the problem. I had no friends in the city. No money. Nothing!
After I had my second baby, another girl, he loathed us more. He hated me more for not having a son. He would call my children ‘useless girls’ every time they made a mistake. I started washing people’s clothes when he went to work and would save the little I got. I used to get at least 500 shillings a day. In six months I was able to raise enough money to start life on my own. I looked for a cheap house and parked the very few possessions I had and left with ‘useless’ my girls.
My younger sister joined us a week after I moved out to help with the kids as I went about washing clothes. By then I had acquired many clients and would get up to 1000 shillings in a day. I went back to school. Life was hard but we managed to survive. After I completed my studies, I started hustling for a job, which proved futile. I decide to open up my own business.
My kids had started going to kindergarten, so I opened a salon for my sister who had a talent in that field as I went on with my usual laundry job. By the time I was 26 years old I had opened up a laundry business, owned five motorbikes which worked for a courier firm. God had been faithful. I got respected by everyone who used to look down on me when I was being walked all over.
“Education is the key that can open doors for you, my daughters. It is the only asset I can give you. Work hard to get the life I never had. Don’t marry rich, be rich. Work hard, pay your bills, maintain yourself and be independent. Only then will you have the power to change the world you live in.” she said. I looked at her, I felt so proud of the woman she is now. At her- not so young- age she is pursuing a master’s degree while managing her businesses like the boss she is.
My mother used to tell me that a woman’s best asset is the little money she owns. She said that I should not be the kind of woman who the only food she could eat was what a man puts on the table. She wanted me and my sister to be strong women, who instead of wallowing in self-pity, we stand tall and deal with whatever situation we face.
About the author:
Carolyne Wanjiku is a trained teacher who loves to write inspirational stories.