Beatrice Achieng Makokha, 31, is a living portrait of fortitude and determination.
I am a landlady today after harrowing spells sleeping in the cold with no roof over my head. I have been misused by men with my father’s consent and exposed to HIV/Aids, my life has been an endless struggle.
But today, and in-spite all I have been through, I own a residential and rental house in Nairobi’s Deep Sea slum and I am educating my children. I dropped out of school after class eight in 1999 for lack of fees but I am now back to class and will be a KCSE candidate next year.
I am forever grateful to Selectine Wanyonyi, wife to Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi, who recruited me and other helpless slum women in Westlands Constituency into joining table banking.
This pulled me out of the abyss I was in and being trained on leadership and financial management skills has stood me in good stead.
I today chair a table banking group that comprises of 11 women, thanks to a girl child rescue initiative I started after my 12-year-old daughter was sexually exploited by a neighbour. I also mentor those who have been through my experience.
Table banking has given me access to small loans. The two houses cost me Sh55,000 yet I previously repeatedly defaulted on Sh1,500 monthly rent, prompting sympathetic neighbours to fundraise to assist me pay.
Being a member of a table banking group has also brought me closer to realising my childhood dream of being a teacher that dissipated with the death of my mother in 1994. At the time, I was a class three pupil at Mathare 4 A Primary school. My father roasted meat for a living and my mother dabbled in business.
My mother’s demise triggered an implosion for me and my four siblings. We suffered neglect in my father’s hands when he stopped buying food and also discontinued paying fees for us. I had to chip in at a tender age, balancing my schooling with odd jobs to get money for food and other needs.
Then my father suddenly decided to consign us to our rural home in Busia County with no financial support. I was in class seven.
We went through hoops that included selling fire wood to survive but thankfully, an uncle paid my school fees.
The worst came when my father married me off to an elderly friend of his. I was 13 and a classmate to some of the man’s children. But, instead of taking me in as a wife the man would at times pick me from school for sexual stunts in maize and sugar plantations after which he would give me Sh100.
He surprised me by opting to pay my entire class eight fees. I sat my KCPE in 1999 and scored 383 marks out of 700. The man had nothing to do with me when I was called to join Nabomboto High School. That was the end of my formal learning.
I spent the year 2000 doing odd jobs that at times earned me just Sh50 per day. In 2001, a friend to my father got me a job in Nairobi as a house maid for Sh1,000 per month but the money went to my father and I quit the job five months later. I was employed two more times as a house maid and endured the same struggles.
Eventually, a woman neighbour — who claimed to be moved by my suffering, came with marriage as a solution and introduced me to a man who became my husband.
I got pregnant and my son was born in October 2002. I endured a lot of mistreatment and again conceived in 2003 only for the man to remarry when I went home for a relative’s funeral.
Desperate years of hard work and pittance for pay followed before I met my second husband and father to my third and fourth child. He one day took off with everything leaving me in the lurch with the children.
That I was able to rise above all that and can today stand on my own two feet is nothing short of a miracle.