In October this year, Moracha* will be turning 17. She is, however, already a mother of two.
We meet Moracha at Women’s Hope in Hardy, Karen, Nairobi – a rescue centre for underage girls caught up in gender-based violence.
“She was brought here in June 2019,” says Consolata Waithaka, the founder of Women’s Hope.
Moracha was a Class Eight pupil when her path crossed with Ken’s* back in her home in Kisii County in 2016.
Ken, a two-faced lothario was then an undergraduate student at Kenyatta University.
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“We met on a sports day. The pitch was just next to his homestead. He walked over and started chatting me up,” Moracha says.
The games ended early enough for all students to walk home. But Moracha stayed behind with Ken. “We kept talking until sunset,” she says.
Ken suggested that she tags along to his home and spend the night with his sisters to avoid walking back home in darkness. Naively, she agreed.
“He told me to lie to his father that I was his classmate in the university. But the old man could see straight through the ruse.”
That evening, Moracha says, Ken changed the story and told her that his sisters sleep in the same room as his parents and, therefore, she would share the boys’ quarters with him.
The girl – aged 14 at the time – ended up sharing a bed with Ken. “We had sex,” she says. “I stayed with him for three weeks: he had soaked my clothes in water to keep me from leaving.”
Upon her ‘release’, Moracha went back home to her grandmother – her guardian. “I lied to her that I had been living with a friend, a girl, at her house,” she says.
After all, she thought, life would quickly go back to normal. How wrong she was as the first and second month went by without getting her period.
“That is when I went to test for pregnancy and it turned out positive,” she says.
Her grandmother’s immediate reaction was ‘abort’. The old lady, working with one of Moracha’s uncles, went as far as contacting a doctor who would do it.
“I refused to go along with the abortion plan. I feared dying from a botched process. But also, generally, I am someone who would never procure an abortion. I just don’t think it is right,” Moracha says.
She was asked to leave and “go live with the baby’s father”. Armed with scanty information about Ken’s whereabouts in Nairobi, Moracha took money offered by her grandmother and travelled to the city.
She joined Ken where he was staying in Mukuru Kwa Ruben. “After about six months we fell out; he beat me up and forced me out. I went back upcountry to my grandmother where I gave birth to a son,” she says.
When her son turned a year and a half, she travelled back to Nairobi to reunite with Ken as she couldn’t depend on her grandmother for the baby’s upkeep. After two months she got pregnant again.
“He asked me to abort since the firstborn was still young. I refused. He beat me and threw us out in the cold,” she says.
Determined to survive, Moracha went about asking for menial jobs and found one at a roadside eatery. “I was making Sh250 a day. With that, I was able to rent a place in the slums for Sh1,500 a month,” she says.
But then, Ken showed up and took her son away from her. He also beat her and left her for dead.
It was then that a stranger, a woman, picked her and took her to Shofco – in Kibera. Two weeks later, she was moved to Women’s Hope.
“In January 2020 I gave birth to my second son. I now live here as I go through vocational training on tailoring,” Moracha says.
Since the first pregnancy, her life has been a rollercoaster. “I have gone through pain and confusion,” she says. “If I was to take everything back, I would do things very differently.”
Moracha may be 16 but she accepts responsibility for her misfortunes. What she does not know though is that she is a victim of circumstances.
Odds stacked against her
According to parenting expert and author Roselyn Kigen, Moracha ticks a lot of the boxes for victims of teenage pregnancy.
To begin with, she was raised by a grandmother who was distant in her parenting style.
To date, Moracha does not know who her father is. Her mother lives in Nairobi – in Mukuru kwa Njenga – with a husband (not Moracha’s father) and their children.
“Her husband has never allowed my mother and I to be close. Every time we contact each other, he asks her to leave. To protect her marriage she avoids any interactions with me,” Moracha says.
The closest thing to sex education that Moracha received was a 10-minute safety-from-rape talk by a teacher when she was in Class Five.
“My grandmother never broached the topic with me. And my grandfather told me, ‘If you play with boys you will get pregnant and if that happens you will be on your own’.”
At the time she met Ken, she says, she wanted to have a boyfriend to fit in. She was the only one who didn’t have a boy. “I wanted to feel the same thing my friends felt having boyfriends,” she says.
To top it off, Moracha admits to craving for attention: wanting to feel loved, cared for, cherished and admired.
Growing up in a largely rural setting, where teenagers were largely left to their devices, and “many girls get pregnant”, did not work in her favour either.
In her KCPE she scored 356 out of 500 marks – well above average. Her dream (to become a lawyer) at worst, may have been curtailed by early motherhood. She remains hopeful though that the future will bring with itself good tidings.