What it Takes to be a Woman

by Catherine Jumba, Founder of Touch Life Children Centre

To many the reality dawns after finding one sinking into life full of problems and troubles. A once beautiful, brown and middle shaped teenager …changed into a woman full of sorrows.

I was born in a polygamous marriage. Being the 8th born from a family of 20 siblings, it was not easy being brought up in this kind of family. Poverty, jealousy, rivalry -among others were the major issues that hit the family the most.

Schooling was not a priority. Along with the clothing provided, you got food to put in your stomach which depended on your speed! Being the victim of ulcers, and sick all the time, how could I compete among 10 boys and 9 girls on a one plate of ugali or githeri (mixture of beans and maize)?

One room was shared as a sitting room, a bedroom for our mothers, one kitchen and one bedroom for the children. Don’t mind whether we knew about boys sleeping different from girls. A bed was a luxury. A sack provided a comfortable mattress inclusive of a blanket.

Our father was seen every 2 or 3 months in a year, for he worked as a driver in Nairobi. His arrival in our rural neighborhood would be met with different reactions including eating meat and bread (a piece each and a slice of bread). Despite the excitement in the home when he came, it was also traumatizing since real lectures, threats and beatings were given from 8:00pm to 2am. As we all stood in the sitting room (mothers and children lined up according to the age), compelling each and everyone to reveal all the mistakes that had been done since dad left for Nairobi some months back.

Our mothers used to receive a sound beating once dad visited home, and this really brings bitter memories. By 4am all of us would be up to bathe, clean the compound and then escort our fathers by 6am. Things were very difficult and the villagers really dared never to come near our homestead when one of us was being disciplined. I recall vividly the day my younger brother, (who is now deceased) received a thorough beating. He was compelled to eat soap until he became unconscious just because he cheated dad. Dad had not had a bath for 2 days due to lack of soap only to be found in one of the closet drawers.

Despite of all the odds, I used to sneak to a nearby primary school where I assessed my education up to level 8. After sitting for my Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE), I passed with flying colors and secured a place to purse my secondary school education. A thing that could not come by easily, but this woman in her teens managed to convince the dad who paid her fees in a boarding school. For dad, paying fees was all that was needed for one to acquire education. All the other requirements were a luxury. I have to thank my late mom Hadija, in her absentia for making sure I got a blanket, mattress, towel, shoes amongst the other major requirements for boarding. In form 1 is when I managed to own and use the above for the first time. Mmmh ..what a sweet life!

Catherine Jumba (left) and Vincent Omondi (right) are pictured with the children during their first Writing for the Soul Workshop™ at Touch Life Children Centre in Korogocho.
Catherine Jumba (left) and Vincent Omondi (right) are pictured with the children during their first Writing for the Soul Workshop™ at Touch Life Children Centre in Korogocho.

Touch Life Children Centre is situated in the Korogocho Slums in Kasarani Constituency. Korogocho is one of the largest slum neighborhoods of Nairobi, Kenya. Home to 150,000 to 200,000 people pressed into 1.5 square kilometers, northeast of the city centre. Korogocho was founded as a shanty town on the then outskirts of the city. It is approximately 1km from Kariobangi Terminus. Touch Life Children Centre is located just opposite of the Damascus Primary school.  It goes without saying that the children in this high-risk part of the world NEED our writing program.

Since Catherine and her staff have been offering Writing for the Soul Workshop™ at Touch Life, we’ve seen an increase in participation of nearly 300%. Not just with youth, but with young adults as well. Our goal is to not only educate the youth, but to generate key source funding from fundraising and book sales. Funding that is needed badly for Operating Expenses just to buy food and the basic necessities that most of us take for granted.

How You Can Help

gfm_logo_300dpiCatherine and her staff rely heavily on the source funding generated by our  Writing for the Soul Workshop™ program. We are working hard to release “Pieces of Me: A Touch Life Project” during the holidays. The book is comprised of the stories, peoms and art that we’ve been collecting during our workshop at Touch Life Children Centre. Until the book is released, you can help by donating to our GoFundMe page here: https://www.gofundme.com/touchlifeworkshop. To show you how much we appreciate your donation, we’ll email you a Copon Code to download “Pieces of Me: A Touch Life Project” on the day of release. For more information, use the Contact Form to connect with us.

You can also send relief directly to Children Touch Life Centre. They need clothing items and shoes (all sizes), class room supplies, three laptops, printer with ink, and a camera.

touch-life-logoC/O Vincent Omondi

Touch Life Children Centre

PO BOX 52-00507 Nairobi, Kenya