Being the first born in a family of six children meant I had to take care of all the responsibilities. When I was only 15 years old, I travelled from Western Kenya to Nairobi, in order to secure a job. Back then, we all believed that Nairobi was full of money and opportunities. I had to go, since in our village it is believed that once you reach adolescent, you are ready to get married.
I arrived in Nairobi at around 4:00 p.m., and a friend of mine fetched me. I had secured a job as a housemaid. My friend escorted me there the following morning, my clothes packed in a plastic bag, to start work.
I had to stay strong to earn some money, because the house chores were very heavy and tiresome. I always woke up at around 3:00 a.m. and did not sleep again until 12:00 a.m., after working tirelessly. I was given only one meal a day, but I still appreciated it. I worked for six months without any pay.
Mercy, ready to find a new job and start a new life.
Every time I asked for my money, I was told, “Just wait, we are saving it for you.”
I became tired of always working as a poor donkey. One day, I gathered my courage and decided to ask again for my money. Little did I know that I would be chased out. I was given only two thousand shillings and told to leave. I went to my friend’s place, but she was not happy to see me. I didn’t know anyone else in the city, I was stranded, with nowhere to go. I cried bitterly, and I slept outside for some days without food and water.
On the third day, I met a lady who offered to host me. She introduced me to DREAMS. She explained how it empowers young girls and women. I was very eager to be part of it, and so she offered to enroll me there. They helped me find a new job and a place to stay. They introduced me to other young women facing struggles. Now, instead of isolating myself, I feel that I can face anything.
Mercy is a participant in Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme’s DREAMS Innovation Challenge project, which gives adolescent girls and young women in Kenya greater control over their HIV prevention approaches, including PrEP, through public awareness campaigns, peer education, and HIV testing and counseling.