Nancy’s Resilience: A Tale of a Child-Headed Family in Jomvu Sub-County, Mombasa

When Nancy (not her real name) heard from the Community Health Volunteers that the Linda Mtoto project team would visit her in their home, she was so excited and eager to share her personal experience in the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.

Nancy’s case was identified by one of the CHVs engaged in Linda Mtoto’s project in Jomvu Sub-County. Upon case assessment and verification, it was discovered that Nancy was not only a victim of CSE under survival sex but had also been neglected by her parents. Nancy is a child aged 17 and lives with her siblings in Narcol, an informal settlement in Jomvu Sub-county. She is the firstborn in a family of four: two girls and two boys. Unfortunately, she is a victim of family disintegration after her parents separated in 2013. The children were left behind with their father. Their mother’s whereabouts remain unknown to date. Nancy and her siblings live in a rental house where they pay a monthly rent of KSH1000. The house is connected to electricity but has no access to water. They are therefore forced to fetch water for domestic use from outside at a cost.

Nancy’s father does not have any reliable source of income and is an absentee parent. Sometimes the children do not know where their father spends the night, which causes anxiety among the children. Nancy also admits that the family relatives are present but are neither concerned about their welfare nor provisions.

Nancy, overwhelmed by family responsibilities, started engaging in in order to fend for her siblings. Life got tough. “Why do I have to go through all this?” Nancy asks, while nodding her head.

Nancy narrates the ordeal of being the sole breadwinner in the family as a child. She says that she really hates selling her body but blames the circumstances forcing the family separation. She sometimes fails to raise the rental fee of 1000/=.  She is always pleading with the landlord, who is constantly threatening them with eviction. Nancy stated that she normally gets KSH150, which is too little to take care of their basic needs such as food, education, and clothing. Sometimes her clients force her to have sex without payment.

Nancy also recalls the numerous times that distant relatives (from her father’s side) would ask her for sex in exchange for a packet of maize flour.

Psychological support: 

The Linda Mtoto Project offers structured psychosocial support to all enrolled children in the program. Counselors meet with children for 6 sessions over a period of 6 weeks. Topics discussed during the sessions include awareness of the emerging trends, e.g., online CSEC, child protection, self-awareness, self-esteem, effects of CSEC; effective communication, positive parenting, sex and sexuality, psycho-education and visioning.

Nancy was linked to counselors and received individual therapy for 7 weeks. ‘I learned the effects of engaging in CSEC and anger management,” says Nancy.

Current situation: 

Nancy presently engages in casual work, offering laundry services to individuals for a fee, and selling groundnuts to school-going children as a means to support her siblings. She has affirmed that she no longer engages in CSEC activities after completing counseling. Furthermore, during Nancy’s formative years, her aspiration was to become a teacher. However, following visioning therapy sessions with her counselor, she discovered her true passion for beauty and hairdressing. Thanks to the support of the Linda Mtoto project, Nancy has been enrolled as a part-time student at the Mikindani Vocational Training Center. She is currently pursuing a course in beauty therapy and eagerly anticipates completing her training. Her goal is to utilize these newfound skills to enhance her family’s economic prospects.

A child’s wish: 

Nancy really longs to see her family reconciled. She also longs to see her parents taking up their responsibilities, which include offering parental love to their children. This case was also reported to the children’s department and presented as neglect by the parents who are both alive.

Khadija's Journey: A Promise to Make Her Parents Proud Again

The jovial and ever-smiling 15-year-old “Khadija,” not her real name, ushered us into their homestead. She was standing alone as her siblings were playing with their friends behind their mud-thatched house. Neighbors kept on peeping from every corner perhaps eager to discover what was happening.

“Don’t mind them let’s proceed,” she said with a gentle voice. Khadija was brought up in Bombo, Kisauni Sub-County. Her father worked as a casual worker, and her mother was a vegetable hawker in the nearby estates. However, their stability took a hit when her father lost his job, the primary breadwinner for the family. This setback triggered an unfortunate cycle of domestic violence and the relentless intrusion of poverty.

“I scored highly in my Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and I was among the top students in my school,” said Khadija. Which year? “In 2020.” She proudly responded.

Life became more manageable, a far cry from the struggles they had faced before “My dad had become a better person, and we loved him. My mother was at peace too,” said Khadija. The children found solace and love from their parents again.

Khadija had been accepted into a provincial school in Makueni County. However, her parents struggled to gather the necessary tuition fees. Khadija’s father made a courageous decision to secure a loan from a local financier, ultimately securing Ksh100, 000. The jovial Khadija joined Ngumo Girls High School in 2021.

Peer pressure:

Khadija reflected, her voice gentle as she spoke, “All my friends had expensive shoes and plenty of shopping. I used to envy them. On visiting days, their parents would bring them delicious roasted chicken, pilau, and more shopping. My own parents couldn’t afford such luxuries. To add to it, some of my friends constantly bragged about having boyfriends waiting for them at home.”

Under the pressure of her peers’ expectations, Khadija felt compelled to find herself a boyfriend during the holiday season. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long before she found herself pregnant, forcing her to discontinue her education. Her father was furious, especially since he had taken out a loan to pay for her tuition. He made the tough decision never to send her back to school again.

Psychological support:

The Linda Mtoto Project delivers a structured program of psychosocial support to all the children enrolled in the project. Each child participating in the project undergoes a 6-week period of 2-hour group sessions. These sessions cover a range of important topics, including awareness of emerging trends like online CSEC (Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse), child protection, self-awareness, self-esteem, the consequences of CSEC, effective communication, positive parenting, sex and sexuality education, and psycho-education to equip children with better-coping mechanisms for various life situations.

Khadija was identified by trained community health volunteers associated with the Linda Mtoto project in April 2021. After thorough verification, she was connected with counselors who provided her with six counseling sessions.

Reflecting on her experience, Khadija shared, “Following the counseling sessions, I took the initiative to seek forgiveness from my parents, although my dad initially resisted. I also made the tough decision to end my relationship with my boyfriend. During the counseling sessions, I gained insights into the consequences of CSEC, dealing with peer pressure, and I felt empowered about my rights.

Family-centered therapy intervention

In June 2021, Khadija’s dad was linked to the Linda Mtoto counselors for psychosocial support. The family-centered therapy intervention focuses on improving family communication, raising awareness about child protection, and emphasizing individual psychological assistance for adults who are distressed in adversity-stricken communities.

‘By the time I was participating in this intervention, I was completely crushed by my daughter’s behavior. I had thought of chasing and disowning her. She had really embarrassed my family in the whole community. I thought my problems were the most complicated on earth. However, during the therapy sessions, I met other caregivers/parents who shared their experiences, and I realized that I wasn’t the only one with such problems. Some of their challenges were more complicated than mine, “says Khadija’s father.

Khadija’s father was engaged in different therapeutic problem-management sessions to reduce his anxiety disorders. Weekly phone calls and supervision were also conducted to provide him with the necessary support.

“When I started listening to other people’s experiences, I started consoling myself. The Linda Mtoto project staff gave me all the necessary support for my healing journey. I decided to give my daughter a second chance. I took her back to school and we decided to take care of the child. The man who was responsible for her pregnancy took off immediately when he heard Khadija was expectant. I embraced her despite what had happened. I built trust and now she is always open with me. I felt empowered and I started to detach myself from my worries. I apologized to my Khadija and we are a happy family again,” he says.

Education support:

 The Linda Mtoto project provides tailored educational and vocational assistance to children based on their individual needs. This assistance is extended following a comprehensive assessment of each child, conducted by both project staff and community health volunteers. Khadija was one of the children who received educational support amounting to 20,900 Kenyan Shillings.

Expressing her gratitude, Khadija declared, “I am deeply grateful for this support, and I am committed to making my parents proud.”

Khadija remained true to her promise, emerging as one of the top students in her class with an impressive B grade. Her father was overjoyed with pride. Presently, Khadija serves as a role model within the Majaoni children’s support groups.

Entrepreneurship (management of finances, savings, and increasing household income) Intervention:

 In August 2021, the Linda Mtoto project organized and provided assistance for an entrepreneurship and financial literacy training program. Khadija’s father was among the beneficiaries. The two-day was conducted by experts from the Women’s Enterprise Fund and representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture. The curriculum covered various topics, including group formation, value addition, agribusiness, soft skills, bookkeeping, savings, and connections to government funding sources.

 “We learned how to generate capital, how to start small businesses as well as keeping sale records. A week after the training, I expanded my charcoal business. We also formed a group with other participants and registered it through the Ministry of Social Services. Currently, we are in the process of applying for a government loan worth Kenya Shillings 100000,” says Khadija’s father.

Khadija concludes our interview by affirming “I’m content knowing my child is being well cared for by their parents, and I’m also performing well in school.”

Faida's Journey: From Survival to Leadership: The Inspiring Case Story of Kenya Children Assembly's National Deputy Speaker

In the heart of Majoni, Kisauni Sub County, a story unfolds that exemplifies the power of determination and resilience. It’s the story of a young girl, whom we will refer to as ‘Faida,’ whose journey from a life of uncertainty to becoming the National Deputy Speaker of the Kenya Children Assembly (KCA) is nothing short of inspiring.

The principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the new Children Acts of 2022, and the Kenyan Constitution all share a common vision: to ensure children’s voices are heard, their rights are upheld, and their participation in decision-making processes is valued. In 2010, the Kenyan Constitution laid the foundation for the creation of Children’s Assemblies, and one such assembly, the Kenya Children Assembly (KCA), was established in 2011. The primary objective of KCA was to amplify the voices of children, providing them with a platform to express their views and concerns. To achieve this, operational guidelines were formulated by the Directorate of Children Services, with the ultimate aim of reaching marginalized children, and ensuring their participation in shaping their own futures.

Faida, a 16-year-old girl from Majoni, was one such child who found herself at a crossroads. A community health volunteer identified her as a young girl engaged in survival sex, and it was evident that she carried the weight of uncertainty about her future. Faida was subsequently connected with a counselor for psychosocial sessions, where she completed six counseling sessions. These sessions ignited a transformation within her, and she made a resolute decision to turn her life around.

Her parents who were peasant farmers, had faced their fair share of challenges. Prolonged droughts had forced them to scale down their farming activities after their wells dried up. Despite these hardships at home, Faida was unwavering in her determination to create a better future for herself. Her dream was to become an officer in the Kenya Defense Force, and she actively participated in children’s support groups, often taking on leadership roles and engaging enthusiastically in group activities.

On April 11, 2022, children from Kisauni Sub County came together to elect their representatives who would champion child protection policies within the Kenyan Children Assembly. The KCA allows children aged 7 to 17 to exercise their civic duties by electing their peers to represent them at the national level. Those elected serve for a term of two years, with the possibility of re-election for a second term. The children’s assembly empowers children to participate in decision-making, policy formulation, planning, and implementation of activities affecting them.

Faida’s boldness shone through, and she was elected as the Speaker of Kisauni Sub County. Her words reflected her sense of honor, “I felt honored to be called an Honourable member. This challenged me that if I work hard in school, one day I can make it to parliament.”  Following this, the elected children leaders embarked on a national election in Nairobi in December 2022. This national election was highly competitive, but Faida’s determination and commitment to leadership saw her elected as the Kenya Children Assembly National Deputy Speaker. She shared her excitement, “I’m honored and am looking forward to participating in decision-making, policy formulation, planning, and implementation of child-affected activities and issues affecting them.”

Faida’s journey from a life of uncertainty to becoming the National Deputy Speaker of the Kenya Children’s Assembly exemplifies the transformative power of providing children with opportunities to participate in decision-making processes. It empowers them to make informed choices, express their views, and claim their rights, including the right to be protected from harm. Faida’s story is a testament to the importance of enabling children to be active participants in shaping their futures, ensuring that no child’s voice goes unheard.