STREET MOTHERS LIVING ROUGH, by Faith Nafula Wafula

This documentary is in Kiswahili, click here to download the English translation.

Street mothers; some view them as a menace to society, look at them with disgust.  Others view them with pity, shed a tear or two when no one is watching, shake their heads and drop the spare change they have into their tin cups. Others are angered by their presence, view them as a burden to society, click and twitch their noses, scowl and move away when they’re approached. The majority of us are however indifferent, driven by the somewhat comforting thought that they are not really our problem. We make them a topic of conversation when we angrily complain about the government. We smirk our lips and say “serikali iwasaidie (may the government come to their rescue)” as we watch them from the windows in the matatu (buses) , and hurriedly close the windows after realizing that we accidentally made eye contact and they are walking towards us with out-stretched arm and little bundles on their backs.

My story is about two such women, Shiro and Elizabeth speak to me about their journey as young mothers living in the streets, painting a grim picture of the abuse they and their children have faced and continue to face in the streets they call home. Shiro talks about the gang rape she had to endure as a young girl that resulted in her getting pregnant with Vincent Baraka (‘Blessing’). Her strength and and resi lience resonates through her words as she speaks about forgiveness and her hope for the future.Elizabeth talks about how she had to run away to the streets after defending herself from her step father who wanted to make a ‘wife’ out of her. She speaks about how every night they are in the streets, her daughter is in danger of being sexually abused, making reference to an encounter with a man that tried to lower her daughter’s diaper as they slept together in the streets. At the end of the documentary, she tells us the dreams she has for herself, her appreciation for life and faith she has in the future, despite how bleak it may seem.

I chose to do a documentary on street mothers because mothers symbolize continuity of life, continuity of generations. I realized that the street is the source of an entire generation and few are aware of it. The mothers of the street are faced with unimaginable hardships and untold abuse and they face this while trying to protect little ones that look up to them, little ones they had when they were barely old enough to have children. I aim to create awareness and change public perception on the issue of street mothers, and as a result, get the society at large to play a role, however small it is, at helping these women. That is the only way the cycle of street life can be broken. By helping the mothers, we help the child.

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