Appeal Letter: Cry of a victim of a marriage from hell-Ann Mũthoni Ndirangũ
The story of Ann Muthoni Ndirangu can easily bring a tear to the eye. She has been to hell and back, and her sad story continues to unfold, seemingly without an end in sight. Muthoni’s plight began precisely 19 year ago. But first, a little on Muthoni’s background.
Muthoni was born in Mweiga, Nyeri District on May 1972. Her parents were poor farmers, and her early years were spent in the rural setting of Mweiga, where she went to school. She dropped out of school before finishing Primary School Education.
As happens to many rural girls who drop out of school and find themselves idle, Muthoni got married immediately after that. Her husband was from the same village, but he worked in Nakuru where he retailed clothes at the town market. Muthoni moved with him to Nakuru, where she started assisting him in the business.
Despite her elementary education, Muthoni had big ideas. She proposed to start her own business. Her husband used to sell new clothes, which he sourced from Eastleigh in Nairobi. She got into the second hand clothes business and opened her own stall. She bought her wares from Gikomba market in Nairobi.
In the early days, the marriage was bliss. In 1991 the couple got their first born, a boy whom they named Hillary Njonjo. They continued doing business, sharing all their home expenses. Four years later, they got their second born, Patricia Wangeci. Life was smooth for the family.
Then, after about ten years of a happy marriage, things suddenly changed. Muthoni’s husband started binge drinking, and Muthoni watched her dream marriage start to unfold. He had been a moderate drinker before, and Muthoni had had no problem with that. This time round, everything about his character changed for the worse.
He stopped paying the bills. He started cheating on his wife. He would come home in the wee hours of the morning, totally drunk, or he would sleep out and go home in the morning to change. He would receive calls from women in the dead of night and he would call a taxi to take him to them.
But worst of all, he became violent and abusive towards Muthoni. He became emotive and irritable. He beat her at the slightest excuse, right in front of their children. Day or night, Muthoni did not know when the next beating would come. He insulted her at every turn and he did not care about the neighbours.
Through all this, Muthoni persevered. She was from a poor family and she did not want her marriage to break. She prayed hard that her husband would change. She paid all the bills. She footed the house rent, paid school fees for their children, bought all the groceries and basically footed every household expense from the proceeds of her business. Her husband’s money was for his debauchery and hedonism.
Things continued like this and Muthoni soon started suffering from high blood pressure and stress. Her stomach ulcers grew worse. She spent a lot of money seeing doctors for her problems. She spent roughly Kenya shillings 700 a week for medicine and counselling. She was a very hard worker and her business was doing well.
But she was determined that her children would finish school unlike her, and she held on to the mirage of a marriage. She was so devoted to her children’s education that she had enrolled them in private schools, where fees were higher than in public schools. She did not tell her parents or in laws the hell she was going through and she ignored her friends’ advice to leave the man.
In early 2008, ethnic violence erupted in Kenya after the disputed presidential elections. Nakuru and the rest of the Rift Valley province was one of the hotspots of post election violence. Muthoni’s tribe, the Kikuyu, was on the receiving end in the area as they were termed ‘outsiders’ who had not voted for the ‘natives’ preferred candidate. The violence was quelled after the warring politicians agreed to form a coalition government. Muthoni’s family survived the fracas.
One Saturday morning, Muthoni was washing clothes at home when her husband appeared in a pickup. She told Muthoni to start packing their belongings as they were moving back home to Mweiga. Muthoni was stunned.
The post election violence was over, and life had gone back to normal. She had not been consulted on the move or even notified. But she was an obedient woman and she did as she was instructed.
The children had to stop schooling, and even the schools’ administration was not notified. The family went back to Mweiga. Muthoni was broke as she had not been saving anything. Her husband had 100,000 shillings which he intended to invest in their farm. Muthoni suggested that the husband buys two calves, so that by the time the children finished primary school, the animals would be big enough to sell and help to pay for the children’s secondary school fees.
“He retorted that he was not educated himself and he did not see why he should educate the children,” says Muthoni. “He said that they would help in the farm.”
Muthoni enrolled the children in a local school where they continued their education. The husband put all his money in the farm, and soon the family was broke. Muthoni is a hard worker, and she thought of a way on complementing the family coffers. She borrowed 5,000 shillings from a friend and started a business, selling second hand shoes which she got from Gikomba Market in Nairobi. She sold the shoes in local markets such as Chaka, Eldarasha and Mweiga.
The business picked up quickly. Meanwhile, the beatings and abuse continued. Her husband’s investment in the farm was not going well, and this frustrated him very much. His frustrations were vented on Muthoni and the children, who were bullied constantly. Njonjo, the boy, always came top in his class for he was very clever, and when he sat his KCPE, he did well. But the family had no money to send him to high school. The bright boy who had big ambitions kept pleading with the helpless mother to take him to school.
Muthoni contacted the headmistress of Njonjo’s previous school in Nakuru, a Mrs. Mbatia, and told her of her son’s plight. The woman eventually got a sponsor for the boy and, one year later, in 2010, he joined Streams of Hope High School in Nakuru. The father protested but Muthoni and the boy prevailed. It was a boarding school, and during the holidays, the boy stayed with Muthoni’s sister who was also a resident of Nakuru.
Meanwhile, the beatings intensified. The husband, frustrated by his faming venture, was broke. He dictated what was to be done with the money that Muthoni made from her shoe business. Muthoni would go home from the market and put all her money on the table, and he would then decide what to do with it. Patricia was still in primary school, and Muthoni would give her 20 shillings for fare every day as the school was quite a distance from the home. The husband dictated one day that this mollycoddling had to stop, and the girl should henceforth walk to school.
“I and Patricia devised a way whereby I would hide the 20 shillings under a seat cushion and she would pick it in the morning,” says Muthoni. “She would pretend that she was walking to school but would get into a matatu once she disappeared from the vicinity.”
The husband then started escorting Muthoni to the market, where he would pick all the money after customers bought their shoes. One day, he told Muthoni that he suspected her of infidelity and that he was the one who would be going to Nairobi to buy shoes. He was the head of the family, he said, and he would be making all the decisions. Muthoni went along with all this. He took all the savings and went to Nairobi, but he came home days later without the shoes or the money. That was the end of that business.
He became excessively violent and unpredictable. He told his mother that one of these days, they might just find him hanging from a tree. He started blaming Muthoni for his woes, claiming she had bewitched him and turned the children against him. He was going to die, but not before he killed the source of all his problems, he told her.
At night, the husband would get out of bed countless times, cursing and murmuring to himself. Muthoni would get up from sleep and find him shining a torch on her face. She was a very worried woman at that period. She feared for her life and she was consumed by stress. She lost weight and when people asked her why she looked so wasted, she lied that she was unwell.
One day, as Muthoni was dressing in their bedroom after a bath, the man walked in yielding a very huge stick. Muthoni knew her time on earth was about to come to an end. The man aimed the stick at her, and Muthoni blocked it with her hand. She managed to throw the stick to a safe distance and the man rained blows and kicks on her. In the melee, she managed to grab a bed sheet, wrap herself in it and dash out of the house. She hid behind some bushes and the husband went away after failing to locate her.
She picked a few clothes, grabbed her daughter and she ran all the way to her parents’ home. The man followed the bleeding and bruised woman whose face was swollen, but Muthoni’s sister in law, her brother’s wife, threatened to scream and attract the villagers if he dared step into the homestead. Muthoni nursed her bruises. A week later, the man sent two village elders to plead with Muthoni to go back. They had a meeting between the elders, Muthoni, her husband and her mother in law, in which the man pleaded for forgiveness and vowed never to repeat the act again.
Three weeks later, the man beat up Muthoni very badly, injuring her hand and face. He travelled to some place the following morning, and Muthoni grabbed her daughter, a few personal items and ran away, this time for good. She went to her parents’ home, but the man kept stalking her. He would pass by their gate several times wearing a grim look. Muthoni knew that her life was in danger, and she fled to Nakuru to hide there. It was the only place she knew.
After staying a week in her sister’s house, Muthoni rented a one room shack where she slept on the bare floor with her daughter. She was stone broke, and for food and other basic necessities, she had to rely on her sister and other well wishers. She and her daughter often went to bed hungry, and life was hell. One of the well wishers paid for Patricia’s school fees, and at least Muthoni was relieved of that burden.
She tried her hand at selling charcoal, but the business ended after her supplier disappeared. She then tried selling second hand clothes again. She did not buy the clothes this time. They were lent to her by market sellers and she made insignificant returns since she did not have money to invest in her own venture. Shortly after, she tried her last resort; she turned to that craft that is traditionally the reserve of men and she became a mason.
She made 1,800 shillings a week. She used 1,000 shillings for rent, food and other needs while 800 shillings went to pay Patricia’s school fees. It was a very difficult job. Due to exposure to cement and building materials, and the physical demands of the job, Muthoni fell sick. She was jobless again.
Misfortunes don’t come singly. The sponsor of her son Njonjo withdrew his sponsorship without notice and Patricia was kicked out of school due to fees arrears. Now, both are at home. Njonjo is in Form 3. He is a top student who aspires to be an engineer or architect. Patricia is in Form 2 and is also an A student. The boy is very frustrated with the unfairness of life, and both are a permanent cause of stress to their mother.
Recently, Muthoni got a job as a security guard, and she works in the luggage section of Woolmart in Nakuru town. Her salary is barely enough to meet the needs of the family such as food and house rent of 2000 shillings (she has moved to a two room house since Njonjo is now an adult who is uncomfortable sleeping in the same room with women.)
She is desperate to get a sponsor to educate her children as she feels that they should be given a chance to live a better life than she has lived. She is appealing to anyone who can help in whatever way to come to the children’s aid.
“I have been through a lot,” she says. “All I am concerned about is the children,” she says.
To help this family, kindly contact:
Marjory N. Kimani
Editor in Chief,
Micii-ini iitu Magazine
Tel 0722 361100
Appeal Letter: Cry of a victim of a marriage from hell-Ann Mũthoni Ndirangũ