By correspondents Jérémy Saint-Peyre and Joseph Allobbeh in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya (as told to them by Angellera)
I am twenty-four, my name is Angellera. I was born in Kibera and spent most of my life here. I lived in Nairobi downtown for a little while, but I have never lived elsewhere than in the capital city.
Since I was a kid, I love singing. For a moment, I thought that my talent for it had just disappeared, but every cloud has a silver lining, the sufferings I bared brought it back.
When I was a kid I used to fetch firewood in exchange for money. I was doing all these when still going to school. I had to quit school (as all my brothers also did) at the age of six, it was way too expensive, my parents needed me to work. They were not using me, it is just that there are some situations you can’t deal with any other way. A little while after my mum died when I was ten, therefor I went into selling vegetables. My dad died only two years after. It seems like he died out of the stress and the shock he went through after the death of my mother. According to how I understand it, my mum died out of witch-craft.
From this moment, things started to getting worse and worse. One of our aunts from our mother’s side came to be our step-mother for David (my younger brother) and me. We were taken to the city by my aunt… She was pretending that she was going to take us back to school. My two older brothers (Sablon and Charles) were away, old enough to take care of themselves. Our aunt is mean, she was beating us. So, she found me a maid job at a married couple’s house in Nairobi. I was living there, I had a salary. When the couple was leaving the house in the morning to go to work, the husband used to come back to rape me. After three years, I talked about it to my cousin/step-sister, telling her that I wanted to run away. She advised me not to, because it would upset my aunt. But I did it, I went back to Kibera, to my step-mother. I was beaten from time to time and given a lot of work… without going to school.
Sablon, my eldest brother was already living upcountry, in Homa Bay, on the Lake Victoria shore. The second one, Charles, took care of David and me. He had a job in a building and construction industry. It was tough, but we were on the right track. But one day in 2004, he was shot by policemen (he was 25), close from where I am staying now, he just bleed to death. I walk on this spot almost everyday, it is just in front of « Carolina for Kibera », an NGO I once worked for. Those were troubled times in Kibera. He was just coming back from work when he was shot… No inquiry took place, neither apologies or help came from the authorities. The way things were, we should have end up with our aunt again, but we didn’t want that.
I gave some of the money I saved from the maid job to David. He went to live with our cousins in Githurai Estate not far away from Kenyatta University. At the time, he went into a hawking business where he used to earn some little money for a living. I left Kibera for the center of Nairobi where I roamed. Then, a soldier acted mercifully and try to helped me, even if he had no means for it. Later on that day (the same I left Kibera), he introduced me to a young man. I explained him my story and he decided to take me in after a couple of questions and explanations. I actually didn’t know him before but after talking for a couple of hours and him explaining to me where he lived and with whom (his father) and actually what he was doing for a living, I agreed to let him help me by taking me to his place. I was desperate by then and all I needed was a place I could call home… I left with him, I lived at his place. I got pregnant for the first time, he was twenty-five, me, only fifteen. My son Faizun is now nine, he goes to school, he is also healthy, so are my two other children. Five years later, I had a child again ; Chelsea, my first daughter. After she was born, I ran away from my boyfriend, he was too violent… He wasn’t violent at the beginning, it actually came step by step. This happened when he found another woman and started drinking. He then started sleeping outside and this all started happening after four years of us staying together. A neighbor drove me, I was back in Kibera.
A night in 2011, I met a guy in a club. I was very drunk and we had sex (without protection) and I ended up being pregnant, again. I went to a family planning center. They gave me both HIV treatment (I told them that I was raped in town and refused for them to run a HIV test on me, but I got tested later, and I had a negative result.) and abortion pills. I did took the HIV medicine. Donallythar is my second daughter, she is now two. The three last months of pregnancy were very painful, I couldn’t move. Therefore, it was impossible to earn money. I sold a big part of my stuff, also my children’s ones to get food, pay for the rent… Fortunately, I have a very good friend. I know him from the time Faizun wasn’t born, we consider each other as brother and sister. He helped me, sending money sometimes to take care of my personal needs. It however turned out later that he knew the father of Donallythar (they used to go to the same gym). I saw Donallythar’s dad again only one time, and by good or bad luck, only met him after I had given birth. I explained him everything, he denied everything. That’s how it all ended and decided to move on with my life..
Then, I met Catherine, a volunteer from « Carolina for Kibera ». This NGO is running HIV test in Kibera. I got hired for a week, I earned 2800 Kenyan Shilling (about 32$ or 24€). That’s how I started my oddment socks business. I buy them at Toi Market and sell them in Kibera. Cheaper to buy, easier to sell. This is how I earn my living… One day at a time.
For the last general elections of March I wrote a song sent in the direction of the applicants to the president office. I was even able to sing it at a Raila Odinga rally. This song, « Change » is about daily life violence and injustice. In it, I ask the politicians to work in the same direction for Kenya and Kenyans rather than their personal interest. I consider myself as a committed singer, kind of political and social activist. I am affected by most of the daily life issues, the state of the country, women’s conditions… Those are problems I am personally facing, as many others persons.
I’ve got talent, even some fans. If my music continues to evolve in a good direction, i hope i will be able to live on it. I am working on my first album, I have a kind producer. Still, I have to write a few more songs, and also find money to shoot a video clip besides taking care of my children, running my business… and all the other things you are not expecting to come up every day.
Angellera’s song “Change”:
Jérémy Saint-Peyre & Jospeh Allobbeh
Joseph- lives in Kibera but used to live in Mathare, a slum in Nairobi. He is extremely active in the youth advocacy efforts of protests against the government.
Jeremy- lives in France. Visited Kibera and stayed at Kibera House of Friends (http://childwellnessfund.com/programs/kids-in-kenya-fund/kibera-house-of-friends), where international volunteers can stay and connect with youth projects all over East Africa. It is operated by the Child Wellness Fund and was founded by Jamey Ponte, who also runs TEDxLemek in the Maasai Mara.