Fathers are ordinary men turned by love into heroes, adventurers, storytellers, and singers of song. Mary, 14, longs for her father to sing for her one more time. When she was only two years old, her mother and father separated. Since then, Mary's family faced hardships and sadly for Mary, she ended up being sexually exploited.
Mary, her three siblings and the mother live in a one-room rental house made of stonewalled and iron roofing in Mtwapa, Kilifi County. The room is shared by Mary´s family and also serves as the kitchen.
When she was only two years old, her parents separated and her father has since ceased in existence. Life became unbearable for Mary´s family as her mother did not have a stable source of income. Her only last resort was to engage in casual labour including washing clothes for the neighbours. In a day, she could earn 3.4 Euros which was barely enough to cater for their basic needs.
As days went by, things only worsened for Mary´s family. In most instances, the family could only manage to get two meals in a day. Mary´s health deteriorated due to inadequate nutrition, her school attendance became irregular as she was constantly chased home for school fees. In 2020, when in grade 4, she dropped out of school.
Being out of school, Mary would hang out with her friends until late in the evening. She started accepting free rides from bodaboda riders aged between 18-20 years old who would carry her back home. The men complimented her looks and gave her money ( 1.7- 4.2 Euros) to buy what was lacking at home. ¨We were going through so much hardship and struggling to ensure we had food on the table,’’ Mary recounted.
Her mother, on the other hand, was struggling to make ends meet for the family and did not have time for her children. Eventually, the men started making sexual advancements toward Mary. Without her mother's knowledge, she started meeting up with these men in hotels and isolated buildings and ended up being sexually exploited.
For almost a year, Mary was sexually exploited and there was no way out for her. One day, one of her neighbours informed the area pastor of what was happening. The pastor reported the issue to Mary´s mother as well as the area Child protection Volunteer (CPV). In February 2021, Mary was identified by the CPV as she fit in line with the criteria for the Building a Future project target group.
After the assessment, the project’s social workers and the Child protection Volunteer offered biweekly guidance and counselling sessions to Mary through home and school visits.
Additionally, the project supported Mary with scholastic materials, dignity packs, and all school levies to help her continue with her education.
Speaking of the support she has received, Mary happily said ‘’The support I have received has enabled me to attend school consistently without fail. This support is important because I can now focus on my studies.”
In May 2021, Mary enrolled back in Maximum Faith Primary School. Currently, Mary is in class 6, she freely interacts with her peers and has big dreams for the future. ‘’I dream of starting my own big business and providing financial support to my family,’” She concluded.