Princess, a 13-year-old girl lives in Bungoma County, Kenya. Unfortunately for her, life took a different turn when her parents divorced. Her grandfather who was the sole provider became mentally ill and was laid off by the company that he was working for in 2015. As a result, Princess´ grandmother became the sole family breadwinner and her income was not enough to sustain the huge family. On the other hand, Princess’ mother left for Nairobi to look for domestic work and opted to take her children to their father who had already remarried.
By then, Princess was 11 years old. She lived with her father and stepmother for one year but life had become unbearable not only for her but for her siblings as well. The father would spend several nights and weeks at the lake fishing. His absence gave Princess´ stepmother the opportunity to mistreat them. She emotionally abused the children and would make them go for days without food while she took care of her two children.
Princess started going to the lake to pick sardines, locally referred to as ¨omena¨ to fend for herself. Later on, she met a fisherman who befriended her and would give her money to buy fish wherever she went to the beach. She knew him as a caring ‘uncle.’ As Princess was collecting firewood in a nearby bush around March 2021, she saw the ‘ caring uncle’ coming towards her. She was not worried since she knew him as a caring person. To her surprise, the man grabbed her hand and sexually abused her. A boy herding nearby heard screams and ran towards the scene. He alerted the community members who were close by screaming and Princess was rescued. A community Child Protection Volunteer (CPV) informed the project officer and Princess was taken to hospital. “I really felt bad and it was a very painful experience. I did not know that man was evil.’’ Princess explained.
Following the incident, the SEC Project being implemented in Busia by our partner, ANPPCAN, came to Princess´ rescue. A Child Protection Volunteer (CPV) in the area immediately informed the project officer and Princess was taken to hospital where she received medical care and counselling services. The project officer informed the gender police officer who ensured the perpetrator was taken to the police station and was booked for a court hearing on 29 March 2021.
Since the perpetrator was arrested, the project facilitated Princess, her mother, and all the witnesses to attend court, including the boy who witnessed the abuse. Terre des Hommes Netherlands´ partner ANPPCAN´s legal officer guided Princess, the mother, and the witnesses on what was expected of them and closely followed up with the prosecution department to ensure no evidence was left out. The advocate attended all the court proceedings for this case. Thanks to the legal officer who worked closely with the prosecution department, the court proceedings did not interrupt Princess´ normal life. As a result, she only appeared in court once. The children magistrate under the Busia Law Court on 12th July 2021 found the perpetrator guilty and sentenced him to 20 years in prison.
Princess´ mother was recalled back from Nairobi by the Department of Children Services and was given custody of Princess and her siblings. She was also supported by being enrolled in the Parents Economic Empowerment (PEEP) programme where she was trained on entrepreneurial skills. She was additionally boosted with seed capital to start up a business to enable her to support her children.
As for Princess, she is still getting counselling services and the project team conducts home visits for further support. The project also supported Princess with scholastic materials and helped her enrollment in her new school and is currently in class 6. ¨The joy in my heart is overwhelming, I am under the custody of my mother and I feel protected and very safe.¨ She said cheerfully. Princess aspires to be a teacher so she can enlighten the world. ¨ I pray for a bright future so that I can build a good house for my mom and ensure she doesn’t lack anything.” She said gleefully.