Struggles of little breadwinner

Wednesday, November 18th, 2020 00:00 |
Eileen Awuor spent the better part of her childhood caring for her siblings.

Milliam Murigi @millymur1

Eileen Awuor was only 10 years old when she became a parent to her three siblings, following neglect by their parents.

For the better part of her childhood, in Dandora, Nairobi, she remembers how she was pressed into service of taking care of her younger siblings while her parents were in the depths of alcohol addiction. 

“I am the second born in a family of five. Our firstborn sister got married when she was still young.

I had no option other than to take care of my siblings when our parents neglected us,” says the 17-years-old.

From as early as she can remember, Awour says that she was forced to provide for the family.

The worst thing, however, was that despite going all through this harsh situation, her father would unleash all his fury on her. He used to beat and insult her daily.

“I started by selling ice cream when I was in Class Six, aged 10 years. Since I didn’t have money to start my business, I used to get paid on commission depending on how many pieces I sold.

I would make Sh150 to Sh250. I would use th money to feed my family and also save for our house rent.

Though at some point her mother used to chip in, she says that her siblings depended on her 80 per cent since she was always there for them. 

As a small girl, competing with adults when selling ice cream was hard and Awour used to walk far and wide to at least make more money.

Sometimes she would sacrifice her education to work as she couldn’t watch her siblings go to bed hungry.

“The best thing about  ice cream business is that you needed not have anything to become a salesperson.

I used to collect readymade ice creams and the storage box from a retailer and I would just go and sell.

In the evening upon returning the equipments, I would get my commission,” she says.

After working there for a year, together with her friend, they decided to venture into the clothing business in 2014.

They used to walk to Gikomba to buy secondhand clothes for resale. This business turned out to be more profitable.

Because of that, the two decided to be doing it on weekends and during holidays to avoid interference with their education.

Through this business, she was able to feed her family without straining much. However, the abuse and the fights from her father were intensifying every day.

After her primary education, Awour was lucky to be admitted to Kola Girls High School in Machakos.

Though she wasn’t okay with the idea of a boarding school, she was happy to be away from her abusive father.

“I was admitted to Form One through my savings, though my mum chipped in a little.

Though I was happy to further my education, I was worried about my siblings.

I didn’t know how they would survive without me. Despite all these, I was eager to learn so that eventually I would upgrade my family life,” she says.

Money was never enough 

She was able to go through her first year in school without any difficulties. However, as she progressed, she spent most of her time at home because of fees arrears.

To try and salvage the situation she started washing people’s clothes in different estates such as Eastleigh, Komarock, and Donholm to at least raise some money for her school fees, but the money was never enough. 

She sat for her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education last year, but, up to now, she still owes the school Sh77,000 and she cannot get her certificate until she clears the amount.

“I used to get Sh300 a day. I would divide the money into two: spend Sh200 for my family, then save Sh100 for my school fee.

Since washing clothes for people was not a guaranteed job, the money was never enough.

I completed my secondary education last year, but I’m yet to get my certificate because of the arrears.

How I would wish I would get a well-wisher to help me clear the arrears and further my education, then I would be able to support my siblings who are now aged 15, 13 and nine years,” she pleads.

Having gone through all this, Awour has tried committing suicide several times unsuccessfully.

The latest being early this year when her father wanted to marry her off, but she was rescued.

Currently, she sells bhajias, samosas, and cakes in Kiserian. She is being housed in Kiserian at the Rebirth of a Queen Rescue Centre. 

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