KENYA: And Still I Have No House
Widowed at age 25 and HIV positive, Afline tells her story of family betrayal and pleads with President Obama to pass IVAWA for the women of Kenya.
Dear President Obama,
Women in my community, country, and the world continue to suffer. This is my story and the story of many other women.
I was only 25 when my husband died. It was the beginning of an ongoing tragedy for me and my two young children.
After the burial of my husband I expected a "normal" life as a widow, but that was never to be.
One morning, a few months after my husband’s death, my brothers-in-law and their wives stormed into my house. The three couples, accompanied by their three eldest sons, demanded that I give them the deed for my parcel of land that my husband had left behind. They claimed I was not entitled to the land because I didn’t bring it with me into my marriage. They claimed that my relationship with the family was over now that my husband had died.
When I refused to release my land to them, two of the men tied me up with a rope and beat me with big sticks. The rest of the group went into my bedroom. They broke my suitcase and took my husband's death certificate and the deed to the house. They left me tied to the tree outside my door.
My 5-year-old son had to take a knife and cut me out of the thick rope. Because I could not move, my children stayed near me, crying, until they found a passerby to take me to the hospital.
When I was released from the hospital a week later, I took my children back with me to the place I call home. I had no other options.
When I got home, I found my bed and many of my other household items missing.
I reported all that had happened to the local chief. This man was related to my in-laws and he referred me back to the same people who had attacked me. He said that I had to seek audience with my brothers-in-law before he could take up the case.
In my community, a woman can be “inherited” by having sex with another man after the death of her husband. This arrangement takes place regardless of whether the widow loves the man or not. My brothers-in-law would not give me an audience with them unless I was inherited first.
I told them this was not possible as I had been tested in the hospital and found HIV positive.
The brothers-in-law accused me of lying and being uncooperative. They had already found an inheritor. This man had already married two women, and both women had left him because he had killed people in our village.
When I went to the river to fetch water this man brought his clothes and left them in my house. He did this to claim my house as his so that nobody else would occupy it. Although it was taboo for me to remove them, I carried the clothes back to his home.
When I returned home, my children and I faced death threats from the whole village. They said I should die because I performed something that was taboo, and because I was HIV-Positive. They threatened that if I continued to farm on my land I would die.
Although I planned to go on with my life and continue farming my land, my eldest brother-in-law tilled my land without consent. One evening, he broke down the door to my house, stormed in, beat me, and slashed my hand with a machete.
This time, when I came home from the hospital, I could not go back to my house—it had no door. I found a temporary mud-thatched room, found work as domestic help, and sent my children to school.
When I went to check on my house a month later, I found all the iron sheets of the roof peeled off. My brother-in-law had used them to build his own house, which stands to this day.
More than a decade later, I still do not live in my own home. My deed remains in the hands of my in-laws. My son will finish his final year of high school next year, and still I have no house. Justice was never realized.
If I was a man, none of this would have happened. Women have no voice in my community. We need justice.
It has been 12 years since the death of my husband and no one has been charged with a crime. I don’t have money to bribe the authorities. I need somebody to listen.