Monday, August 08, 2016

Jackeline: A tale of childlessness

“The harrowing story of Jackeline Mwende , a victim of childlessness stigma in Africa”
Jackeline Mwende Munywoki from Machakos, Kenya is the recent victim of the brutal physical and psychological assault that women in Africa face as a result of being ‘infertile’ and are unable to bear children even when they are not the ones with the problem.

She recently had her hands chopped off by her husband of five years for not conceiving and giving birth.

Jackline Mwende who says she had a stable upbringing, in a loving home where she grew up with six of her siblings narrates how she came to lose her hands because of not being able to have children in her marriage.

Her parents did their best to take her to school from kindergarten up to primary school class 8. Upon completing her studies, Mwende enrolled in a tailoring school where she learnt how to sew and make garments. It was at this school that she met and fell in love with Stephen Ngila – her husband. They got married in 2011.

“A year into the marriage and with no child, I began to notice changes in my husband. He had picked up bad habits such as drinking alcohol and started to become abusive. It was at this point that I confided in my parents, who were also wondering why I had not become pregnant yet. They advised me to leave the marriage since it was becoming abusive,” Mwende narrates.

“As an avid church goer, I also sought advice from my pastor,” she adds. Even at the start of the violence in the marriage, both she and Ngila would go to seek counselling from him. The pastor advised both of them to live in harmony; however, Ngila ignored. The pastor advised her to stay with her husband, of which she tried as long as she could.

Both Mwende and Ngila went to hospital for diagnosis.  It was confirmed that Ngila- the husband- was infertile. “I constantly pleaded with Ngila to go to hospital to seek a treatment for his infertility, but he always made up excuses. He would say that he would go after work but never did,” she says sadly.

Their marriage continued to get strained and the abuse increased because Mwende had not borne a child. On several occasions, the couple wound up at the police station due to their fights and arguments. The couple eventually separated and Mwende set up her own small shop from where she was getting some income to support herself and even her parents.

On August 1st 2016 in the evening, Mwende was peacefully eating her dinner when she heard a knock on the door. When she went to open the door, Ngila who was drunk started to attack her with a panga machete and cut off her left hand. In shock, Mwende collapsed on the floor while Ngila continued to hit her with the machete on her face, and cut off her other right hand.

“Today you have decided to kill me?” Mwende recalls screaming at Ngila. His intent was to kill her, but she continued screaming until her neighbours came to her rescue and Ngila escaped. She was taken to the hospital for treatment and she is currently on medication and nursing her wounds – which will always be a constant reminder that the reason she is in the state she is now is because she never bore any children.

“If it is God’s will that I do not have a child, I am content with this,” Mwende bravely said. She is hopeful for her future and grateful for all the support the community has given her. She would not like any other couple to go through what she has experienced and advises couples to seek solutions together if they cannot have a child, and visit the hospital for check-up’s regularly.

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