Forward: I met Rose at a peacebuilding conference in Caux, Switzerland this summer. The story you are about to read has traveled more than 7500 miles from her village, outside of Nakuru, Kenya, to my home. Rose is a wonder. Her joyous spirit and steadfast determination have helped her to battle poverty and challenging circumstances. Rose’s smile won my heart; she’ll win yours too. This is Rose’s story narrated through WhatsApp and the transcript below.
Hello there. My name is Rose Njeri Kamou. I am 45 years old and I’m a mother of two; a daughter who is 26 years old, and a son who is 24 years old.
My mother is Grace Wanjiru and my father is David Kamou. I live in Kenya, in a town called Nakuro. This is my story. My mother was raped when she was 16 years old. She was forced to marry the man that raped her, according to our culture. The man did not love my mom and she was forced to work hard during her pregnancy with no one to help her.
She didn’t eat well and when I was ready to be born, my father ran away and left my mother behind.
When she gave birth to me, there was still no one to take care of my mother until my uncle reported the birth to her husband’s parents. They took my mother in and after two years, my mother left me there with my grandparents. She married another man and they lived in a different town.
I was raised by my grandmother until I was four years old. I didn’t realize who my mother was because we were not attached. Later on, I lived with the sister to my step-father. She was a caring woman and brought me to nursery school. We survived on food that she begged for until she became very sick.
I was forced to live with my stepfather who didn’t want me around but my mother’s sister wanted a house girl so I went to work for her.
I was overworked and life was hard but I was introduced to a man who liked me. I got married and life was good. I had a daughter and two years later, I was pregnant with a son. But when the baby was three months old, my husband died and I was alone.
I returned to Nakuru with my children. I couldn’t take care of the kids and had no money. Life was even more difficult but the neighbors and the church elders helped me. They brought me to a hospital in Nakuru. They paid the bills and a family took me in. I got better and learned to do hair and makeup at a college. I began a new life and started working.
When my mother’s father died, I met my real father at the funeral. He gave me his mobile number and I eventually called him.
He shared why he raped my mom; she was too proud to accept his advances, so he raped her.
I was so mad that I wanted to kill my father. My mother was not happy to discover I had met my father. But I told her it would have been better to know the truth.
After this, I wanted to kill myself. I felt rejected by everyone and everything in my life including my children. “By God’s grace” I didn’t kill myself. And after some time, I met a lady who found me outside of a place where she worked. I shared my pain and she helped me to share my story with an organization.
I learned to find peace and think differently for the first time. I started a journey of forgiveness. I forgave everyone – my father, my mother, myself, and everyone I knew. I started a new life in 2012.
This journey brought me peace and I am happy now. I realize it is important to have peace within yourself. This is the only way to be at peace with others.
My bitter story has helped me to share with other women. It makes me who I am today. I want to talk to other women and tell them not to carry their pain and bitterness. I want women to know peace is the way. Peace is everything.