Dianah Kamande’s memories of Friday April 19, 2013 are still fresh in her mind. The mother of two recounts the harsh reality of domestic violence and subsequent widowhood that hit her in the hands of her husband of 10 years. “We had never had any major differences and so I never saw this coming,” she says.
“It was on Friday, April 19th 2013 and I had arrived home as usual from work where I used to work with a women empowerment organization. My daughters were attending a w
edding ceremony the next day so I wanted them to go to bed early.”
On my way home, he called me to ask me what I was preparing for supper, something he had never asked me since we got married. I told him that we would prepare rice but he said he won’t take it but would instead have meat with ugali. I obliged.”
So I got home early and asked my house girl to assist me with preparing the food as I ironed in preparation for the next day. Before long, my husband arrived though in a bad mood. “When the girls ran to him, he never greeted any of us, and even when the children rushed to embrace him, he retorted “Endeni huko kwa mama yenu (go back to your mother). He went straight to the bedroom, and even refused the food that I offered. I went on to iron clothes, including his clothes for work the next day as he was to work half day.”
But Kamande’s husband would quickly leave the house, with all the keys, including the spare keys that hung on the wall of their sitting room. But he forgot the pair in his wife’s handbag that was placed on one of the seats in the sitting room.
“I had no clue what was going on so I just assumed anything. I actually thought that maybe he didn’t want to wake us up after coming from his drinking spree and perhaps that’s why he carried the keys. I tried calling him about four times but he ignored. I then sent him a text message alerting him that we had gone to sleep. But I did not even lock my bedroom door,” she remembers.
Kamande, who was then living in Nairobi’s Babadogo area regrets why she never locked the door. “I suddenly felt something warm on my face. My first assumption was that some thugs had attacked us so I was a bit hesitant to switch on the lights. But anyway I went on to switch them on.”
The 35-year-old Kamande wanted to reach for her phone to alert the husband of the thugs, only for her to meet her enraged husband next to her, holding a sword. He had already cut her deeply on the left jaw. “Baba Praise, what’s wrong,” Kamande asked. He sat her on the bed and put the sword on her neck. He continued cutting her on the left hand. Kamande feigned death and dragged herself under the bed but she still had some strength. At this time, their house girl whom they had lived with for six years heard the commotion and rushed to call the neighbours via Kamande’s phone that was in the handbag in the sitting room. So people started calling. “My father was calling when my husband furiously kicked away the phone to where I lay under the bed. I struggled to text my dad and assured him that I would be okay,” she explains.
In the silence of the night, I heard him call someone. “Mathee (mum), I have killed your daughter in law. Prepare four graves. I want to kill your granddaughters then kill myself.” He then killed his employer: “Professor, I have killed my wife and children. Now I want to kill myself. Goodbye. Now look for another driver. Immediately he called his father in law: “Mzee, I have killed your daughter. I want to kill your grandchildren then myself. Prepare four coffins.”
Immediately after, he went to the kitchen, picked a knife and proceeded to the children’s bedroom. “Uuwi, daddy usituuwe (Daddy please do not kill us),” I heard the children scream. At this time, I was now ready to die, and not my children so I rushed to rescue them. I found him putting a knife on our first born’s belly.”
He turned on her and asked: “You mean you are still alive. But he was now trembling. And immediately my in-laws arrived to rescue the children but unfortunately forgot to save me. He then got hold of me and started cutting me on the same left hand. But his hand kept slipping as it was covered in blood. Luckily my brother in law came with others and rescued me. “Kwenda ukufe mbele mimi nikufe hapa (I will die here, you go die elsewhere). He shouted at me as he locked himself in the bedroom before committing suicide.
Kamande was rushed to Guru Nanak hospital where she was admitted for about two months. According to her, well-wishers paid her hospital bill of more than Sh3million. She would later, towards the end of 2013, form the Come Together Widows and Orphans Organisation, an organisation that brings together widows from cross the country.
As the world marks the International Widows Day tomorrow, Dianah says she is optimistic that the country is making strides in addressing the needs of the widows. Come together Widows and Orphans Organisation has about 14,000 members within Nairobi. According to Kamande, all these women are organised into groups, something that enables them to access government funds. “So far, all the groups have access to Uwezo and Women Enterprise Fund,” she added.
Kamande notes that through these funds, more women are now able to sustain themselves financially. “One of our women is now doing well in beadwork, and clearly, she is able to pay her bills.”
Besides, the organisation helps the members to follow up existing court cases regarding their deceased husbands. “About 99 percent of our members have court cases,” says Kamande.
5: Number of plastic nerves on Kamande’s head
Sh3.9m: Money that Kamande has spent so far in medication following the domestic violence incident
Sh5,000: Money that Kamande spends every month on head and arm check-up
14,000: The number of widows in Kamande’s Come Together Widows and Orphans Organisation from Nairobi alone
258m: The number of widows globally, according to the Loomba Foundation’s World Widows Report 201522m: Number of widows in Sub-Saharan Africa
1.4m: Number of widows in Kenya, by 2015
585m: Number of children affected by widowhood worldwide