Kenyan woman recalls horrors of backstreet abortion

by Katy Migiro | @katymigiro | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 12:36 GMT
Abortion is taboo in Kenya. One girl describes the physical and emotional ordeal faced by women forced to resort to backstreet abortionists...

The Kenyan government estimates 800 unsafe abortions are performed every day. Abortion is a taboo subject in Kenya where the church is vocal in its condemnation. Below is an interview with a 21-year-old woman living in Nairobi’s Mathare slum. She has asked to remain anonymous.


“I had sex with my first boyfriend when I was 19. He was 23. He promised me that he will marry me after school. I was so excited that I’ve got a man who is interested in me.

When we were having sex, he pretended he wore the condom but he didn’t. Things happened very fast. After a few months, he abandoned me. He didn’t answer my calls.

I missed my period for two months. I decided to do a pregnancy test. I was shocked because that man lied to me. He took advantage of me and then he left me. I was very angry with him. I was also ashamed of myself.

I told my mum. It was very hard. I was thinking she would kick me, beat me, throw me out of the house. But she didn’t react badly. She said: ‘You are too young now. I suggest you do abortion.’

I took three weeks, thinking about it. I was thinking: ‘Will I survive?’ It’s very dangerous. Most of the girls die in that process.

One of my friends got pregnant last year. She went to the herbal clinic and they gave her medicine. She came to the house and took that medicine. She started bleeding and there was no one in the house.

At around 9 in the morning, her neighbour came and called: ‘Mary where are you?’ There was no response. They broke down the door. They found her bleeding and the drugs were there. She was already dead.

I decided to do an abortion because I wanted to continue my education. My mum took me to a small clinic here in Mathare because she knew the doctor.

She borrowed 3,000 shillings ($30). That’s a lot of money. We do small jobs like washing clothes for people, ironing, cooking mandazis (doughnuts). Our rent is $15. It’s very expensive.

At the clinic, I was shocked to hear that I was five months and two weeks pregnant.

It was very painful. You open your legs and they start cutting the baby and then they pull it out. I was screaming. They didn’t give me any painkillers. It took three hours, cutting and washing my stomach.

Three months after the abortion, the guy came back. He told me: ‘I want my baby. I was not ready to have a wife and a baby but now I am ready’. I told him: ‘If you want your, baby you can go and get your baby there in the clinic.’

He kicked me. He slapped me and pushed me. He said: ‘You are very stupid. Who told you to do an abortion?’

In my mind, I know it’s a bad thing. I’m not comfortable talking about it. People will think I’m a prostitute.

In our culture, it’s like a taboo. They believe in life. Even if you got pregnant when you are 15, they believe you can have the baby and take care of the baby.

Seeing some of my friends with their children, I think my children could be this age.

I’m not ready to have a child now. I want to focus on my life. Maybe I’ll have a child in 2015 or 2016.”

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