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Domestic worker’s pain: I was gang-raped by my employer’s guests as he watched

As the country joined the rest of the world in commemorating International Domestic Workers Day, it emerged that cases of workers in distress are not only happening to Kenyans working as domestic helpers in other countries, but even here at home.

The day is observed every year to celebrate the contributions of domestic workers to the society.

The day was observed in Nairobi where the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Gender and Affirmative Action, Ms Veronica Nduva, represented the government.

The event, which began with celebrations, dancing and on-stage performances, suddenly came to a halt when a survivor of domestic violence was given the microphone.

Beryl Oginga (who is not related to Raila Odinga’s family) recounted her harrowing experience through the hands of hostile co-workers in her early years when she was trying to eke a living in Nairobi after losing her parents.

As the last born in a modest family of three, Beryl was forced to accept the realities of life at a tender age, a situation that later worsened after the death of her two siblings. It was then that Beryl came to know the other side of her relatives, as what she used to call home became hell for her.

In Nairobi, with no academic qualifications, the poor teenager resorted to looking for odd jobs at employment offices, where she was referred by one of her friends. Beryl wasn’t so lucky as she ended up with a hostile employer.

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As well as being overworked and abused, she was also denied food that she used to cooked. What she didn’t know then was that her employer had installed CCTV cameras in the kitchen and she was reprimanded every time she tried to open a saucepan.

One day, the husband of her boss invited his friends who ended up drunk and all over the floor in the sitting room. As she was going about her chores, she asked the four drunk men who had blocked her way to excuse her, and that was the point they started harassing her.

At that time, the woman of the house was not around. To her surprise, the owner of the house, who was in the kitchen, encouraged the four men to abuse her.

Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Gender and Affirmative Action, Ms Veronica Nduva (centre) iith a group of girls during the commemoration of the International Domestic Workers Day. PHOTO | WILFRED NYANGARESI

“Your house help looks very young,” one of the men told the owner of the house who replied, “Are you sure? She is very young. Why don’t you confirm.”

That was the cue for the four men to gang-rape her in the presence of her employer.

Although I was almost unconscious, I could hear then telling each other… ‘make way for me, its now my turn’… I was raped in that house by four men and I only woke up in the morning unconscious and they left me in the house,” Beryl recounted.

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Early the following morning, the man of the house traveled upcountry as the four culprits left. Beryl had no other option but to call the man’s wife, who instead of helping her resorted to threats.

Three days later, she left the house with her belongings and went to the woman at the bureau who assigned her to that employer. Sadly, the woman had nothing to offer her but to take her to the hospital for HIV tests.

“We went to the hospital and I thank God it was confirmed that I had not contracted any sexually transmitted infections,” she says.

However, days later, Beryl discovered that she was pregnant from the rape incident and had nowhere to go.

Thankfully, She later found a more caring employer who treated her like one of her own, and that was how she raised her son whose father remains an unknown among the four rapists.

From the little earnings, Beryl saved has now become a hairdresser.

In her speech, PS Nduva, said the government has put in place measures to improve the lives of domestic workers.

“One of the things that the state department has done is to establish Gender Violence, Protection Centers so that girls and young women know where they should go,” she said.

The PS said the other way of ending such cases is to speak out and create awareness campaigns so that such stories do not go unnoticed.

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