If 28-year-old Jackie Wanjiku, had to rate the relationship she had with her late husband on a scale of one to ten, she says it would be a ten.
Wanjiku who hails from Kangema in Murang’a County and currently resides in Nairobi, describes her late husband, Tonny Kiarie, as hardworking and passionate about life.
She recalls, Kiarie constantly urging her to focus on creating a better life ahead while raising two sons together.
“My husband nurtured my talent in marketing. He believed in my abilities and enrolled me for a sales and marketing course,” says Wanjiku.
She said when they started living together, they did not have stable finances, a reason that prompted them to move from Embakasi, where they were residing to a cheaper house in Ruiru.
However, starting October 2019, Kiarie’s household was confronted with blows of misfortunes.
Wanjiku’s mother passed away on October 2, 2019, and two months later, she received a call of her husband’s murder and body dumped along a highway.
Wanjiku says her late husband, who was a procurement officer in a leading shopping outlet in Kenya, was supposed to come home for dinner, the evening of December 12, 2019.
“He wasn’t answering his phone or his texts and I decided to engage his friends who reported the incident of his missing to police,” she said.
Wanjiku recalls receiving news of her husband’s demise through her brother-in-law. She explains that she doesn’t know why her husband was murdered, as the investigations that were ongoing bore no results.
She couldn’t overcome the loss. Wanjiku had not visualized that her five-year satisfying marriage would end in such a confusing and shocking manner.
Her Sister, Theresia Waitherero, explains that, thereafter, a myriad of other losses accompanied, Wanjiku despite having no husband in life to lean on.
“She was 26 years old, with no stable form of income and her boys aged four years, Travis Kiarie and Jason Kiarie, one year six months when she was confronted with succession issues by her in-laws,” Waitherero says, and added that by that time her two elder siblings were unable to take any action during her harassment as they were financially unstable.
“I used to depend on my husband and so, when he died, I felt I had lost everything in life. This thought came to realization when some of my husband’s family inquired about properties that my husband had left behind. They even went ahead to accuse me of killing my husband and taking away my firstborn son,” states Wanjiku.
Waitherero explains that the sequences of events in Wanjiku’s life led to her stigmatization.
“I remember one day Jacky opening up on her situation in church when a clergyman commented that the church was not an orphanage and it had no room for children’s scholarship. This is just one of the incidents that people badly talked to Wanjiku,” narrates Waitherero.
Waitherero says that she realized her sister was depressed as she constantly seemed absent-minded and her level of concentration and productivity decreased.
She admits to purposing to help Wanjiku overcome her pains, by enrolling her for counselling sessions, due to fear of levels of depression she was going through, but she quit after two sessions.
“I was made to pay for therapy that made no difference. The solution that the therapist provided was short-lived,” says Wanjiku.
After three months post-Wanjiku’s loss, the thought of igniting her long-abandoned skill in baking dawned on her.
She turned to YouTube and further enrolled for online baking classes in March 2020. Slowly, her baking skills sharpened and turned to be her source of income.
“I didn’t know baking was such a therapy. I would wake up and bake in the middle of the night whenever feelings of loneliness and negativity came to me,” explains Wanjiku.
She adds that grasping the art of baking wasn’t easy, she failed several times but whenever she looked at her sons and momentarily think of her late husband watching over them and proud of her actions, she pushes more.
Wanjiku says she has stabilized with the baking business which has currently placed her in a better position to sustain her family and pay bills from the income she generates.
“I have also gained trust from my customers, as they are giving me orders to make for the wedding cakes,” Wanjiku.
She, however, lamented that the Covid-19 pandemic has hugely disrupted her business as the customers who were promoting her business have also been affected financially due to the pandemic.
After her traumatic healing, Wanjiku expresses that she took the initiative of promoting a feeling of togetherness among young widows who share ideas and tell their stories and experiences amongst themselves for encouragement.
“Losing a husband isn’t easy. We lack access to emotional and psychological help and constantly fall into predators’ hands who take advantage of our vulnerability. I thought about my experience of losing my husband and decided to fill a void,” notes Wanjiku, adding that she believes that if a young widow has someone to show her the way with encouragement, a lot of confusion and agony can be prevented.
Through teaching young widows hands-on skills such as baking, crocheting and beading, Wanjiku says that they learn to create boundaries and create an income for themselves.
Through referrals from people who know her story, young widows reach out to Wanjiku for advice. So far, five widows have been mentored and now stand in as breadwinners to their families.
“Widows battle with inequality and under representation everywhere. We have been excluded from many socio-economic activities. Through our togetherness, I hope we can come-up with a long-term solution that takes care of widows concern,” observes Wanjiku.