“Survivors aren’t always the strongest, sometimes they are the smartest but more often simply the luckiest.” -Carrie Ryan .

I have never really known there is more to being a street child than just walking around and asking for handouts like money and foodstuffs from passers-by . Looking at them you might wonder what their way of life might seem like . Many questions might run through your mind like where they sleep, what they eat, where they come from and where their parents might be . Majority of these families have no permanent houses of their own . They shelter themselves in polythene thatched structures while some of them would sleep in open air under old abandoned vehicles. Their clothes that were possibly new at some point are now tattered and rugged beyond recognition . Their shoes, torn and worn out you can see toes and heels peeping out. Their skin is covered with dirt patches, rashes and looking closely you may notice a variety of scars an epitome of how drastic and nasty street life can be.

 

According to statistics I found on Google there is an estimated 250,000 street families in Kenya and over 60,000 reside in the capital city, Nairobi. Among them is one, Mama Njoki who has lived in the streets of Nairobi for over 30 years now not knowing any of her family members. I had a chance of talking to her and she opened up to me about her life in the streets over the years. She was very particular on the hazards of living in the streets with the elder male street kids walking around at night. She lives in just another jungle of street families around Globe Cinemax, just under a tunnel of a main highway connecting the city of Nairobi to it’s outskirts . Here there are so many different families with very different characters and ideologies. For them experience is their only teacher, the closest they have been to a classroom.

Over the years, across the street corners , Mama Njoki has been widely known as Jamo in contrast to her real name being Margaret. Jamo is short form or nickname for James, a name given to people of the male gender. Like most female street children, Margaret tells us she lived almost 20 years of her life using the name Jamo and other male attributes like a fake hoarse voice , walking style and a male dress code as camouflage or a self-defense mechanism in order to survive in the streets. Over the years of posing as a male, none of her friends or even people she met on the streets ever at once suspect she was of a different gender.

Her taking up this role was as a result of what she had witnessed in the streets over the years. She has witnessed so many of her female mates being taken advantage of and sexually abused by not only the elderly street kids but also night guards and police patrolling around the city during the night. This is the reality in the streets, happens everyday without even a bat of an eyelash from anyone in the streets. But then again given our corrupt societal landscape , perhaps those living in the streets are considered non-entities unworthy of protection.

Over the years it was dead contrary to the common experience when time is found to have built its own defensive lines. It took Mama Njoki over twenty years to surpass this but eventually she did and went back to living comfortably as a female. All those years in the streets in the streets have given her power over so many families and even the elderly male street kids who take advantage of the younger ones. According to her, they have all lived in the streets for almost the same period of time giving them equal right out there. Experiences has taught her all the ways of the streets and she now has all forms all of self defense for anything that comes her way. She sees so many younger girls, new to the streets going through what she went through. This cycle remains unbroken. If the streets are practice ground for this behavior, then who will be next? Will it be her daughters?

62 COMMENTS

  1. SURVIVAL BY ANOTHER SEX – This is such a touching story. Keep them coming Salma. One day I would like to feature them on film. Also, good work on the narrative. It kept me hooked from the get go.

  2. good work ma!! very touching. Any help whatsoever.. or anywhere we can help. here,whatsapp,text,or call. 0706696443

    nassir collins
    Team leader
    Carmax east africa

  3. Comment:very nice article Salma…I have personally learnt a lot,like we should stop stopping those small things that we ignore for granted…

  4. Comment:very nice article Salma…I have personally learnt a lot,like we should stop stopping those small things that we ignore for granted…Thanks and keep it up

  5. Hi Salma. This is an inspirational read. I would read it over and over again. If you asked me I would vote for it for the CCN awards. It’s captivating and makes you want to know more about it. I work for a newspaper company and for the past year I have learned how to do intros for stories. Your intro is ok, but if you want someone to have an interest in reading your article, you should start with something captivating like maybe a short story then later on give us your story. That way, someone would want to read till the end. I hope this helps you. But all in all you are a gifted writer.

  6. Comment:
    i think ur really touching on issues people would never really look at. who would have though that street life had its ups n downs in regards to gender.
    Nice work…keep them coming..all the best

  7. Comment:
    nice job ur really touching on areas people would never look at. who would have thought that street life would have its ups n downs in regards to gender.
    Keep them coming..all the best

  8. This is so shocking…I wouldn’t even have ever imagined such a thing…thanks Salma for the eye opener…it’s good to know more beyond what we merely see.

  9. Wow!!! I love what you are doing Salma… Maybe I shall join you very soon away from this busy life and hear out these people. Very touching and so thoughtful of you. Keep it Up!

  10. It was just by mere chance i met you and looking at the good work you are doing you are definitely going places. The story truly touched my heart and gave me a new perception on all the homeless individuals out there. Good job Salma

  11. This is such a touching story, I never imagined this ever happened until I read it on your website. It’s a good thing you’ve given Mama Njoki a voice and I hope someone in the authority would wake up and do something particular in the lives of these families. I love the story. It touches on matters that most ordinary people would actually ignore.

  12. I pray that your blog gets more exposed to several people it could help so many people out there appreciate and learn how to share the little they have with this helpless/needy people.. It’s kind of you to take your time to go out there and find out what this less fortunate people go through… Your work is greatly appreciated

  13. Comment:heeey salma girl….i reaaly love what you doing….you exposing us to what is really happening to our fellow citizens …big up salma…thats a touchin story

  14. Comment:wow!who would have thought that street families go thru so much hardships… this is a really big eye opener for me,we should always help out this kids when we see them
    Congratulations Salma,keep it up n keep enlightening us

  15. wooow i loooove this,its so inspiring…we in the same bys right now but that guy beside u hihi hs lookng @pple badly i couldnt say hi

  16. Comment:Wooow this is nobble, Been reading a lot for a while but I am yet to read a touching story like this, I want to see this on film for sure. Good script ma!!! I love this heavily. kudos

  17. I do believe all of the concepts you’ve offered on your post.
    They’re really convincing and will certainly work.
    Nonetheless, the posts are very short for novices. May just
    you please lengthen them a little from next
    time? Thanks for the post.

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  21. Comment: I appretiate the efforts you took,its such a sad story,i’d. realy wish you come up with a group or an organization to empower this women so that they can be appreciated in the society.

  22. Comment:Great work siz. They are looking up for kindly be their pioneer to be better people in the society.

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