TWSC Submission: Starting Over

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Sophie Atieno Odumu is a mother of four kids, a teacher and a women and children’s rights activist. She opened up to TWSC Contributor Gladwell Wachira about what drives her to fight to educate women and children about their rights.

My name is Sophie Atieno Odumu, a mother of four lovely babies: two girls and two boys. I hold a diploma in education, a head of state commendation under lower division and [am] a human rights activist. I’m passionate about women and children.

I was born in a polygamous family where my father had two wives. He was disabled and did not have the same rights as other family members. We suffered a lot because he was not working and it was on my mother to take care of us and pay our school fees.

When I was in Grade 9, I met this missionary guy who was from Holland and I shared with him the problems in our home. He offered to support me through my high school education and I decided to work hard in school since I had someone to support me. But the missionary guy passed away one year later when I was in Grade 10. Through God’s grace, I was allowed to go on with my education. I was a good performer in school.

I had a strong belief that everything was going to be okay and I knew I was going to make it because I was a strong Catholic believer and I knew that God was [going] to fight for me.

A forced marriage

I was forced to get married into a polygamous family; my husband had two wives. My life was a real struggle despite me being a teacher. My husband died a few years after we got married, and I became a widow and my four babies become fatherless. The next thing is that I was chased away and denied my husband’s property.

I became a widow at a very young age in addition to having no mother and no father. I used to shed tears every day because I could not figure out how to start life all alone. I had this fear of starting all over again

My mother had died two months after my father, and within six months, I had lost my husband. My life collapsed and darkness filled my space. This made me realize that nothing is permanent in this universe and I was so traumatized by my parents’ and my husband’s death.

The turning point

God come through and I was offered a transfer to another town and I knew it [was] time for me to help other women who are widows and young, vulnerable children. I always knew that I had a passion for vulnerable people in my society. It was also my dream to see disabled people enjoy the same equal rights as the able-bodied person.

My foundation was born to educate women and girls [about] their rights. I always volunteer my services, particularly to women who are widows and youth parents who drop out of school. It’s my duty to make my community understand that there are rights that protect each and every one of us.

The struggle made me realize that for me to achieve something, I have to work hard, be disciplined, trust in God and be prayerful. Nothing comes free.

I knew that I did not know where to start from. All I knew was that I’m the chosen one and it was my duty to see that women and children’s rights are observed and vulnerable supported through school. My encouraging words to women around the globe is that struggle and patience will pay off in the end. And remember, educating a girl child is educating a nation.

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