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Sharing my story

My name is Minneh. I have been married for over six months to my lovely husband Ryan. I am happy and complete more than I have ever been in my life. I am on a temporal resident permit in Canada until September 07 when I can apply for more permanent status. Looking back, it has not always been this way.

My time on earth begun in Kenya in 1968, 37 years ago. I was a jolly child until I was raped. And then raped again. Physical and verbal abuse seemed to the order of the day. I was growing as a child but the inside of me was dying. I did not understand what was going on. I was confused. I was very fortunate to have a dad who believed in education for women. I did well in the school system, indeed graduating with a distinction in my equivalent to grade 12. I managed to go to Advanced school which was a two year preparation for University. I missed campus by two points. All the same I knew I had done my best given the circumstances at the time. Those two points I missed mean very little to me today.

After my school life, I taught high school as an untrained teacher. I experienced sexual harassment from the deputy of the school and I quit after 10 months of enjoying being a teacher. This would lead me to getting a job in the city of Nairobi. I was 21 and very beautiful. The whole world knew how beautiful I was but personally I had no clue. And that ladies and getlemen is the danger. The not knowing about self. I thought I was ugly and many times repeated to myself that I would never amount to anything. The very words of my abuser.

In the city, there was no one to monitor my movements - when I got home and whether I had a drink in a bar or not. I was free as I thought in my mind. When men would ask me out, I readily agreed. I felt that they loved me and cared for me. I was hungry for love and looking for it in all the wrong places. I became promiscuous. Not just for a day but for about a year. Sex was my drug of choice. I was addicted to the high it gave me. Down the road, I had a boyfriend for three months. Three months was a long time for me and I got pregnant without planning.

A baby girl was born by the name Jessy. I retraced my steps back to my village but unfortunately the abuse came back again. I ran away from home with my daughter. She was a month old. We went to her grandmother's house on her dad's side. We had no where to go. After being there for a while, my best Cathy came and rescued Jessy and I and took care of us for a year. By this time I had gone back to secretarial college after being expelled from a reputable college from being pregnant without a husband. How unreal. Just after about a year of getting support from Cathy (CRASH), she died in a road accident.

I found myself as a prostitute on the streets of Nairobi. It was scarily but something had to be done. I had to feed the child and the babysitter, pay the babysitter, pay rent for our room, pay my bus fare to and fro school, lunches and all. There was so much that needed to be done and no money to do it. Even to date, there is no social services in Kenya. Anyway, I finished college and got a job at the college teaching shorthand and typewriting theory. I suffered a bad pneumonia and lost the job. A Muslim acquittance of mine took me to the doctor and paid the dues and never wanted sex or anything. There are good people in the world I was learning. The doctor gave me antibiotics and told me to see him in two weeks. I never went back. I had a life to lead - you know how it is. I got a job as a receptionist for six months and had to leave because I got a job at the University of Nairobi as a Secretary to the departmental Chairman. The University needed basic medical tests done and my chest doctor of 1991 was listed among the doctors I could see. When he saw me, he did not mince any words and said I told me that my pneumonia of 2 years ago was HIV related. At 25 years old, I was living with AIDS. I started doing outreach to the prostitues on the very streets that I worked and also held forums for secretaries for they too were at risk.

At the University, I got a chance to come to Canada in 1996. A year later, my daughter died of a penicillin reaction in Kenya. I was doing housekeeping to take care of myself. Big difference from prostituting. Immigration Canada caught up with me and put me in police cells, mainly for cleaning houses without a permit but they did ask me if I had HIV. I was released the next day and asked to leave the country in a month. I never left and was put in police cells again and taken to solitary confinement in Vancouver. On the day of the deportation, my escort to Kenya asked me what I had done. I told her my whole life story like I have just told you. She called my lawyer and I was freed. It was not as easy as I make it to sound.

When I got to Victoria, I had one mission in mind, to have the story that had saved my life told to as many people as possible. I have been doing HIV/AIDS education and sharing my story since I was told I was positive and that is over 12 years ago and still going strong. I am glad to be alive at yet another World AIDS Day - 2005.


Sent via Email December 1, 2005 from Canada/Kenya.

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