> SYFFEmily Odhiambo: When things fall apart

Emily Odhiambo: When things fall apart

Have you heard of the happily ever after? To many, it is just a myth. Emily Odhiambo tells us how things fell apart and only got mended after years of deep turmoil.

Fell in love and married at 19 year of age. Abusive relationship. Husband dies. In-law wrangles around one hectare of land. No marriage certificate. Land in question was still in the late father-in-law’s name. NO WAY OUT!

When Emily talks about things falling apart, she has seen it all, and had to face it alone as she cared for their three daughters. Her husband passed away in 2009. Being of no value to her community because she only bore daughters, her fate was sealed: Re-marry or leave!

Her only surviving brother in-law claimed that Emily had 3 daughters and based on the Luo traditions, having daughters meant that she would be given just a small piece of land to survive and not the entire land that belonged to her late husband. When she opted to build a house in her late father in-law’s compound, her brother in-law constructed a house in front of hers in protest.

“I was so depressed and frustrated and almost left my piece of land because each time I asked for assistance, they demanded for a title which I didn’t have. I didn’t have any knowledge to relieve me from this situation. Some told me that the only way out was to find another husband,” she narrates.

“I didn’t want to get married again after the domestic abuse that I had experienced with my late husband. Things were great at first but after the birth of our two daughters, he began coming home late, chasing me away from home and insulting me for not bearing him sons. I fell into depression and lost a lot of weight enduring this for 6 years until his unfortunate death when our house caught fire after he kicked the tin lamp in his drunken state. This left us devastated.

For four years, Emily was stuck between a rock and hard place!

2017 marked the beginning of her access to some form of justice, when her late husband’s sister was going to campus and they had to sell a parcel of land to cater for her fees. The land was transferred from the father to her brother in-law. By sheer luck, her in-law requested her to keep the title deed and that is when she decided to photocopy it. She also searched for a surveyor who assessed the whole land and divided it before Emily went to the Lands Board.

Figure 8: Peace at last! Emily’s smile tells it all!

Having made several visits to their chief, when KELIN was seeking women to be trained for the Securing Your Family’s Future, she was nominated among those to attend. This marked the second major step to her accessing justice.

Emily admits that before the training, she had bottled up anger and frustration but the lessons she learned provided guidance for her to calmly speak with her brother in-law on the issue of dividing the land.

Having the land meant that Emily could access loans to develop herself or take her children to school. The mother of three was able to get a surveyor to split the land into two and though her brother in-law was angry at first, he took a turn for the better.

Lessons Emily learned:

  1. Register your marriage regardless of how young you are when you get married
  2. Have conversations with your partner to ensure you both make a will to protect each other and secure your children’s future
  3. Co-register your land as husband and wife to prevent the kind of turmoil wives and children encounter when husbands and fathers die.
  4. Spread the word to other women to encourage positive conversations that contribute to family harmony.

Figure 9: Emily working in her garden

When things fall apart, be ready to dust off and try again. Emily did this in spite of her extremely devastating experience that lasted years! Now on the other side of her story, she shares with the women in her women’s group of 24 women – Doro Chama where they meet weekly to discuss and learn different issues of interest around securing their families’ futures.