Victim of her own fertilityBy DANIEL OTIENO | Monday, June 18 2012 at 15:52
For having six sets of twins, she must be purified with sheep’s urine, and that is just one of the rituals that she is required to undergo.
Gladys Bulinya, a Kenyan woman, is a victim of her own fertility, a blessing that some of her people take a dim view of
traditionalists in the Baengele clan of the Bukusu community, to which her family belongs, believe that twins attract tragedy; that unless one of the twins dies, one or both of their parents will certainly die.
To avoid this and other nasty eventualities, they say that Ms Gladys must go through a series of rituals.
Anything short of this and she will not be allowed to lead a normal life, which is why the 37-year-old mother of 12 is living in an orphanage.
And there is the small matter of faith. A Christian, Gladys will not hear of the rituals, a stand that has made friends and relatives turn their backs on her.
“I cannot cook for myself and my children. For meals, we line up at an orphanage. It hurts me that as a mother, my children cannot eat from my hands,” she laments.
A Bukusu elder, one of the Kenyan sub-tribes, Issac Misuku says that the fact that Gladys has shunned the prescribed cleansing rituals means that the family to which the twins were born could be struck by incurable diseases and a series of misfortunes.
“My mother has shunned me because of this. I did not undergo the cleansing rituals, which include being washed with sheep’s urine. As a Christian, I know that it is not proper to undergo the rituals,” she says.
The mother of seven girls and five boys had her first set of twins with a secondary school student in Baringo when she was in Form Three.
She claims that she had to abandon the babies in hospital because her parents told her that she could not return home to Kona Mbaya village in Trans Nzoia District with them if she refused to be cleansed. The parents of the boy responsible took them in. They are now 19 and studying at a local university.
After three years, she again fell in love with a primary school teacher and gave birth to her second set of twins.
However, on being informed about the new bundles of joy, the man went underground. Predictably, her parents did not bother to visit her in hospital.
“I was sick and weak and there was nobody to a help me around. The bills were accumulating.”
But her guardian angel was by her side. A team of senior Health Ministry officials happened to visit the Kitale district hospital, where she was admitted, and discharged all patients who were being detained for failing to clear their bills.
“A good Samaritan paid a taxi driver to take me to the teacher’s home. But I found all the doors locked. Neighbours informed me that the whole family had left a week before for a cleansing ceremony.”
The taxi driver then offered to drive her to her parents’ home.
“My parents kicked me out of the compound. They said I was not welcome until I was cleansed. Once again I refused,” she recalls.
To be rid of her, her parents had a “bright” idea. “They arranged for me to get married to a man 20 years older than me. I was so desperate; all I needed was a place to call home, so I gave in to their demand,” she said.
“I was the sole bread winner for the family. I was employed as a cook. My husband was always home with the children.”
Gladys later landed a farmhand’s job that paid slightly better. Neighbours told her new employer about the twins and how hiring her was a recipe for crop failure. But once more, luck was on her side.
“He told them that he was a professor of agriculture who had worked locally and internationally and would not be dragged into such parochial thinking,” she recalls.
Five years into the marriage, she conceived again and gave birth to twins.
Gladys had another set of twins before deciding to embrace contraception because she considered that her family was growing. But something went wrong and in 2007, there was another set of twins.
It was not the last.
In 2009, Gladys noticed signs of pregnancy despite assurances that the family planning method she had adopted would work.
“The test confirmed my worst fears. I was expectant. After a discussion with my husband and a doctor, we agreed to terminate the pregnancy.”
To finance this, Gladys decided to sell part of her land. In the meantime, she was admitted to hospital with high blood pressure. Since she was the owner of the land, her husband could not dispose of it without her consent.
A lawyer was sent to her bedside and papers were drawn up to empower her husband to complete the transaction.
The deal was completed, and that was the last she heard of her husband.
“A nurse friend helped me to sneak out of the hospital but shock awaited me at home,” she recalls.
The whole piece of land had been sold and the children were living in squalid conditions.
Gladys was told that the man disappeared the day he received the payment for the land.
The new land owner gave her notice to vacate. However, on learning of her plight, he rented a room for her at Nzoia, but this was just for three months.
“It was painful, but there was nothing I could do. I was a reject. I had to wash houses and weed shambas to survive.”
One day, there was a feast in the neighbouring village. She walked there to see if she could get work. Some people recognised her and chased her away as others took off.
“The owner of the home noticed the commotion and told them to leave me alone. He gave me some work to do, to the irritation of the superstitious lot,” she recalls.
After the day’s work, the owner of the home inquired where she lived and made a follow up.
He was touched when he saw the conditions in which Gladys and her children were living.
“He took our pictures and posted them on the Internet. That is how help started flowing in.”
A Catholic priest later took her to a convent. Another Catholic priest in the US who heard of her plight sent her money to start a small business. He also paid for the children to go to school.
Gladys’ shop was picking up when a group of volunteers donated food to her family. During the night, a gang pounced and she had to hand over all her money.
Early this year, a van pulled up at her shop. A white woman, whom she says was American, offered to buy her land on which to settle her family.
“I told them I could not leave immediately. It was not proper to leave without informing the leadership of the Catholic church that was hosting me.”
Gladys recalls the white woman telling her, amid sobs, that the people opposed to the offer were jealous of the new life she would lead. After three days of persuasion, she gave in. “I agreed and got into the vehicle.”
Gladys was to stay at an orphanage for three days after which she would be taken to her new home. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. She is still stuck at the orphanage with her seven children. Three others are in boarding school.
“Whenever I ask what happened to the promise of land, I am told that the American went back home and cut all links. I feel desperate and cheated. I wish I had remained in Trans Nzoia.”
The director of Gospel Fellowship Believers, Bishop Francis Bushebi, who hosts her in Bungoma, denies her allegations but says they were doing everything possible to help her and her children.
“We do not have a donor; all we get are small donations from well-wishers, which we use to support her.”
For Gladys, this is just another chapter in her struggle.
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