According to the World Health Organization, about 35 percent of the world’s women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. In developing countries, women often are socially stigmatized if they don’t produce at least one child.
Jackline Mwende of Kenya is one such woman, as the Los Angeles Times reports.
The 35-year-old woman from Nairobi has no hands, because in July her 35-year-old husband, Stephen Ngila, chopped them off with a machete — in addition to slicing her face. He did it because she had not yet gotten pregnant during their five-year marriage, although the reason is apparently due to his own infertility.
In 2015, Kenya outlawed domestic violence and provided for restraining orders in the event of marital violence, but lack of statistics makes it impossible to know how strictly it is enforced.
Ngila has been arrested for the attack on his wife and is awaiting trial.
As a sign that times are changing, Mwende’s case created outrage in her country. Her local government promised her a monthly stipend for a year and free transport to the hospital when she needs medical care. Several corporations have promised to give her prosthetic hands.
And now, Mwende is bravely telling the world her story. “As a Christian, I can’t tell anyone to leave their marriage … But I’d like to talk about my personal story so other people, or other victims, may learn [from it] and speak up.”
She says she met Ngila seven years ago, and they were married two years later in a church.
“At that time, he was a good man. He was a churchman,” she said. “The first days of our marriage were happy days. We were living well together as a husband and wife.”
Ngila worked as a tailor, and he helped his wife start a small business selling things like soap, sugar, tea and salt.
“None of my siblings is employed and my parents are poor. Whatever I was doing running the small shop was because I wanted to help my parents and my siblings,” she said.
But when Mwende didn’t get pregnant, her husband blamed her and began physically abusing her.
In 2014, the couple consulted a doctor about her inability to get pregnant, and it was determined the problem was with the husband, Mwende explains. “So the doctor advised him to attend the clinic, but he never went. Every time I reminded him to attend the clinic, he would dismiss it. He would say, ‘I will see if I will get time to go,’ then he would never go.”
When he became violent toward her, she sought advice from her pastor. “The pastor would always tell me, ‘Jackie, please persevere. That man will come to change one day.’ The pastor and the church elders would just encourage us. I always wanted to protect my marriage so I decided to stay with him … I always hoped he would change, but he seemed not to heed the advice from our church pastor.”
So she stayed with her husband until he cut off her hands. “He thought he had killed me, but God is great,” she said.