It was the year Stella would make her first trip to Nairobi from Vihiga County, where she had been born and bred.
Today, however, she cannot control her tears as she recalls that the move to the city saw her being raped by two men last year.
Here, she also ended up being used as a ‘honey trap’ by a gang targeting unsuspecting motorists, whom they would then close in on and kill.
Her bitter memories also include being used to ferry a white powdery substance, which she at first did not know was cocaine, between Wajir, Kawangware, Kibra and Mathare.
“I was 14 then and my mom had moved in with a new lover, so she decided I travel from the village and join them in Kibera and school there. Everything looked promising, though I had to part with my childhood friends,” narrates Stella (not her real name).
Upon landing in Kenya’s capital, she headed straight to Kibera, her home to date.
Stella’s troubles started as soon as she met her new stepfather, whom she describes as a very difficult man.
He would refer to her as a prostitute and this really angered her.
“I was not allowed to go out or talk to neighbours at all despite my well-known love for football, which I get paid to play,” she says.
Endless house chores, she says, took up the better part of her playtime. She, nevertheless, managed to get enough time for school and was hoping to do well in her then upcoming Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams.
“I used to score above 400 out of 500 marks before moving here and to a different school. My parents were stressing me all the time, so much that I chose to run away from home. It got to a point where I just said to myself, enough is enough,” she says.
She had been quick to make friends and so she and Maria (not her real name) struck a cordial relationship.
Maria made her feel human, wanted, understood and became what she deemed the best bank to deposit the trials and tribulations life threw her way.
“I would spend my nights in different market shades within the slum and head to school the next day because I had registered for KCPE exams. My plan was to complete my primary schooling and make money to enable me to move back to the village. At some point I actually went back.”
Stella vividly recalls that evening in 2019 when her bossom friend tiptoed into their dimly lit two-bedroomed iron-sheet house to share some good news.
She had acquired a mobile phone.
“Huku ni Nairobi, watu wamechangamka (this is Nairobi, people must think on their feet),” Maria responded when she sought to know how she had acquired it.
Maria would later use the gadget to link her up with new boyfriends she had met in Kawangware who promised them endless opportunities to make money.
“All I could think of was making enough money to move out because I hated my parents,” the young lady says.
Whenever she sneaked out and went back to the village, she narrated, her mother would follow and ship her back to the slum “like a sack of potatoes”.
KCPE exams were about to start and so she and her friend agreed to meet the boys and make plans as they would soon have all the time in the world to make plenty of money.
“We went to Kawangware that night, met them and struck a friendship, “Stella says.
Later the same week she would be dragged from class to be questioned on the whereabouts of her best friend, whom it emerged had vanished into thin air.
She went to their usual hideout, but there was no sign of her friend, though she never disclosed anything to her teachers, her friend’s parents or the police, who were frantically searching for the missing girl.
According to Stella, Maria has never been found to date.
“After KCPE I decided to go back and ask the boys she had introduced me to but they swore they did not know her whereabouts. There was nothing I could have done but they offered me a job. I was to be picking up a bag in town and taking it to them. They promised to be paying me Sh20,000,” she discloses.
She soon realised the bag contained sachets of a white powder she had never seen before, which she would later learn was cocaine.
The gang had an agent who would deliver the narcotics from Wajir, which she learnt were sourced from Somalia.
“They were armed with guns, which we would go to Wajir and use to rob people. I remember a very hot day when we were on the run and had a dead body to dispose of, which we threw into a river,” she confesses.
They were rarely caught because, according to her, she looked too young and innocent to dabble in the kind of things she was doing.
The four-member gang did not trust her very much, though. Sometimes they would blind-fold and leave her in odd places for hours as they made plans or moved us to a new location. In March last year, they attacked her.
“I was dropping a bagful of drugs when two members of the gang took turns to rape me. I never sought any treatment or reported the matter anywhere, how could I? I was too terrified and had to keep mum even after realising I was pregnant. I still live in fear of them, as they warned me they would come for me if I ever revealed who they are,” a teary Stella narrates.
It took an elderly woman who used to see Stella in the company of the boys to convince her to ditch them and return home, to the shanties.
“My last mission with them was a disaster. I almost died as police officers, who had been alerted, were onto us. I fled, though I injured my leg and this woman saw it all, nursed me and advised I go home. I returned to Kibra but was afraid of approaching my parents for months because my pregnancy was showing,” she confesses.
The girl was allowed back home finally. She now does odd jobs to sustain her child.