Other Articles from Miriam Leseni
Sometimes despite parents’ all good intentions, life doesn’t work out the way they hope. That would explain why some children are raised in foster homes or by relatives like their grandparents. Mwanaisha Mwania was one of those children.
As the first of five children raised by a single mother in a predominantly Muslim community, it meant that discrimination and stigma would define much of Mwanaisha’s younger life. If not for the love and support of her grandmother, Mwanaisha’s life would have been sad and empty.
“I never lived with my mother, she lived with my siblings, while I stayed with my grandparents,” Mwanaisha explains.
Her grandparents only had one child so there was no chance that a younger aunt or uncle could chip in to help raise her. Growing up in Kaloleni, Kwale County, she quickly turned into the breadwinner. Mwanaisha began selling snacks and fruits in and out of school just to help her ageing grandparents to provide for the household of three. Life dealt Mwanaisha a huge blow when her grandmother passed away when Mwanaisha was in form three. Despite this, her mother never came back for her.
“To date there is no real connection between my mother and I. While for many years, my grandmother did her best to play the double role, I missed out on a mother’s touch,” she explains.
This void, left by her grandmother’s death and her mother’s indifference, drove Mwanaisha to seek comfort in the arms of an older man.
A year into their relationship, Mwanaisha gave birth to a little girl but her relationship with the older man soon fizzled out too. 18 with a new baby, Mwanaisha affirms that the love her grandmother gave her, helped influence the woman she has become. It is that love that proved very significant when she became a mother to her now 6-year-old daughter.
Following her own experience, Mwanaisha knew that she didn’t want her child to grow-up without both parents. Thus she agreed to co-parent with her child’s father. It has been far from easy, because of their numerous differences. Including their different religious backgrounds, Mwanaisha is a Muslim while her daughter’s father is a Christian.
“It’s all about understanding and compromising,” she says. Mwanaisha’s first compromise was giving her daughter a Christian name.
“My daughter lives with me because we both feel that a small child needs their mother’s presence. Also because I have firsthand experience on the consequences of separating a child from their mother.”
She also speaks fondly of him to her daughter so that the young girl grows up with a healthy relationship with her father.
“There is no need for a child to suffer just because two people have gone their separate ways,” she says. This is something she encourages couples who split to try for the sake of the children.
“It is important that we take our responsibility to the children we bring to this world with the seriousness it deserves even when we part ways,” she observes.
Mwanaisha says that as long as there is respect and a separation of issues, two adults can certainly find a way to raise their child(ren) together even when leading separate lives.
Both parents understand that the child comes first and that her well-being is the central focus. Mwanaisha is very grateful that she and her father’s child discuss various ways to not only provide for her materially, but emotionally and spiritually.
“I want my daughter to grow up with the knowledge that her life can be different. We have been talking to her about the need to do well in school and to explore her talents even though she is only six,” she says.
Mwanaisha works as an administrative police officer and she enjoys her job since it keeps her close to her daughter. She is also making plans to enroll for a Bachelor’s degree soon.
“I want to set an example for my daughter because education is very important, though we also know that talents and technical skills are important too,” she expounds.
On whether she plans to have other children, Mwanaisha says that she does but later on, having made a deliberate effort to focus on the one she already has.
“I got my daughter when I was just a teenager who was going through a difficult time. It is good that I take time to really settle in my role as a mother,” she says.
She encourages parents not to allow past mistakes or missteps to define their life and to negatively impact on their children’s lives.