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Langata Women’s Prison – Day 4

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It was terribly difficult to leave the prison and the women who broke my heart. When I finally made my way outside of the gate to the taxi I walked backwards and continuously blew kisses to them as they stood around (inside the gate) blowing kisses and waving to me. I put my many bags in the taxi and turned around to blow more kisses and suddenly
darling Elizabeth started to run toward me, through the prison gate and I ran toward her and I lifted her up and hugged her and spun her around and walked her toward the taxi. 

Several of the wardens were there and I said to Elizabeth, “Get in,” and guided her to the front seat. The wardens were laughing…but then, of course she had to turn right around and walk back through those gates. Elizabeth is 23 and was in prison for almost two years before she was even sentenced. And now she has seven years to go. She told me that she had never had a visitor and that her mother, who lives an hour away had never visited her. She gave me the phone number of her sister Nancy and said, “Please call her. Tell her to bring me milk. I have nothing.”

We had a sharing circle where everyone had a chance to talk about their HIV history, medication history and also the reason for their imprisonment (if they wished). Several of them shared that they had been arrested for making and selling “illicit brew” which is an illegal alcoholic drink. Finally after three of the brew stories, Marita (one of the support group facilitators) said, “OK enough of those brew stories. Now let’s hear something more interesting.” Turns out that there were five “condemned” among the women but only three in gray uniform. Why? Because they ran out of those gray uniforms. 

Janet, one of the condemned, said that she was in for “muhdah.” I didn’t understand, and thought that it had something to do with her mother. I kept saying, “Mother, mother?” And they all looked at me and kept repeating, “Muddah.” Finally I got it…murder!” and I guess I looked really surprised because they all cracked up laughing. She caught her husband in “the marital bed” with another woman. The husband had been having an affair for eight years, but this time he came to their home in the daytime. “I couldn’t take it any more” and she grabbed an iron bar and thwacked the women in the back of the head. That was the end of her. I wasn’t sure why she didn’t go for both of them…anyway she is now serving a life term. What a delightful and sweet woman. What a smile. Most of the condemned prisoners, who are waiting to be hung, are in jail for murder of the husband’s girl friend.

During the workshop (day 4) Sarah came in the middle of the afternoon. She looked terrible, with her face swollen and her eyes almost shut. She showed me a note from the doctor at the hospital clinic, marked “very urgent.” She was supposed to go to another medical facility to be seen for a possible “allergic reaction. The appointment was in five days (very urgent??) but she wouldn’t be seen there unless she could pay the 300 shillings (around $6), which of course she didn’t have access to.