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Shirley Ngetich from University of Nairobi won UNESCO regional essay competition

UNESCO, via Our Lives, Our Future Plus project (O3 PLUS), is pleased to announce that Shirley Ngetich a 20 years old from University of Nairobi in Kenya has been selected as the regional winner for the essay competition with the text “The Thorn in my Flesh”. The regional essay competition was organized during 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.


He promised the world and I believed him. Laughter, love, roses, the “happy ever after” promised in fairytales, that’s what I envisioned. Instead, Thorns, fire, and brimstones were the cards I was dealt. We’d become an intricate piece in this game called life, and I didn’t want to play anymore. Who knew that once the wedding bells stopped ringing, his demons would come to play?

As I sat by my window watching the day bleed into nightfall, the warm glow of the streetlights illuminating what home used to feel like, I tried to piece back the puzzle; to see where it all went south; when all hell broke loose. The beginning of our union was blissful, rosy, everything I’d dreamt of and more. We were the modern-day Romeo and Juliet, or so I thought.

He didn’t just switch up on me overnight. I didn’t go to bed beside an angel and wake up laying on the devil’s chest the morning after. The changes were subtle. He asked me to quit my job. He didn’t feel masculine enough unless he was my sole provider. Even though I felt like he was setting fire to my purpose, I let it burn. I trusted him. The day after, my resignation letter was issued. He didn’t have to ask twice. I was taught to be a submissive wife. He’d occasionally come late and blame it on work. He’d raise his voice every now and then; I blamed it on stress. “My marriage is going to work. The first year of marriage isn’t a bed of roses.” The lies that blurred my vision.

I remember the first day he yelled at me, we were at the dinner table. His food was cold. I wished it away. The progression was gradual; a slap, then a few punches. I’d curl up in a corner with my eyes shut counting till punches stopped. It didn’t numb the pain, but it helped me escape. He’d always apologize profusely after, with tears in his eyes as though he wasn’t the same person hurting me moments before. There was this night he arrived late. I wasn’t fazed, it had become his norm. He was different though, stark raving mad. His nostrils were flaring, his deep-set eyes glaring at me. I could feel his blood boil. The tension was almost tangible. “Are you hungr- ” I hadn’t even finished my sentence when he grabbed me. Before I knew it, he’d pushed me to the wall. The loud thud was the last thing I heard clearly. I was dazed, drifting in and out of consciousness. I could hear him mumble something about me being a lazy wife. Wow, how ironic considering he was the one who requested me to leave my job, and I’d been at his beck and call ever since. This was my last straw.

I left. I’m now back at my mother’s house and I haven’t left my room since. It was the right path to follow. Why then do I feel like I’m strolling through the fires of hell? The burning, glaring pain seeming like it has no end? The lump in my throat is ever-present. The hot tears streaming down my cheeks bring back every happy moment we shared. How can my heart still beat for him yet he shattered it to pieces? He still lingers in my mind like an outcast spirit at the gates of the heavens, but I’m glad I left.

Granted, I won’t get over him immediately. It was through him I learned my heart could love so deeply. I wish I could redraft the ending, but what’s left to fight for when love just isn’t enough? Change is painful, but not as painful as staying stuck in a place you don’t belong. My mind may be at war with my heart, but violence was not something I could persevere, freedom was certainly not the price to pay in the name of love. Every day the clock resets and I’m rebuilding my confidence, rewriting my stars. I can’t wait to see what the future holds, and if “happy ever after does exist”, I can’t wait to experience it.


The regional essay competition for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence

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