Writing Competition 2022: My Story of Courage

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After that phone call, I got on my knees and thanked God that justice was finally served. Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

Written by Leila Akinyi

March 21st 2020 was the day it happened.

I wanted to request a government agency for business funding. So, after thoroughly researching further details on Google, I decided to visit their office to get started on document processing.

Knock! Knock! That was the sound my knuckles made as they softly rapped against the wooden brown door that had chipped paint on its edges and corners.

No response. I made my way into the small office. Its cream-yellow painted walls with brown shades attested to its four decades of existence.

I greeted the heavily pot-bellied man, who introduced himself as the constituency officer, as I sat on the chair set for visitors. I told him that I would like to apply for the business funds.

"Okay. Is this your first time?" He asked.

"Yes.”

The look in his eyes sent a rush of apprehension over me. Intuition warned me that something bad was about to happen. I whispered a short prayer, "God please protect me."

The constituency officer, who seemed to be in his mid-40s, wore a dark grey shirt, ash grey trousers and black shoes that seemed like they were thrifted from a street vendor. He reached out, stretching his hand across his desk in an attempt to touch mine.

I quickly withdrew my hand from the desk and placed it on my lap. The disgust and irritation I felt were clearly written on my face. He chuckled in an evil manner, his intent readable in his eyes.

An eerie silence settled between us. Then, he got up and walked briskly towards the door. He looked outside as if making sure no one would find him doing whatever he was about to do. He then slowly closed the door. At this moment, I was in fight or flight mode.

He turned towards me and said in a diabolical tone, "You are a very attractive lady. If you want this money, you have to do something for me." Then he winked, as if to elaborate on what he wanted.

“What do you mean?" I asked him.

He reached over my right shoulder, touched it and said, "Nipe niguse kidogo.” (Let me touch you a little bit.)

I gasped and pushed back the seat as I quickly stood up and adamantly said, "Siwezi! (I can't!) This is a government project that aims to empower the youth and women. I am not required to offer any favours in exchange."

He let out a sarcastic laugh and replied, "Who do you think determines whether your application will be approved or not? Unafikiri nani ana-sign hizo forms? (Who do you think signs the application forms?)"

I got up in a huff to storm out. Before I could open the door, he said, "Hebu think about it."

I left and went to a public seat on the sidewalk. At that moment, so many thoughts were going through my mind. I remembered the 19 financial institutions that had rejected my funding application. This was my last attempt. I had told myself that if this didn't work, I would give up. With a broken heart, I went home.

For three days, I couldn't sleep well. I kept tossing and turning trying to figure out how to get justice for what I had just experienced. I kept wondering, how many young ladies' dreams were shut down because the officer was asking for sexual favours in exchange?

On the fourth day, I headed straight to the government institution in charge of disbursing the funds. I knew exactly what to do. As I took the elevator to the fifth floor, I could feel my nerves throughout my body but my mind had decided this was the right thing to do.

Ting! The elevator sound signalled my arrival on the fifth floor. I walked towards the office on the right-side corner of the long-tiled corridor. As I approached the recently painted blue door, I read the label on the door indicating the name of the institution. I was here. It was time.

I softly knocked on the door and walked in. At the counter, there were three ladies.

I thought that my chances of getting the funding were close to nil because, with only my word against a government official, how could I win? Nonetheless, I was ready to risk it all for the sake of other young girls who were subjected to such a quagmire and had their dreams cut short.

"How can we help you?" Asked one of the ladies.

"I would like to submit the application forms for business funding," I responded.

"They have to go through the constituency officer first, then he will bring them here," she said.

"I can't do that."

"Why?"

Silence. From my body language, she deduced that it was a sensitive matter. She stepped out from behind the counter and ushered me to the corridor. When we were alone, she inquired about my situation in a low and empathetic tone, then assured me of confidentiality. As I narrated it all, she listened keenly.

She told me, "I will present your matter to the board and keep you anonymous to protect your identity. I will follow up on the investigations. Thank you for bringing this to our attention."

I felt safe and heard.

Three months later, I received a call informing me that the constituency officer had been relieved from his duties. Many more ladies had come out to report similar experiences. 
Additionally, my application was approved.

After that phone call, I got on my knees and thanked God that justice was finally served and the affected girls were finally free to pursue their dreams.

The lesson I learnt, one act of courage can save many lives.

***

Leila is a Professional Content Writer with 7 years of experience, Blog Business Coach and Author of 'How To Monetize Your Blog Without Affiliate Links'.

Over the years, she has worked with several global brands, authors, journal creators, created content for non-profit organizations and currently writes for a women's mental health organization. Moreover, her work has been featured on MMM of Family Entertainment (US), Planthaya Wellness (UK), That Gal Rei Blog (UK), Hear Her Speak Website (Global), The Diva Hustle Magazine (US) and Something To Wine About Website (Global).

She is now using the experience she has gathered to empower others with impactful and uplifting information that will elevate their lives.

Her mantra is: "You can have anything you want in life, just believe it."