GSN launched its first impact report “Growing Connection, Resiliency and Agency: The impact of community-led trauma-informed peacebuilding in response to violent extremism in Kenya” at the second annual Paris Peace Forum (12 November 2019).


She wasn’t home, this was nothing new, she was almost always never home. But I sensed a new finality to this absence. Even at three years old, I could tell that something about this absence was different, it felt final even to me. Little did I know that I wouldn’t be seeing my mother until I was almost a young adult.

What can I tell you about growing up without a mother? I can tell you about the loneliness – there’s warmth that mothers bring that no one else can imitate; I can tell you about the shame – when other children talked about their parents and I had nothing to say; I can tell you about the feeling of abandonment – my young brain could not comprehend any reason why a mother would walk away without her young children; I could tell you about the neglect – there are things that only a mother knows need to be done and how to do them.

I don’t know why my mother walked away. I have no recollection of how her marriage to my father was like, she left long before I could comprehend this crucial and complex relationship. I don’t know if her departure was about work, or money, or faith, or in-laws, I only knew that she was gone, and it hurt more than anything I can attempt to describe.

If you thought a motherless childhood was difficult, then you have not imagined adolescence. How does a father, especially an old school one, navigate the tricky issue of discussing physical, mental and emotional changes that occur to girls during puberty? How does he tackle sexuality? How does he look his daughter in his eye and discuss her menses? Mine didn’t, not that I blame him now- I now understand that there were things men from his era were simply not raised to do.

But that’s all in the past – or so I’d like to think. Somehow, I grew, and it seemed I grew up well for here I now stand – a wife and a mother. Marriage has not been easy for me, truth be told, it’s been more of a nightmare than anything else. I’m deeply disappointed that a relationship that I spent all my life looking forward to can disappoint me this hard. But such is life. What I do, is hang in there by hook or crook. I vowed to myself that I would never ever subject my children to a broken family so we are going to stay together even if it kills us.

I first heard of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) at Wellbeing and Resilience sessions I attended. For the first time in my life, I could draw a parallel between how I grew up and the choices I was making as an adult. I understood that my refusal to leave a marriage that’s no longer working can be traced to my having grown up without my mother and the trauma that her absence inflicted on me. Now armed with self-awareness, I’m in a position to not only heal, but also to make the best decisions for my future.

At the wellbeing and Resilience sessions, I understood that many of us are walking around wounded by our childhood experiences. These wounds show up in our behaviour as adults and our healing from this trauma will begin when we address our Adverse Childhood Experiences. I’m looking forward to learning more and to use this knowledge for my healing and those of my colleagues.


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