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How a woman’s audacity turned her life around

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Orester Komba, 43, a mother of two – Jackline and Johnson, and a resident of Mji Mwema Street in Mbinga, Ruvuma found herself at the centre of a grinding conflict with her husband, Kelvin Milinga, after he sold their house without her knowledge. She was eventually helped by paralegals from NAJATA , a local organization working across the district of Mbinga and was awarded money that she used to build another house in which she currently lives.

The couple was married in 2005 with very little in possessions and lived in a rented house while having to endure a difficult life. Orester says a member of her church and his wife took pity upon them and offered her a job at a filling station he owned in a bid to ease their hardship. She took up the job offer while her husband remained unemployed.

With some of her wages she propped up their life at home and saved the rest which she later topped up with a loan and bought 200 bags of corn at Tsh.12,000 per bag sold them to Malawian customers in need of food for Tsh.40,000 following a drought spell in the country. With the proceeds of her corn sales she bought building mate- rial and paid labourers who built their house.

In spite of all this she says she wasn’t at ease with the fact that her husband had no job, thus she spoke to her employer about him and he was offered to work as a coffee buyer. He was however accused of siphoning Tsh.25 million, was taken to court, lost the case and was sentenced to 7 years in prison. Their employer sacked Orester claiming he couldn’t allow her to continue working for him while he had a grudge with her husband.

Seeking to get her husband out of prison she consulted lawyers who put together an appeal and won his release. Life once again became difficult for them and Kelvin turned to abusing her constantly including frequent beatings without any provocation. The abusive situation reached such a point that she sought help from her church where they couldn’t be reconciled and was instead advised to take some time away and live with her parents while efforts to find a solution persisted. It was during her absence that her husband cunningly sold their house for Tsh.30 million less than a month after she left.

Orester says that act pushed her to pursue justice by a means that would involve both her family and Kelvin’s. Samuel Kayuni, a paralegal at NAJATA took up the responsibility of handling her case and providing her with the guidance she needed, and to bring together both families in a bid to help her get her share of the proceeds of the house sale.

“Despite my efforts I failed to bring the two sides together because Kelvin and his family were adamant that a woman cannot have a share of money or posses- sions, she has no right to inherit anything even when her husband passes on”, says Kayuni.

He says because their response didn’t satisfy him he advised Orester to file a civil case in court which she and her family agreed to do. After a year of waiting the court finally reached a verdict and ordered Kelvin to yield to her half of the money he earned from the house sale a total of Sh.15 million and additionally split their furniture and other belongings equally between themselves.

Of the Sh.30 million Kelvin had already been paid Sh.23 million with which he bought a car. “When he heard that I had gone to court he sold everything in the house including furniture. The court, however, ordered the person who bought our house to pay the outstanding Sh.7 million to me and the Sh.8 million be paid by Kelvin”, says Orester.

She says she didn’t contemplate pressing Kelvin to hand over the money because he was effectively down on his luck and unable to pay up. She put the Tsh.7 million she received into building a house and paid for Jackline’s private secondary schooling through to Form Four. Jackline has now completed high school and has applied for a place at university and Johnson is in Form Three. Orester currently sells hot meals at the Mbinga Secondary School, an occupation that allows her to live comfortably compared to a few years ago and intends to grow her capital and expand her business further.

The couple formally divorced in 2011. After a while, Kelvin, having sold his car, penniless and with no place to live sought Orester intending to reinstate their marriage and live in her house. When she turned him down he threatened to torch her house causing her to report him to the local government chairman who issued Kelvin with a stern warning against his threats.

“I urge other women like me going through a situation like mine to learn from my experience and seek help from human rights defenders and paralegal organizations which can be found in every district. My life has been through countless challenges but today I live in the light and I’m happy just seeing the strides I have made”, concludes Orester.

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