Stories

“You are successful when you remember that somewhere, someone gave you a gift.”

16.6.2021

“You are successful when you remember that somewhere, someone gave you a gift.”

Joyce Wanja Gitau is a 52-year-old mother of four. After the sudden loss of her husband, Joyce felt the financial strain of raising her children alone.

Living in one of Nairobi’s most populated informal urban settlements Kayole, opportunities to increase her income were limited. So Joyce took action to support her family.

In 2008, Joyce found herself in Langata Women's Prison. Charged with robbery, she was given a death sentence.

During her time in prison, Joyce tried not to let her sentence define her. She studied and sat for the national secondary exam and found a new love for making clothes. With a passion for fashion, she honed her skills in pattern cutting and stitching, which enabled her to create beautiful pieces. Her fellow inmates showed off the clothes during the annual fashion show held at Langata Women’s Prison. You can watch the video of a similar event which was filmed by local television.

In April 2019 Joyce received good news - she would have another chance at freedom. Thanks to the work of Justice Defenders’ paralegal Eunice Mbijiwe, Joyce was able to successfully petition for resentencing and was released to reunite with her family on 21 April 2021.

Delighted with her new-found freedom, Joyce explains: “You are successful when you remember that somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a gift. That gift is what started you in the right direction. Remember that you are blessed when you pass that gift on to help someone else. Thank you, Justice Defenders, for passing the gift to me.”

Joyce has renewed hope and is eager to use her garment-making skills to begin a business. While she was in prison, her eldest daughter, who was 17 years old at the time of her arrest, dropped out of school to step into the role of caretaker to her siblings. Unfortunately, she couldn’t sustain the responsibilities. Overwhelmed by the situation, two of her siblings also dropped out of school. Now that she’s reunited with her family, Joyce is optimistic that one day her youngest daughter, who managed to stay in school and achieve high grades, will enrol in university to complete her higher education.

Joyce is among the 15,600 prisoners released and re-united with her family after receiving legal support from our trained paralegals in Kenya and Uganda.

Learn more about our work to ensure everyone has access to justice.