I have not known peace. I have had to struggle to make things work and go through the little years I've lived in one piece. My mother died trying to give birth to me and my father raised me all by himself till I was seven. Then he got sick (cancer of something, the term is too complicated for me to understand or remember.) On his death bed, he handed me over to his younger sister, Aunty Neme, who I've only met once all my life with the words,' Adesua my pride, I'm going to rest now and your aunty will take care of you. She loves you as much as I do and she's your family too.' Ever since then, aunty has been using me to service her customers with the words,' you have to do what you have to do to survive. We must all survive through any means. You know I love you'. Now, three years after my father's death, I'm still in the hell he enrolled me in when he died. Is this love? Aunty, love me, love me enough to protect me from these men every night; All I ask for is...love.
For some of us, being born into a particular family means our lives are signed over, we have no choice of our own. I was born into a family whose head had dedicated his generations for years to come to the pursuit of national peace and immediately a male child reaches the age of seven, he is signed over to a group called ‘The Invaders’. Their mission is to infiltrate the ‘enemy’ camp and mete out justice on people who do not believe in their ideologies as they will later be a threat to them. Therefore, when I clocked seven, my father called me aside and listed them and the grave consequences of disobeying his instructions. By the end of that day, my life had literally ended and I have picked up another; the life of a killer. I was to be trained in combat and taught how to make explosives to protect ourselves against our enemies. I sit here now, after three years into this business having also delivered some explosives to some target points which have claimed the lives of our enemies and wonder... where is the love my father claimed to have for his family? Am I not a part of it? Is this love? Father...love me enough to save me from this life, love me enough to respect the innocence of a child. All I ask for is...love.
I have just given birth to a baby boy, my third, and once again, he is taken away from me. My name is Hajia and I am fifteen. Three years ago, I ran away from home because it was hell. My parents were always arguing and fighting. The last fight I witnessed was terrible; my mother ended it in a coma. It was then I took the arm of love that my friend's sister who lived in the next city extended to me. She had been home earlier for a visit and heard stories from my friend of how my parents argue and knock each other out. 'I can help you. I'll take you away from this place and help you. See, your parents ehn, they don't love you one tiny bit but you're a sister to me and I love you like mine.' She gave me her address, asked me to keep it and not tell anyone, said I'll be needing it short, and I did need it. So, here I am, in aunty's place, working in her baby-making factory. I couldn't leave if I wanted to, I haven't even seen nor walked beyond the compound since I got here and exposed to her 'love'. Every now and then, after each birth, I ask myself...is this love? Aunty, love me enough to respect my rights, love me enough not to take advantage of the innocence of a child. All I ask for is...love.
'highs walter! buy your cold highs walter’ I shouted. 'hey, omoh highs walter come here' A young man beckoned to me. As I approached him, I saw him spotting an I.D card that bears the logo of Obafemi Awolowo University. I've seen our neigbour Olu, looking at that logo a million times, musing about how he'll like to study there. sometimes in life if things got better and he makes it through secondary school. 'Hey, highs walter, give me two highsed walter'. Mimicking my pronunciation, I gave him two, collected the ten naira note he offered and slowly walked away thinking...' how could that young man make fun of me that way? Did I not pronounce it well ehn? Daddy Ope, our neighbour who taught me how to sell very well by impressing and reaching a larger audience through English had pronounced it 'highs walter'. As I walked through the market, selling sachet water, I remembered how I got here. My father sent my mother packing to bring his mistress in and the marriage of 8yrs ended. Now, we survive with the money we make from my mother's sale of roasted plantain by the entrance of the market and my sale of highs walter. Yesterday in the market, I heard a group of people arguing about how our president claimed to love the citizens of this country and how he has a fine way of showing that love. Now that I think about it, where is the love in this country? Is love shown by kicking out your wife of eight years? Is love shown by mimicking a young girl struggling for survival? If you love someone, shouldn’t you be commited to them? Let us love ourselves enough to respect each other I do not ask for pity or sympathy, all I ask for is...love.
I lie here, and wonder what life and love is. I have just been raped by Uncle Lamide, the husband of the madam I work for. I was sent to Lagos from the village by my parents to work for madam at her salon in exchange for accomodation, feeding and some cash. It's been three months now. At the tender age of eleven, I could weave various styles and make different sketches of clothes but because we were poor and my parents couldn't cater for me and my siblings, they had to make this decision. Uncle Lamide had told me he loved me and he just couldn't hold back his love. It didn't move him that I was pleading, didn't move him that I was crying and moaning under his weight. He finished up and left warning me severely not to let his wife know as there will be grave consequences. Here I am now, violated, in pain and anger at life, at my parents, at everything. I conjured up the image of the monster who raped me and challenge brokenly... Why? All I ever asked for is to be loved... is this love? Couldn’t you love me like your daughter? All I ever wanted and still want is… love.
June 12 is a day International Labour Organization has chosen to create awareness and call for the prevention of child labour. The United Nations have also shown their support for this cause. It is time to lend a hand in creating laws that will stand against child labour and protect the rights of young ones who have attained working stage. The world is a broken place and only love can mend it; love for one's neighbour, love for the society, even love for one self for love must first start with you before you extend it to another. A naked man cannot dip his hands into his pocket; you cannot give what you don't have. 6paragraphs uses this medium to reach out to those in need of love, we connect our hearts to yours and pass the current; receive this goodly heritage and pass it on too. Love yourself and love someone today.
By: Mary Ajayi(@megadoxa)
6paragraphs For World Day Against Child Labour 2013
All Rights Reserved