By Njideka Eze
Princess is a fourteen year old girl from a Local Government Area in Kaduna State. Her father moved his family to Kaduna town when the neighboring village was attacked by the forces killing our people.
Her foster parent begged for Princess to come and stay with them. The father gave the girl to the woman. What happened to Princess later is the most dehumanizing treatment I have ever read. Princess was sleeping in the toilet with not even a wrapper. The woman she lives with gave her a cup and told her that whenever she’s thirsty she should fetch water from the toilet to drink.
In the interview video clip I watched, you would hear the girl say, “They would now give me leaves like an animal” while in the toilet before the girl would come out to work her ass off.
Looking at the scars on her face, you will be pushed to tears. The woman puts a knife on a burner or stove and when it’s hot, she would place it on her face.
The woman has a son who beats Princess at will, punishes her even under the rain. When all of these happens, the husband locks himself in his room and pretends like nothing is happening.
Remember Ochanya Elizabeth Ogbanje? Well, let me remind you. Ochanya was a 13-year-old girl, who died a horrible and totally avoidable death two years ago.
She was literally raped to death. Ochanya, the last of 11 children, in search of quality education was compelled to leave the comfort of her parents’ home in Ogene-Amejo village in Okpokwu local government area of Benue state, to Gboko in order to stay with her aunt and her family.
It wasn’t long before the gross violation of her young body took its toll, as the poor defenseless girl came down with Vesicovaginal fistula (VVF), a horrible health condition that saw her leak urine and feaces uncontrollably. As months went by, her health kept deteriorating as she became a frequent visitor in the hospitals.She even had to wear diapers. For five years Ochanya bore the pain and shame of her condition till she couldn’t anymore.
I came back from work one day and the girl living with me couldn’t allow me rest, she painted a picture of how my neighbor broke the house girls head with a bottle. I battled to understand what really happened. She told me the girl came downstairs with blood all over her body dripping from her head. On inquiry, the girl told my girl that she was washing the Madams sons’ flask and it slipped off and broke. The Madam ran into the kitchen and started beating the girl with a plastic hanger, when she saw the hanger had broken and she could no longer use it, she took a bottle and broke it on the girls head. She instructed the girl to remove her cloths and put it in the general trash can by the street and never to tell anyone what happened to her. Even as I went telling the woman to take the girl for treatment, she told me the girl is her property and she will always treat her the way she wants. Oh really?
Just last week, the social media was awash with the story and gory pictures of a 10year old girl, who was dehumanized beyond recognition while living with her foster parents. Speaking with Barr Maximus Ugwuoke who rescued the girl on a tip off, he said, “About 8am on 1st July 2020, I received a call from an informant who told me that someone gave him my line to report a case of abuse of a girl child who is a house help living with a family at Thinkers Corner Enugu. Upon further inquiry, the caller painted a gory picture of the kind of dehumanization the said girl was subjected to and sought my intervention. My conscience and spirit was greatly troubled. I thought of how best to handle the situation. What if the report was not true after all? I also reasoned.
I went to Area Command Enugu where I saw and spoke with one Inspector Chinyere Apadhini, a police officer at the Command. After narrating the report to her, the Inspector called a male colleague of hers Inspr Michael Oliji to accompany her and I drove them to the address supplied by the informant for their surveillance
Getting to the address, the woman hid the abused girl in the toilet on sensing the presence of the police. In Spite of this ploy, the officers were able to rescue the girl, arrested the woman and took them to their station at Area Command.
Seeing the degree of injury and bodily harm inflicted on the girl, I promptly directed the Inspector to take the girl to the Office of Enugu State Commissioner for police. It was the police that rushed the girl to Parklane hospital Enugu on their own and provided the initial finances needed for her admission at the hospital.
The poor girl was in a very pitiable state. Her body was lacerated with different degrees of injury and scars. One of her ankles was visibly broken and swollen, her head was bandaged, she looked pale, and her eyes were swollen with some liquid substance running down her cheeks. She was weak as she managed to speak. It was indeed an eyesore. Her relatives were there. Her widowed mother was beside her bed shedding tears. It was such an emotional scene. I could not control my tears either. The lawyer said.
These are just a few; these go on every minute and every day. Looking at reasons why these children are sent away by their parents, we see that some parents cannot afford their schools fees or feeding. While others provide for their families from the money they are being paid. So they are employed by middle and upper class families with disposable income to spare, especially by working women who rely on these children to ease their domestic jobs while they focus on their paid jobs
Parents who give out their children to foster homes, do you ever ask after these children or you are just ok with the bag of rice and wrapper or money you are given yearly? Have you taken time to make inquiries about the welfare of your child and do you even know where he or she is living, who the foster parents are and what they even do for a living. Have you ever visited the home unannounced? Because this will help you access how bad or well your child is treated. What about having as many children as you can carter for? A friend told me a story of how a man he knows ended up having more children than he can care for all in a quest to get a male child. The children are ending up in people’s homes as house helps or apprentice in shops. I wonder what will be your pride tomorrow about your children. What sacrifices have you made to see your children through in life? And who takes the honor if they are lucky to make it tomorrow.
And to the foster parents, that child is another woman’s child, another woman just like you. Why must anyone who sees your family know who is the help and who are your own kids. Remember, these families that hand their kids over to you do that with the intention of helping them have better lives, better than what they used to have . If you cannot make life better for him or her, please don’t snuff life out of them. Remember ‘life na turn by turn’ life may turn you around tomorrow and your children becomes foster children in another peoples home, would you proudly pray for them to be treated the way you treat other?
Remember, they too deserve to be loved!