- Artwork:Child Labor by Fredrik-Rattzen
Child labor and poverty are inevitably bound together and if you continue to use the labor of children as the treatment for the social disease of poverty, you will have both poverty and child labor to the end of time.–Grace Abbott
Beautiful shades of sky blue clouds, each passing day adds a new seasoning to my life. I struggled with the flashes of leaving home when I was only ten, the scent of Accra- the sweet smile of no other place like home.
Kwabena, my mother’s younger brother had brought me to Nigeria when my parents had packed two old and patched up dresses for me in an old polythene- mother whispered to my ears “Your siblings are hungry, your mates are in school, your parents are poor farmers, endure whatever comes your way, but always remember you are doing this for your family”. I never understood those words until my parents had walked me out to begin a sweet sour journey in Nigeria.
I worked between the seconds of the day even when time beckoned that I took a nap, I ate little and worked more, the sweet aroma of Banku dish swam within my throat- my favourite which mother prepared on days when we had a little wad of cash. Mr and Mrs Ajayi, the first family I worked for with four children which I took care of everyday. I had learned to be sharp as the day grew by when I slept with starvation and danced to the tune of the rumblings in my stomach. One piece of meat I had stolen on a morning Mrs Ajayi had vowed not to give me food till it was evening, I was caught with a beautiful slap, endless strikings on my buttocks. Uncle Kwabena got angry with me as he was summoned to come pick me up- ‘we don’t want to harbor a thief in our house” both couples said as I knelt down on the floor with my eyes closed and hands up. By that time I was twelve, and was ready to be sent to another house to work again.
I promised myself never to peep into the cooking pot or let my heart be deceived by the sight of a beautiful delicacy, I promised to always endure and continue looking out for my family who were struggling in Ghana. I vowed to be hardworking and prayed to meet a nicer family, but the previous family had better qualifications in times of treatment than the new house I was taken to. “The economy is bad, but come to think of it, you have a roof under your head and food to eat. Besides I would see if I can get you some used clothes-what more do you need?” Mama Akin said to me during my arrival at her place, she sat on her on the couch while I knelt down with my face bowed to the floor as my Uncle negotiated with her. I didn’t understand what my uncle had discussed with her as they spoke in Yoruba, but I knew he always kept my slim salary and sent a part to my parents while I was left with nothing.
I began to grow up with scars within my emotions- to learn that I didn’t matter in life- to wait around the kitchen till breakfast was over and scrape the crumbs of food left behind. I began to wonder where my father was when his mates made money or where mother was when her mates married rich men. I remember I had to accept life at a stage and succumb to all the daily struggles in life- to cope with Mama Akin, a hot tempered woman, who at the slightest mistake would hit my head on the wall and say:
“You better go back to your father’s house and dine in poverty if you are tired of working here”.
I remember all was not well about a week ago when Mama Akin and Bola her first son had held me down and poured pepper between within every part of my genitals because I mistakenly poured the pot of soup on the floor. I cried aloud to death, but it was too deaf to listen. I swinged my body around and fought so hard, yet Mama Akin did not stop, and neither did Bola look at me with sympathy. Instead, she plugged an iron and placed it on my buttocks while I saw the face of hell. I couldn’t feel my veins; my soul was gone and that was the last thing I had remembered till I awoke in the hospital three days later with bandages around my body. The doctor smiled at me as he asked for my name and age which I whispered saying
“My name is Azindow and ‘m 14”
He smiled at me, and asked if I knew Uncle Kwabena who stood at the door step grinning at me. His smile brought a ray of hope, and the doctor urged him to come in while he left my Uncle and me alone.
“Uncle Kwabena, I want to go home, I don’t want to go back there to work” I said to him
He looked at me with a sad face and brought out his phone to call my family and tell them I wanted to come home. Mothers asked him to give me the phone while I spoke with tears in my heart , I missed her voice, the voice which always beckoned to me to please live while I struggled on the sick bed. I had told mother that I wanted to come home, to work within the walls of Accra, but instead mother said
“you can’t come home now, things are worse than what you are experiencing over there…endure a little bit, your brother hasn’t paid for his mechanic lesson and your father is critically ill…wait my child for tomorrow is near.”