Young Lara took steady but slow steps towards the centre. She wore a slipper and a loose gown clunked to her body. Her stomach bulged out showing that her pregnancy was in the last trimester. Her back ached and last night she tossed and turned several times on her mat. The baby seemed to be playing football in her tummy. His kicks hit the wall of her stomach in quick successions. She wasn’t even sure if it’s a girl or boy but felt it must be a male child because of its incessant kicks. Lara managed to grab a few hours of sleep in the early hours of that morning. She didn’t even feel like coming to the clinic but in the last visit the nurses had told her the birth of her baby was nearing.
Lara sat on one of the benches waiting with other pregnant women who were lucky to have health centre with an almost free antenatal care services. The antenatal lecture will soon start but as usual many of the expectant mothers came late. A rumbling sound in Lara’s stomach told her she was hungry again. It seemed that the Ogi and Akara digested faster than planned. Lara felt uncomfortable but hoped the routine lecture and check would be concluded quickly, then she could go to the motor park where Semiu worked. He was the father of her baby and would be willing to give her a few naira notes to feed for the day. At first she got N50 but now he seemed kinder and gives her at least N150 daily. She was grateful to him; he was her angel and provider. Semiu had been nice to her ever since they met. Lara did not finish her Primary school education; she had no job and no one. It was difficult to make ends meet; she barely eats a meal before she met Semiu.
Lara held her lips together enduring the hunger pangs and prayed that more women would arrive to fill the empty space on the benches. Two women sited on a bench in front of her were giggling about something and that caught Lara’s attention. One woman was talking about how her husband wanted sex all the time and she had to put him off with the excuse that he could rupture her baby’s water bag now that she was heavy. They laughed again and said so much more. Lara watched on in silence and then an envious feeling spread across her chest as she laid her hands on her bulging stomach. Semiu was not interested in marrying her; their relationship was simply an exchange of a few naira notes to feed and sex. He simply was not taking their relationship beyond what they had. Lara had gotten pregnant as a way of repaying him for his kindness. She calls him her, Alanu. As she these thoughts went through her mind she heard the two women talk about things they had purchased in preparation for the birth of their babies. Lara’s breathing increased in pace; she wanted to get up and leave. She had lied to the nurses that she had bought everything but she hadn’t bought even socks for her baby. Semiu wasn’t prepared to be responsible for the baby but he was willing to dole her way a few Naira notes to feed at least to ease his conscience. Lara wondered what she would do when the baby finally arrives. She felt that hunger pang again and held her stomach trying to calm the rumbling noise.
Lara bent her head in fear and wondered why she had allowed herself to get pregnant. How could she have thought that the way to pay her Alanu back for his kindness was to become pregnant with his baby?
This is the story of many young ladies we came across as I and a team visited Primary Health centres regularly to cover the antenatal sessions. It was alarming seeing many pregnant young girls at the clinic. We were forced to make inquiries from the health workers and what they told us left a bitter taste in my mouth. These girls get pregnant in order to repay their “Alanus” only to be left to care for themselves and the baby. Some of these Alanus gave them as low as N20 daily to feed. I am forced to say: What is that?! Did these girls think that getting pregnant for these men was an automatic ticket to getting him committed to them for life? Some would say poverty forced their hands or put them in a tight corner. I no life comes in different shapes and sizes and it can be pretty hard for some people. And as my people say, Ika o dogba (fingers are not equal)…I totally agree with this wise saying but that does not translate to mean the end of the road.
These girls or should I say ladies have a choice of working on a menial job instead of waiting for one Alanu man to hand them peanuts in the name of helping. I have met other ladies in the market helping shoppers to carry their purchased goods in exchange for some money. Some others would help wash dishes at food canteens; provide laundry services; serve as farm hands; sales girl in a shop and so on. In my opinion these girls have just succeeded in entrenching themselves deeper into the big pit of poverty. Would I be unfair to say that these ladies are lazy? If it this is the case, then they need to know that laziness is costly and ignorance is very costly!
It is just so painful to see the promising future of many young women get aborted.
Alanu: Yoruba word for a benefactor
Ika o Dogba: Fingers are not equal
Eko: Pap/corn paste
Akara: Fried Bean cake