Begging For Alms: Babies for Hire – What We Must Do!

 

While in the salon making my hair I scrolled through messages on the Advocacy for family planning WhatsApp group page I belong to and then came across this video – (Nigeria Beggar Abandon 3 Babies) that someone had posted. My mouth was agape all through while I watched the story unfold. Here was a woman begging on one of the bridges in Lagos with three babies wearing identical caps. One would have thought they were triplets and most people will be moved to give this “poor woman”, money to care for her “suffering innocent children”. Guess what…these babies were not triplets and she was not their mother either. How did she get these babies? Their mothers hire them out to this “beggar woman” every day and in return get some change at the end of the day. You need to have seen these babies crying their hearts out wrapped in pieces of cloths lying on the ground. The mother heart in me went out to them and then this anger against their mother and the woman using them for alms arose in me.

Some women should simply not be mothers!!! How could they be that heartless all in the name of making some money? I hear that they make some good money as much as N10, 000, N15, 000. Their foolish mothers get like N1, 500 at the end of the day for exposing their child to the elements and weather (come rain, come the sunshine). The particular “woman beggar” in the video ran away when authorities tried to question her but thankfully she was caught. Ask me what happened after that? I believe these babies should have been taken over by the social welfare and then these women should be arrested and prosecuted! How far they went with this I don’t know.

The sad thing was that when I checked Google to find out more about this story I discovered that the act of hiring babies to beg alms has been a practice for some years now.  This is a criminal offence. There was a time the Lagos government clamped down on people doing this but they found means of escaping and moving to new places to continue this inhuman act. It is now known as baby trafficking, using babies as slaves to make money! What is our world becoming?

One wonders why these women engage in this act. Is it because of poverty or Laziness? Yes, we can say poverty but seriously hiring your baby out to be used for alms begging?! I think laziness is also part of it and of course the problem of giving birth to too many children that they cannot cater for. A Punch newspaper story shared the story of cash- hungry mothers who loan  out their babies for begging. One of such women came to Lagos in search of a good life with her four children from Ibadan. She then had another baby whom she rents out to a “woman beggar” every day. This woman works at as a food vendor and earns N300 while also collecting N1, 500 daily pay for hiring her baby out. The annoying thing is that this baby is given out at 5 am and returned at 7 pm. Come on this is crazy! (Forgive my language). It is so unfair.

I don’t want to just write about this story like every other disturbing societal issue; we need to do something about this.

Every one of us has a part to play in educating people that there are other things they can do to make money; that they can control the number of children they give birth to through the use of modern family planning(FP) methods.

There are various methods that can be used. Short FP methods (Condom, injectable for 2 – 3 months) and long lasting methods (Implants 3 – 5years, IUDs and so on; permanent methods – Tubal Ligation and Vasectomy). These are available at Primary Health centers at affordable prices)

What Should/Can be Done:
1) Well-meaning individuals, organizations can invest in establishing shelter homes and facilities to house such babies or less-privileged mothers. This caters for their housing need. Most importantly skills acquisition programs should be organized and a start-up money given to empower these women.

If you are rich perhaps instead of sharing money on the streets in bales wasting resources engage in such enduring philanthropic activity.

2) And seriously, our government need to step up in putting in place policies that can protect such children and punish their mean mothers. And perhaps from my social work point of view empower these women so that they can stop begging on the streets or hiring their children out as tools for alms begging.

If we continue to ignore:
Many babies will die as a result because of being starved of proper nutrients and getting exposed to diseases that kill infants. They will end up increasing the statistics of infant mortality rate (IMR) in Nigeria. According to WHO  2013 data, infant mortality rate in Nigeria stands at  100 children per 1000 live births. The latest data for 2015 according to world Bank development indicators from recognized sources shows  IMR for Nigeria at 69.4 per 1000 live births. Still very high, every child, every life counts.

We will also be raising adults who become hard and callous. If they do survive they become street wise and engage in all kinds of vices. They end up becoming problems to us all as they will grow up feeling cheated.

No one knows what the future holds for a child. A lot of great things are possible. We will be losing individuals who are probably endowed with answers to our world’s problems.

Adebisi Adetunji (C)

A Short Review of the Movie “SOLD” – Be Weary of Strangers

sold-movie-poster
Movie Poster

At the beginning of the movie we meet a young beautiful girl, Lakshmi playing and flying her free kite while her mother struggles with the farm work for the day. Soon the viewer finds outs why her mother is working so hard. Her father is incapacitated with a paralyzed arm with two fingers cut off. He looked frustrated and takes to staying out late and coming home drunk. His poor wife who had had a tough hard day’s work tucks him into bed.
The roof of their house is leaking and Lakshmi’s mother did her best to fix it with a few straws she could gather. At night when it rains the leaking roof showed that she had not been successful in mending the roof.
Lakshmi’s mother prays hard for her family, hoping that something would happen to alleviate their suffering and turn their story around for good. Theirs was a poor struggling family. During a community festival, a woman from the city stares hard at Lakshmi. Amidst the excitement and dancing, she approaches her. She showed her, her dazzling colorful bangles and jewelry. She tells Lakshmi that the city was a beautiful place to be and that it had the magic that could change a person’s fortune. Young Lakshmi was captivated. Later she discussed going to the city with the stranger in order to work and make some money to help mend their leaking roof. Her mother said no but her father had received payment from the woman to take Lakshmi to the city.

SOLD – A thriller based on the award-winning novel by Patricia McCormick – A young girl risks everything to gain freedom. SOLD was released as a movie in 2014 . My heart was pumping hard all the way as I watched to see what becomes of Lakshmi.

My heart pumped hard all the way as I watched to see what becomes of Lakshmi.

A movie with a powerful mind boggling message that leaves you angry at man’s inhumanity to innocent children but also leaves you with relief that some girls do survive the journey through sexual exploitation. No one should have to go through what girls like Lakshmi and others went through.

The movie shows viewers happy rare moments for the girls who must service their male customers on demand. It’s a group that supports each other even though they are suspicious of one another. No one really feels safe but they make the best of the world in which they have found themselves.

SOLD is a story that treats an issue we speak about in hush…hush tone boldly.

What I find worrisome is the fact that women are the perpetrators of this evil act: Child traffickers aided by men. Those who run the show in promoting baby factories, child labor claim it is a means to an end; a means of livelihood to the detriment of these girls who are beaten, raped and forced to have sex with horrible men.

Child trafficking is simply slavery ripping children of their innocence and future.

Protect children, Protect Girls

Adebisi Adetunji (C)