Why is the elevator stuck on your floor?
- 2 Posts
Mariam,13, was born to a mother who left her and her siblings, born to another father, with her Baba and married another man. Baba could not afford to take care of Mariam and all her siblings, so she is at a home where girls who are abandoned by family and society live. Baba has not abandoned her, he is just struggling. She hasn’t seen her sister in almost a year. She’s new, so unlike others, she still has a little light in her eyes.
"I want you to help me. Even if it is house-help”
In Nigeria there are many low-income families that offer their children as domestic workers to receive payment for their services. Some families loan their children to people who also give them an education. It’s the area of child labour law that everyone still turns a blind eye to. Mostly because having house-help is something of a status symbol. Despite that, the schools these children will attend are almost free, at arguably the lowest echelon of quality and they will have to work twice, even thrice, as hard to succeed.
Mariam sees this as a favour.
Tinu, 14, is seated somewhere at the back of the room. Her clothes are neater than the rest. This home also houses girls whose parents think they have been too wayward. The short stay is disciplinary. She’s clearly out of place and holds herself tight, like she’s afraid she will be robbed. You can tell this is hitting her hard because she progressively holds herself tighter and will no longer keep eye contact.
Lola, smiled throughout the event. She doesn’t know how to do anything else. She doesn’t know what is wrong or right about her environment. Her friends smile back when they can. They let her have the goody-bag, because Aunty says you shouldn’t fight with anyone who is your age, but acts like a child. Her friends should understand.
Hadiza, 11, lives in a room with 9 other children. The rent is paid by her Uncle, her older sister’s fiancé. He was in the army and lost his brother, mother and family land to the violence up north. Hadiza doesn’t like to speak English, but is the smartest girl in the class. She manages the smallest single sachet of detergent so everyone’s school uniforms and her Uncle’s work clothes can be washed for 2 weeks. Her Uncle has sworn with tears in his eyes that Hadiza will become a graduate.
There is a girl who is struggling to pull that green dress over her thighs. It is her first night out and a lady almost stopped to ask what she was doing out there. Had she run out of somewhere without getting a chance to dress up right?
The lady’s brother had laughed.
“This is Allen Avenue, oh girl. There is always a first time.”
Allen Avenue is famous for being a red light district.
These girls are all real.
You can find Mariam, Tinu, Lola, Hadiza and the girl in the green dress in your city too.
But you, you might be like me. Lucky. And blessed. If you’re reading this. You’re neither of these girls.
Never were, or not anymore.
The beauty and ugliness of life? It costs the same amount of money to buy data services in a month as it is to to feed a girl for a day, buy her one bar of soap, one mini sewing kit and one pack of sanitary pads. This is assuming you’re not a heavy data user and you buy data worth NGN 1500 (approximately USD5) a month. If you spend more or less on data, you can do the math.
If you paid it forward for one girl a month, you would carry some of her burdens on your shoulder. If you listened to, advised, encouraged her, spoke to someone in your network who could do something - if you focused on changing the life of just one girl, you would.
A Mariam whose dream is not so heart breaking.
A Hadiza who is educated and can create jobs, along with her 9 other friends, made family by the devastating acts of terrorism. She may one day go back to Borno to set up a school.
A Lola who can get the right services and opportunities and not just the right pity.
One of the powers of humanity is compassion. It gives us the ability to sense feelings of others. We need to count on each other more and more. We need to embrace compassion as a part of us, not as a shortcoming, but as a tool to help as many people that we can reach. In or out of political office.
“If you’re lucky enough to do well, it is your responsibility to send the elevator back down”
– Kevin Spacey.
There is so much to be done. There are so many people who need to get up and so many elevators that need to go back down.
Don’t let it get stuck on your floor.