Frankie has remained on my mind. Despite my efforts to expunge the frustration fireball from my belly by piercing it with my sword (pen). The concept of Frankie and all the Frankie’s and Baraka’s and Mary’s and Violet’s and … so on and so forth (to be clear all the kids / people here who simply need a chance, an opportunity to learn but are denied this by the government system, family poverty or just plain familial lack of interest) has haunted me.
I have created a folder entitled STORIES IN BRIEF and started to catalogue the tales I have heard about the injustices inflicted on children here, I have created the characters and given them good old-fashioned western names to protect their identities or because some are third hand tales told to me by others who working directly with the children. Some tales have been placed in SHORT STORY COLLECTION where they will be fictionalised into full length tales in their own rights and thus spread the word of their mistreatment to a wider audience through mainstream publishing and reading.
I made a promise to you, dear readers, to try to portray all things in a readable, light but respectful manner. It is hard when dealing with the injustices of this world but I will try to share some tales with you without getting too depressing or heavy. Bear with me if I fail you because it is tough, I am in the ring so to speak and dodging punches from the melancholy mojo every second and there is always raving angst monster lurking ready to seize me and throw me into the useless pit of anger.
Today’s tale is one I have heard more than once.
Elizabeth is a teenage girl, probably around 14 or 15 years old (remember many people here do not know their actual birth date). Elizabeth has become separated from her family and is now living in a village many miles away from her birth place. We don’t know much about Elizabeth’s family at this point and we pick up the tale as told by Elizabeth.
The Mama said she would give me a job and that she would feed and house me. This made me happy because sleeping on the streets is hard and I was frightened and hungry, so I said yes. But when we got to her home she locked me in a room and did not give me any food. At first she said I was a cleaner and must scrub the house of her neighbour every day and make sure it was clean, she said the neighbour would pay her for this and then she could buy food. I scrubbed and cleaned every day from when the sun rose until late in the day when Mama locked me in the room again. She gave me very little food and there was only a thin and torn mattress in the room. I had to steal from the rubbish of the house I cleaned for food.
Then Mama said I wasn’t cleaning well enough to get her much money and so I must become a seller of fruit and vegetables. Every day I sat by the road with the fruit Mama gave me to sell and I couldn’t eat any of the fruit because Mama said she knew how many fruits there were and the money would tell her if I had stolen. I tried very hard but could never sell all the fruit and if it went bad Mama would shout at me and not feed me that night. But it was OK, better than scrubbing the house and never meeting anyone. I liked being a seller.
Then Mama said I was no good at selling fruit and I was useless and that she must find another profession for me. She was very angry and locked me in the room for two days and only gave me old bread to eat.
Then Mama came and she took me to a house where they locked me in a nice room, it had a sheet and a proper bed. Mama said men would come to visit me and they would pay her for visiting me. I never got any of the money, she took it all. Men and boys came and they forced me to do things and I cried at first, I was very frightened. So many men came and some hit me. I knew I had to escape.
Elizabeth’s tale is one I have personally heard twice before but the story I have based this account on interests me because it differs from the previous two where the girls were known to me.
Elizabeth’s story was told on the Tanzanian nightly news. Elizabeth escaped, ran to a house and begged the people there to let her use a mobile phone. She called her mother who had given her up for lost and dead. She was rescued and the matter reported to the police. The fact that the story featured in the news fills me with hope.
They are clearly taking this seriously. There was coverage of the accused Mama being led away into a police car protesting she was just helping the girl.
One girl, one life but a big step for all the girls out there. Maybe attitudes are changing, maybe the value of the life of “just another girl on the street” is becoming better understood and respected. Maybe.