‘I am a househelp working in a Yoruba family in Ogbomoso. I’m 17 years old and I’m in this house serving a total of 9 people — father, mother, 1 brother-in-law, 1 sister-in-law, 4 children, and another family member. The four children are 14, 12, 9 and 5 years old. None of the children can wash their own clothes or dishes and the adults won’t do them. They have me, their machine, to depend on. I’m a househelp.’
‘Typically, my day starts 4 am. I wake up to fill up all the water containers in the house as water may not be running later in the day. After that, I start cleaning the whole house, sweeping and mopping the floor. I have to clean the children’s room last as I might be castigated for entering their room and waking them up before they choose to wake up themselves. Then I enter the kitchen to cook for everybody. I would’ve received orders for the meals the night before. And the meals must be ready before the children are ready for school. And that’s around 7 am. The children eat and thereafter are taken to school by the driver. Everybody else takes their food and goes out.’
‘Once everybody is out of the house (that’s around 8:30 am), my main work for the day starts. I start from the dishes. Then the toilets. Then sweep the whole compound. Then proceed to the laundry. Everybody in the house uses one underwear per day. The children use one school uniform each per day. The adults too wear one outfit per day and none of them can wash their own clothes themselves. So I wash everything. I’m their househelp.’
‘I used to have a phone but they took it from me. They say I don’t have a right to use a phone. If anyone gives me money and they know, they collect it from me. If everybody is eating, I must stay around them in case they need help. Even the children do send me on errands while they’re eating. I can only take my own meal after everybody else has eaten.’
‘If I fall ill, I dare not complain. They’ll say I’m lying and I’m just looking for an excuse not to work. They won’t buy drugs for me neither will they take me to the hospital. And remember, they’ve taken all my money from me and they must not find any on me.’
‘Sometime last year when I had serious malaria, I had to wait till they all left home before sneaking into our neighbour’s house to complain. He took me to his doctor and bought drugs for me. Bless his soul! I quickly returned home before they could notice. I couldn’t finish my daily chores that day and I got punished for it. They chose the 14 year-old boy to do the flogging. I still have the scars on my body as I speak. A househelp is obviously a lesser human.’
‘Where is my own future? These children will become doctors, engineers, and big successful people later in life: what about me? But on another note, will these girls be able to cook for their husbands or do household work when they get married later in life? What kind of adults would these children grow up to become? Wives that can’t live without a househelp?’
‘I came all the way from a village in Nassarawa State. I’m the 3rd of 8 children — 3 boys, 5 girls. My 22 year-old elder brother is already married with 2 children. My immediate elder sister (19) is also married with 2 children. One of my other siblings is also a househelp in another part of the country. The remaining 3 siblings are still with our parents: 2 are helping them with farm work in the village and the last born child is only a 2 year-old toddler.’
‘I got here through Mrs. Takushi who does the business of supplying househelps to those that need them. My uncle took me to her. Someone gave her number to my madam and they both arranged for my movement. I learnt that my premium is ₦150,000 per annum. I don’t get paid anything here. I only feed and they buy a few used clothes for me once a year. I learnt that my parents get ₦50,000 annually from my fees while Mrs. Takushi gets ₦70,000. They promised to keep the remaining ₦30,000 for me. I plan to spend 3 years here and endure the suffering and agony. In the end, I’ll have my ₦90,000 that I can spend to write GCE and JAMB and secure an admission into the university.’
‘I’ve been here for 2 years and I’ve only spent 3 days with my parents but when next I see them, I shall ask them only one question: when they knew that they wouldn’t be able to take care of me, why did they do the wickedness of giving birth to me?’
Above is the true life story of a househelp that I know. I’ve changed the names of the persons and location involved in the story for the sake of confidentiality. Thus Ogbomoso, a city in Southwest Nigeria, has nothing to do with the story, just like Nassarawa, a Northcentral state in Nigeria, has nothing to do with the story. I just mentioned them for fictional purposes. This story is for those of you who think that slavery has ended. Well, slavery is still here with us. It has only changed its appearance. For those who don’t know, ‘houshelp’ is what we call domestic workers in Nigeria.
I’m posting this to commemorate the World’s Anti-human Trafficking Day which is marked on July 30 every year. Concerning human trafficking, the United Nations official website has this to say:
Human trafficking is a crime that exploits women, children and men for numerous purposes including forced labour and sex. The International Labour Organization estimates that 21 million people are victims of forced labour globally. This estimate also includes victims of human trafficking for labour and sexual exploitation. While it is not known how many of these victims were trafficked, the estimate implies that currently, there are millions of trafficking in persons victims in the world.
And concerning human trafficking in Nigeria, Wikipedia has this to say:
Nigeria is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to trafficking in persons including forced labor and forced prostitution. Trafficked Nigerian women and children are recruited from rural areas within the country’s borders − women and girls for involuntary domestic servitude and sexual exploitation, and boys for forced labor in street vending, domestic servitude, mining, and begging. Nigerian women and children are taken from Nigeria to other West and Central African countries, primarily Gabon, Cameroon, Ghana, Chad, Benin, Togo, Niger, Burkina Faso, and the Gambia, for the same purposes. Children from West African states like Benin, Togo, and Ghana – where Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) rules allow for easy entry – are also forced to work in Nigeria, and some are subjected to hazardous jobs in Nigeria’s granite mines. Nigerian women and girls are taken to Europe, especially to Italy and Russia, and to the Middle East and North Africa, for forced prostitution.
Don’t participate in human trafficking.
Don’t aid and abet human trafficking.
Don’t traffic your children, family members, or friends.
If you notice any such illegal activity around you, report to a law enforcement agency. The police or the Civil Defence is always a good place to start. You can report there. In addition, the Nigerian government has an agency dedicated to this issue. It’s called National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP). Click here to visit their website. And you can contact them through the following:
Address: No. 2028, Dalaba street, Wuse Zone 5, FCT, Abuja
Tel: +(234) 703 0000 203
Toll Free: 0800CALLNAPTIP (08002255627847)
The toll free number is for you to call to report any case of human trafficking around you. All the madams that maltreat your househelps, your days are numbered.
Treat your fellow human beings like the human beings that they are, not like goats. And just like the girl in my story asked: if you don’t have plans for a baby, don’t have one. I shall be writing more on that topic in a subsequent article.