Yesterday, Facebook brought up a memory of a post I made back in 2019 about parents who rent out their teenage kids for begging while they (the parents) get paid after the day’s business.
The post did generate a couple of comments and as usual, I decided to read through them. While some of the commenters affirmed that it does really happen, many others seemed surprised as to how such a thing could happen or how a supposed parent would have the mind to give out their kids to be used for such a degrading act.
But while this may sound unbelievable to many, the truth is that when I wrote the post three years ago, I didn’t just write about something I heard from someone or read somewhere, it was something that happened in my community and is still happening until now.
As much as begging is not peculiar to Lagos as there are beggars littered across the world, however, I must say that Lagos is one of those cities in the world where this profane act has catastrophically advanced in unimaginable ways.
For instance, in the past, street begging used to be something that very poor individuals/families venture into as a means of survival, and for most of these people when they are on duty you can see pain and indignity written all over them to show that they are not proud of it but just had to do it for survival.
But today, street begging in Lagos has become a lucrative business not only for the poor but also for unscrupulous and avaricious individuals who do not mind violating the right of kids to gratify their selfish desires.
While the root cause of this menace can be traced to poverty, nevertheless, I think it would be an act of gross irresponsibility on the side of anyone to excuse the actions of the adults who exploit these kids without considering the adverse effects that such acts can have on the physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of the child.
A few years ago I interviewed a certain 16-year-old teen mother in my community who was a victim of these greedy folks. After she narrated her ordeal to me I couldn’t help but weep at the level of damage being done to these kids.
Most times I have seen these women drag her along very early in the morning, most often the girl would just cry helplessly saying that she wants to go to school and that she was tired of being used for begging.
I remember that at some point the girl ran away from home because of that, and that was how she ended up with a guy who took her in and later impregnated her. This was even before she clocked 16.
According to the girl, her dad and stepmother reached an agreement on the amount that the madam would be paying them whenever she was used for business. When the school is on holiday she would join them regularly and when school resumes, any day they want her to join they would stop her from going to school. The business affected the girl’s schooling as they forced her to skip school frequently.
When I asked how they do the business. She explained that they usually apply chemical or cashew nut liquid on their body, since she was a young girl they often applied it around her upper and inner thighs. They always target the delicate parts of the female body such as the breast and external pelvic area.
When the chemical is applied it will make the skin look as though it was scalded with hot water, then they would place cotton wool on it and decorate it with ink so that it would appear like breast or skin cancer. That way they will be able to attract pity from the unsuspecting public who in turn offer them money.
You can only imagine how far humans are willing to go just to satisfy their selfish desires. Terrible.
Now, while the madam and the girl’s parents are cashing out on this, the girl is the one who bears the brunt of all the pain and shame that comes with the business. At a point, the girl’s thighs became so affected by the chemicals that it started telling on her health as her private area began to leak, she developed body odour and had serious injuries around her thighs which left her with a pronounced limp.
That’s the level of suffering that some children are subjected to.
The girl became frustrated, being ill-advised she decided to run away from home as a way of escaping the agony, sadly, she got hooked on a wrong fella who put her in a family way and abandoned her afterwards.
When she returned home with a baby who was just a few months old, they continued to use her and even tried to use her newborn for the begging business as well, that was during the period I interviewed her, I advised her to never let that happen, I continued to check up on her and help out the little way I could and with that moral support, she was able to withstand them and insisted that she will never let them mess with her child the way they did with her. My presence in the girl’s life began to help her to challenge them and stand up for herself and her child.
After a while she told me that her parents and the madam were angry, saying that I was the reason why the girl is not letting them include her baby in the business.
I practically became a threat to their merchandise.
Why did they want to use the baby for begging in place of the mother?
After teenage girls, toddlers attract more pity from the public and you know what that means for them. Increased income. But thankfully, the girl was courageous to defend her child.
Unfortunately, she was not the only person who was being used for this business, there were many other younger children who were also victims. Till today, these women are cashing out on this business and lamentably, there is little that individuals can do to rescue these young minds from this ugly menace.
Hence, this week’s Edition of LAGOS METROPOLITAN FAMILY & KIDS SEGMENT is a subtle call to the Lagos State government to swing into action to salvage the situation as the lives and health of these young chaps are being jeopardised.
Often when the police arrest these people, they are allowed to bail themselves and after a while, they continue the business.
The government needs to step up and put a lasting solution to this problem.
If this is allowed to continue, it will soon become an insurmountable problem.
- Ugoma Johnson is a journalist, published author of 3 books, a social worker, and founder, Teens Empowerment And Rehabilitation Centre (TercHub), a foundation that is saddled with the mandate to curb teenage pregnancy, illiteracy and period poverty, through transformational teachings, provision of school materials and sanitary pads for teenagers in ruler communities.