Part 1: I bear this cross.. Alone (1)
“If you hear your name please FALL OUT” the school principal’s husky voice boomed over the loud speakers.
Such a huge voice from a petite female frame was enough to hold the students and teachers alike in awe. Those who had dared to defy her in the past have had stories to tell that would last generations. If America’s Devil wears Prada, Mrs. Boluwe stood on the assembly ground ironclad in starched African guinea brocade.
“Kelechi Obioha, Hauwa Abdul, Denzel… Den – is that your real name?” she peered down the rim of her glasses, watching as the students silently fell off the queue and marched to her front. “And Kemi Shonibare … see me in my office immediately after the assembly.”
Murmurs rippled across the assembly ground, but the drum drones of the school band introducing the national anthem quickly drowned them. “Arise o compatriots…”
Kemi sat alone at the principal’s reception, alone with her thoughts. She felt woozy.
Was her secret out?
She had seen Kelechi and later Hauwa run out of the office clutching a black envelope and crying profusely. Rumour had it that Domitoes’ expulsion letters always came in black envelopes. She couldn’t bring herself to ask them what the matter was. What fate awaited her?
Kemi’s heart skipped a beat as she glanced to her right and saw Denzel walking out of the principal’s office. He had a smirk on as she searched his face; jutting out of his back pocket was an envelope quite all right, but it was white not black.
“K-E-M-I SHO-N-I-B-ARE” she instinctively jumped to her feet without thinking. That voice resides in the wrong body, Kemi muttered to herself as she made her way to the door with all the calmness she could muster.
“Good morning Mrs. Boluwe.”
“Good morning, have your seat” the principal responded, gesturing to the empty chair before her. She resumed flipping through the papers on her table without glancing up and continued, “I have been monitoring your performance in school academically and character wise, I must say you impress me.”
Kemi was not certain how to respond. Perhaps this was Mrs. Boluwe’s cushion before a heavy blow.
“Thank you ma.” She said, a decibel above a whisper.
“On this note,” Mrs. Boluwe finally looked up with a smile (A smile?), “I have decided to appoint you as Domitoes Secondary School Headgirl”.
The lightheadedness washed over Kemi a second time, and she had to clutch the chair’s armrest to steady herself.
Mrs. Boluwe’s face immediately assumed a countenance of concern, “are you alright Kemi?” This shocked Kemi the more, first a smile and now concern?
“ I am alright ma. Thank you for counting me worthy of this position.” She breathed.
As Kemi said those words, a knot lodged in her throat and sudden boldness descended on her. There would be no better moment to shed this cross than now. She had carried it alone for so long.
“I have something to tell you ma, after which you might reconsider bestowing such honour on me. I am unworthy.” Kemi said calmly, and watched as the principal took off her glasses, placed them on the table and leaned back in her seat.
“ I am listening”. Mrs Boluwe replied. For the first time her voice had lost its menacing sting and a fleeting motherly look crossed her face. Kemi’s voice had assumed a tone of maturity all of a sudden. Strange.
Portharcourt: Aunty Nelia’s House
Aunty Nelia was a robust woman in her early 40s. Her husband owned a top oil company therefore they lived in a lush mansion where every item spelt ‘comfort’. Every school break, Kemi went to Portharcourt for holidays. To mother, she simply went to play and of course do some housework for her old friend who had willingly offered to sponsor Kemi through school notwithstanding.
Mother was oblivious to what Aunty Nelia really used Kemi for during every break.
“Your holiday is almost over abi?” Aunty Nelia smiled through her gap-tooth patronizingly. “ You will visit Chief Fibresinmah tomorrow night and that will be the end before you go back to school ehn. Lukman will drop you.” Lukman was her personal chauffeur.
“Aunty, please when will this stop?” Kemi regretted the words as soon as they tumbled out.
The expression on Aunty Nelia’s face was ugly. “This ungrateful brat. Are you out of your mind? Is it beans that my husband and I are seeing you through that expensive school of yours. Is it my responsibility? Because I decided to help your mother out.” She stormed towards the door in a display of anger.
Just before Aunt Nelia stepped out, she turned and leveled a cold stare on Kemi, “remember, if your mother or anyone ever hears about this, you are toast you hear me! Be a good girl and prepare for Chief tomorrow. You better be here next holiday.”
“Every holiday since my JSS2, Aunty Nelia would take me to different men to do wicked things to me. She always said I have to work if I wanted to eat, and she was doing me the favour of learning this lesson early in life. She said I was worthless and no one would want me anyway. That night after Lukman brought me back from the hotel with Chief Fibresinmah, her husband came home drunk, and-“ (she paused), he raped me, a second time. I went back to Mother.”
The principal covered her face with both hands and wept, how could such a young girl, a promising young girl, suffer so much abuse?
“…Ma, I was with child – but now I am no more” Kemi said faintly, “my mother knows nothing about this, bless her, I forgi…”
Before she could finish her sentence Kemi slumped before the principal’s table and Mrs. Boluwe jumped up, “Keeeeeemmmi”.
There lay dear Kemi, the only hope of her mother, blood flowing down her legs onto the carpet. In half a second her words came back to Mrs. Boluwe I was with child, but now I am no more. This was an abortion gone wrong.
“Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeellllllllllllllp!” Mrs. Boluwe’s voice pierced the ceiling, a shrill and agonistic cry. Who knew she had it in her, she was a woman after all. Now, Mrs. Boluwe carried the cross to tell the story, and fight abuse against women and child trafficking.
One of the largest forms of trafficking is sex trafficking where majority of the victims are young females between the ages of 12-18
The UN estimates that trafficking in persons generates $7-10billion annually for traffickers
Accurate statistics are on child trafficking are difficult to obtain because of the illicit nature of the trade
UN estimated that in 2003, 1.2 million are trafficked around the world
Trafficking is not limited to adults and international borders – they are trafficked along local and regional borders as well