Jessica Sewall (Nigeria)

Jessica Sewall (The Women’s Consortium of Nigeria - WOCON): Jessica completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and studied abroad in both Ecuador and Chile. In Ecuador, she was a part of a team that conducted a needs assessment and census survey of a small village outside of Quito, with a focus on potable water and sanitation and infrastructure. Jessica worked for the City of Milwaukee on an outreach campaign for work support benefits for low-income families. She then returned to university. At the time of her fellowship, Jessica was studying for a Master’s degree in International Policy and Development at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, and a Certificate in Humanitarian and Refugee Emergencies.

God and Death

04 Jun

Today I sat in the back of a car going 60 mph that swerved around a young dead girl sprawled in a traffic lane. How long she had been there I do not know; how long she will be there for I do not know; if a stranger will stop, if she had been suffering long or still alive in the road as night falls rendering her body a mere bunch of clothes to the drivers’ eyes passing over her, or in what condition her family will receive her body and how they will act I do not know.

“God is great. Jesus is Lord. Please do not shit here. By order of police.” Painted haphazardly in blue on a crumbling wall separating the freeway from the shacks beyond it, with piles of rubbish strewn below it, small children play in their underwear. I laughed when I saw the words, but upon further inspection this phrase has captured hypocrisy in the selfish nature of humanity that challenges progress towards human rights.

The religious undertone in Lagos is one that I was a bit unprepared for. There are churches sprinkled everywhere, and whether a Nigerian is Christian, Muslim, or of some other faith, nearly everyone attends church and believes in something. This Sunday we attended church for four hours of singing and praying, giving thanks to Jesus and God and celebrating the life of people. All the ladies were to be seen in impressive dress.

But here a girl no older than 17 lies dying in the street, and nobody stops. I am told it is pointless to call the police and pointless to stop. There is no emergency number for the police, and if called they will not come. If taken to a hospital she will not be treated, either due to the lack of a police report or lack of money upfront. I wonder who hit her, and if they feel remorse now. I wonder if this person that hit her had been in church all morning praising Jesus for life, and how everyone that saw her lying in the road could have spared five minutes to stop and check if she still had a pulse or was breathing, a mere fraction of the time spent in church celebrating life only hours ago.

Human trafficking is largely due to economics, and we are told that many families sell their daughters out of Benin City, Nigeria into prostitution because it is culturally accepted and has almost become a competition of whose thirteen-year old daughter can provide bigger houses and fancier cars for her parents from the brothels of Italy. The parents are selfish, the police that are bribed to assist are selfish, and if the average citizen does not bother more than to perhaps swerve around a dead girl in the road, what does this say about the value placed on life? What does this mean for the value of girls in a patriarchal society? Is her life that meaningless that trafficking her, beating her into submission, oppressing her, or letting her corpse rot in the middle of a highway is accepted?

Posted By Jessica Sewall (Nigeria)

Posted Jun 4th, 2006

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