Jumping between shiny Land Rovers and Mercedes with hired drivers pulling out of St. Elmo’s pizzeria, a girl about 9 years old every day smiles and holds out her hands. She is there every day all day until after dark at that parking lot, no doubt snagging a good amount of naira as a cute street hawker. She is beautiful, innocent, and has a charming smile. When I walk past she gently grabs my arm and smiles up into my face.
My first inclination is to reach into my purse and pull out some naira to give to her. After all, she must be orphaned, or her family in poverty. But as bad as I feel I cannot give her naira. Just as thousands of young women and girls are trafficked out of the country to places like Italy, even more children are trafficked within Nigeria for sex and labor. It is no wonder the children pressing their faces against the car windows are so adorable, or why my small acquaintance at the pizzeria is stunning. They have most likely been chosen for this job of begging, either by a family member or by a trafficker that took the child from another part of the country to Lagos.
I cannot give her naira, because I know most likely it is not hers to keep, and instead it will be given directly to ever keeps her, or rather uses her, to stand on the side of the street all day and use her charming innocence to solicit money when she should be in school. Giving her money enables and sustains the lucrative business of trafficking that comes in all forms.
Yesterday I melted and I bought her a strawberry ice-cream cone. I thought at least that is something all her own that she may enjoy and won’t give to her keepers. She smiled and took the cone, gave it a few licks, and as I walked past she darted across the street through a steady stream of traffic, gave it to a young man who took over the licking, and she darted back to the pizzeria to arm her station. Even her ice-cream is not safe from her keeper’s hands, let alone her youth, integrity, and future.
Posted By Jessica Sewall (Nigeria)
Posted Jun 27th, 2006