By Juliet Umeh
It is as surprising as it can be annoying how some young ladies think that the easiest way to make money is to engage in prostitution where they can sell their bodies in exchange for cash, which in actual sense is peanuts.
Besides the two religious groups, Christianity and Islam frowning at it, it also runs foul to both natural and constitutional laws. As a result, no sane person would want to openly associate with them. Those who do, do so in the dark.
However, a rehabilitation home, providing emergency safe family atmosphere for unwed mothers, Wholistic Outreach has taken it upon itself, to attack this menace and rescue these young ladies and refocus them towards adding value to the society. Its efforts has yielded fruitful results as over 100 prostitutes had undergone rehabilitation in the home and long reintegrated to the society in the over 17 years the home has been in existence.
Most of the prostitutes that passed through this home are today, Lawyers, Bankers among other professions.
In this interview with the administrator of the home, Mrs Biodun Bello, she identified hash economic situation in the country, broken homes, peer pressure among factors pushing young women into prostitution in Nigeria. She however revealed that about 50 ladies are currently undergoing rehabilitation in the home.
It’s a bit strange to see a ministry whose function is majorly to rehabilitate prostitutes. How did the idea come?
Wholistic Outreach Ministry was established in 2002 by Pastor Mrs Folu Adeboyo, wife of Pastor Enoch Adeboye. It’s a home that provides emergency housing for victims of sex trafficking girls, stranded teenage girls and stranded single mothers. In the home, their lives are restored with capacity building and educational opportunities through rehabilitation programmes aimed at restoring them to useful members of the society.
What approach do you adopt to get these prostitutes change their minds?
First of all, our outreach team do go to brothels on weekly basis to meet the girls. We minister to them and if the manger in charge permits, after some time, we hold a special outreach there. While going for the outreach, we go with medical team, food and the word of God and we tell them that there is a better place than where they are. After some time, some of them will indicate interest to come out of the brothel. So, when they come to the home, we take them to police station to have their proper records.
Once they come out, they spend minimum of three months and maximum of six months in the home. We use that period to nurture them in the word of God, they fast, pray and go for deliverance sections.
After that, we reconcile them back to their family members. Some will go back to their family while some others, their family may release them back to us.
Also, when they are going back, we make sure we sign them out in the police that they are no longer with us.
Don’t you sometimes face challenges convincing the managers, who are mostly said to have shares in what the prostitutes make?
We go with the backing of God Almighty, with help of Holy Spirit; even you will be surprised that most of the managers do give their lives to Christ. The last one we had at Sagamu, Ogun State, the manager said he doesn’t want to do the work any longer. Again, there are thousands of people that want to take over the bed. You will be surprised that even if all of them leave that place, if you go there next week, the place will be filled up. That is the world we are now.
You established this outreach since 2002. Since then, how many people have you rehabilitated?
Those that have left the home are more than 100. There are some that have been with us for a long time and because we have not finished with them, such people are not counted among the 100.
Right now, we have more than 50 girls in the home. For instance, there is a girl who started JSS 1 from the home, now she in the university. She comes back to us whenever she is on holiday.
Are there situations when they say, I can’t cope and want to go back?
Yes, some will even say I have sex urge, and I feel like sleeping with a man whether he wants to pay or not. But that’s why we have counsellors, mothers that stay with them. You know it’s not something that they can just stop all of a sudden but the will is there. Sometimes, for most of them, it’s not that they really want to go into that business, but circumstances led them into it.
Has it been all rosy rehabilitating them or can you highlight challenges?
The challenge sometimes is that when they come; because there are rules and regulations in the home, and for someone that has been free all along, it is not easy for some of them. But, we put some of those regulations because we want them to be focused.
But, before we bring them out, they must be willing to come out. We don’t even tell them to come to our home immediately; they come out of their own free will.
So many reasons have been given by several people why young girls go into prostitution. Are there other reasons you’ve been able to discover based on interactions with them?
Majorly, it is the economy that makes some of them do what they do. Some of them left their homes because someone from the city told them to come to the town for a better job. Most times, their parents permit them without knowing the nature of the work. The reason is that most parents have children they cannot take care of. Some even go as far as taking them abroad; some of our girls came from the abroad. Also, some mothers are rich but lack time for the family and the children. Some are broken homes, others, peer pressure; they just want to party and feel a sense of belonging.
Aside the small skill jobs, are there some of the rehabilitated girls that have taken up professional carriers?
To the glory of God, we have lawyers among them; some of them have passed through the university and are working. Some are married and one is even getting married this month.
Do you have age brackets you target or any prostitute willing to change?
Every soul is important. So we don’t put emphasis on age. As a matter of fact, the youngest among the people we have now is 11 years old that we brought from a village. Some of the girls had children in the brothel and the children were brought up in the brothel. We have one who is not up to 13 when she was brought to us, but they had already destroyed her private part. Thank God, we have doctors, counsellors, psychiatrists and psychologist who work on them. She is now in JSS1. We call them daughters in our home. We sit together and gist. We create a family setting where we gist and pray with them.
With all you have told me, a huge sum must have been expended to rehabilitate these girls. Can you give us an estimate of what you spend on each of them?
That is hard to say but every month, we spend over two million. Aside from that, we collect food stuffs from the founder, Pastor Mrs Adeboye’s house. The mission gives us money on quarterly basis and the founder gives us money every month. We make sure we put them in quality schools. In fact, my children didn’t attend the kind of these children are enrolled in. very expensive Christian schools.
Why the focus on the female child because street urchins are all over Lagos, under the bridges and such places?
The Redeemed Christian Church of God as a mission has different homes. There is one for boys called rehabilitation for boys and for drug addicts.
We are not specific on gender and can take as much as our space can take. Our first and second homes have 40-bed space respectively; it means it is only 80 girls that can come at a time. So there is no how we can have more, even though we would have loved to have as many people as possible.