By Funmi Ajumobi
Khadijat (not real name) is a mother at 15 after a pregnancy that resulted from sexual assault. The teenager gave birth at Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH.
But her case is already getting attention of NGOs, Lagos and federal government agencies especially in tracing her assailant and making him face justice, but her immediate needs and those of her baby are a priority. Khadijat seems familiar to everyone in the hospital as everyone that passes greets her. She tells Sunday Vanguard her story.
“I was forced to come to Lagos from my village, Iyemgbe in Cotonou, to be a housemaid in Nigeria”, she started.
“When I came I was just crying because I didn’t understand any Nigerian language and my bosses always beat me.
“I cannot remember my age when I came to Nigeria but I know that I had not developed breasts then. I was 15 years old last year.
“After working in and out of three places, the woman who brought me to Nigeria took me to another family close to her shop.
“My last boss was selling cow skin popularly known as ponmo but it smelled awfully so much so that I threw up every time and that was why I had to run away from the place.
“After I ran away, a woman helped me at Mushin. She was a heavy drinker and I cannot really say whether she purposely left me alone while I was sleeping or drunk on that day I was raped.
“On that day I had to sleep because of tiredness after working for her from morning till night.
“I slept on a bench near her umbrella shop.
“As she was always doing, she had sent me to go and meet men to collect money for her and, after that, I slept on the bench to relax and I didn’t know when she left because she didn’t wake me up to follow her home.
“When I was woken up, I saw a figure who held my neck and I was struggling with him but he overpowered me and raped me.
“After that, he threatened me. I had seen his face before but I don’t know his house.
“I was just crying that night because I was bleeding.
“I didn’t tell my madam because if she knew what happened to me she would send me away and because I didn’t have anywhere to go, I had to keep quiet.
“Even in this hospital, I lie that I was raped on my way to the house to protect my madam that she left me alone outside.
“But I heard that she will come on Monday with one non government organization that showed interest in my case and I have made up my mind to tell everyone how she was the cause because she left me alone outside and how her action led to my travail”.
On the woman’s family, Khadijat said the woman has her children all in school but she just helped her with accommodation.
READ ALSO: Despite my ordeal, no regret for my actions – Man whose viral video sparked #EndSARS protests
“She doesn’t give me money. I sell sachet water and beg for money for her and whenever I come back, she would give me N70 to eat”, she narrated.
“When I became pregnant, I didn’t know. It was our neighbor who noticed; she bought something and dipped it in my urine and she told me I was pregnant.
“I begged her not to tell my madam and she agreed because she too knew that my madam will send me away.
“My madam later sent me to her senior sister to work for her for two months.
“It was when I returned that she discovered I was pregnant.
“She took me to a doctor to abort the pregnancy but the doctor refused on the grounds that I was too young.
“But following my madam’s threat to send me away, the doctor told her to leave me in the hospital until I give birth and that the hospital will take care of me.
“I was there until I started labour from 9am till night and I couldn’t deliver.
“That was how the doctor referred me to LUTH and, when I got here, I was delivered of my baby without caesarean section”.
On her future plans, she said, “I want to learn hairdressing because I know how to plait hair but I am not perfect in it”.
On going back to Cotonou, she stated, “I wish to go back to my country but I am not sure my daddy will accept me back with a child.
“And it was because he couldn’t take care of me that he sent me out as house help in the first place.
“My mother is dead; I am the family’s first born but my father has another wife now.
“I would prefer to stay in Nigeria because I don’t even think I have any life to live there (Cotonou).
“Here too, I can’t stay with my madam again and I am too small to stay alone.
“If I can find a place to stay where I will not be the only one, I will like it but I don’t want to stay with my madam again”.
On whether she would like to stay with the people who brought her to Lagos, she said, “I don’t know where they are anymore. I know my father too would not look for me”.
Asked whether she wanted her child to be adopted, she said, “No ma, I like my child. I don’t want that option. I like him to be in a place where I can be going to check on him.
“I want to take care of my child by myself so that he can grow well in life. I don’t want him to be like me.
“I regret that I gave birth at my age but I have faith in God that He can still turn my life around. “To all the fathers in my village, they should stop sending their daughters out as housemaids.
“They should work and send their daughters to school.
“Many of them (fathers) rely on the money paid them on their daughters who are housemaids to live which is not a good life.
“What my eyes have seen in this work is better imagined: Curses, beatings and wrong accusation among others.
“Those who are taking us as housemaids should also stop doing so. If they stop, the people in my village will think of another ways to make money.
“Every mother in Nigeria should also reject housemaids and counsel others on why it is not good.
“If our families have no choice, they will put us in school or get us to learn a trade.
“My baby is a month today, November 12, 2020. I have not been discharged because I don’t even have money to pay and I have nowhere to be discharged to. “I have been favored by so many people in this hospital.
“It is the money people give me that I use to manage myself. I especially appreciate three new fellow mothers here who have taken up my case.
“One of them was the one who called you”.
On her hospital bill, she said she wasn’t sure but somebody told her it was over N120, 000.
“I am appealing to good hearted people in Nigeria and the whole world to come to my aid”, Khadijat said.
“I don’t even have anything to care for myself not to talk of what to use to take care of the child.
“I need clothes for the baby and even myself. I have been wearing hospital clothes for one month now. I don’t have what to wear. And the baby needs everything that will make him live a good life”.
One of the new mothers in the hospital ward who is one of the people pushing her case said, “I don’t wish to leave her here as I will be discharged soon”.
Even in the ward, only the three fellow new mothers believed her story.
Others said she was lying because her supposed guardian has painted her black, saying she used to go to men selling meat to sleep with them and that she was wayward.
But the girl told us the woman always sent her to men to beg for money for her which she spent on drinks.
Khadijat told us earlier that she didn’t see the face of her rapist but she later confessed that she actually saw his face but he threatened to kill her if she dared to mention his name to anyone.
The reality, however, is that even if she had told a lie about her being raped, she remains a teenager, a child pushed by circumstances.
And if she had the opportunity of good parenting from the beginning, she probably wouldn’t have found herself in this situation.
Apparently, her case is generating attention.
For instance, where is the provision for her type of case in the country?
Are we saying Nigeria health system does not have any budget for such cases?
Some people are saying they wanted to trace her village and return her.
But returning her to her family in Cotonou may mean she could return to Nigeria as a maid.
The only thing she needs is who will help her.
Meanwhile Khadijat remains at LUTH waiting for a messiah to bail her out of her precarious situation. That help can reach her through Sunday Vanguard or donate to her cause via Access Bank account number 0717002111, Olaitan Wahab.