Hajiya Hafsat Baba is the Executive Director of an NGO, Global Initiative for Women and Children (GIWAC). The NGO works in the area of health, rights and education for women and the girl-child. In this interview with Correspondent Winifred Bulus, she speaks on how parents can protect their children from harm’s way by not giving them out in the name of going for house help jobs, or any form of deceit.
AFRICA PRIME NEWS: Have you handled cases of child maltreatment and negligence?
HAJ. BABA: We had a case of a 13 year old girl from Kaduna, a minor who had lost her mother and was adopted by the mother’s friend in Niger state; the woman claimed the girl’s mother had promised to give her one of her children to live with her even though there was no documented evidence.
The girl’s relations wanted to get her back, but that became a challenge. The girl was brought to the Foundation and she wept and confessed to being subjected to doing all house chores and not having even time to be in school. The girl confessed that the host family would not let her stay in school and will always ask her to come back before closing, so she can attend to more chores.
On weekends, the 13 year old would go and help the lady of the house fry bean cake and fried yam, which she would sell. It made me wonder, what time does the girl have to play, sleep or do her homework?
We learnt that the girl even ran away twice because of the hardship she was subject to. You find out that such children go to bed late and wake up early because they have a lot of work to do in the morning before school.
When this girl was brought here she was crying and pleading not to be taken back to this woman. The woman involved the police, being that her husband is a Police officer. We had to write the Commissioner of Police in Kaduna State and The Commissioner of Police in Niger. The matter is still being handled and hopefully would be resolved soon. Hopefully by next week, the girl would be reunited with her family.
AFRICA PRIME NEWS: “Where is the girl’s family?
HAJ. BABA: “Her family is in Kaduna, but the lady she worked for lives in Niger State”
AFRICA PRIME NEWS: Does the woman have children of her own?
HAJ. BABA: We learnt she has just one son who does absolutely nothing in the house.
AFRICA PRIME NEWS: Have you had cases where the victims of the maltreatment were males?
HAJ. BABA: We have had very few of such cases. There was a lady who had come to declare her son missing after her divorce from his father. She didn’t have access to her children and she learnt that her son was going through hardship because his father (who is well to do) and the new wife neglected him and he left the house.
The mother came to Global Initiative for Women and Children (GIWAC) to report that her son was missing. We helped her find the boy and she ran to us for his safety due to her husband’s refusal to grant her access to the children after the divorce. The mother was crying profusely and the boy said he had been running errands for a food vendor who would pay him two hundred naira daily. The boy looked so haggard, dirty and the mother was crying profusely.
Eventually we had to look for the boy’s father and also involve Civil Defense to settle the problem between the parents so that the woman would have access to her children because we discovered that the boy didn’t recognize the woman to be his mother.
AFRICA PRIME NEWS: “You must be doing a great job.”
HAJ. BABA: Yes, by God’s grace. There was a child that got missing for a year. His father sent him to live with his grandfather and the grandfather who could not care for him gave him to clergy. The boy narrated his hardship and constant struggle to feed. He had to flee the clergy’s house from Jigawa state and travelled to different states where he would he gathered from begging in the streets before he ended up in Kaduna North.
There he met a food vendor whom he sold stolen ground nut oil to and gets afterwards. He had no place to lay his head and would go to a mosque to spend his nights.
The boy’s appearance and wellbeing became a thing of concern for women in the area because he had no means of taking care of himself. CWAG said he had not had a proper bath in about a year.
The boy was taken to CIWAG and given some immediate help, a good bath and some new clothes to change. CIWAG works with the civil defense to handle cases that require their help. There is a child Desk officer who has been trained to handle children’s cases. The desk took temporary custody of the boy and was able to get in touch with the father.
AFRICA PRIME NEWS: Have you had cases of parents who have subjected their own children to hardship or maltreatment?
HAJ. BABA: I have not had such cases but have had cases of people maltreating their relatives.
There was a lady who asked her mother in law for a house help and was given a 5 year old. The lady subjected the little girl to so much suffering and a lot of chores were saddle on her. She was made to look after the house, wash plates at the auntie’s restaurant and with little food. The little girl was scarred from several beatings and some bite marks from the lady who would beat her mercilessly on claims that the girl was stealing her meat and other little thing.
The authorities had to be involved in the case because of the severity of the situation and the level of dehumanization the girl was subjected to. The lady was put behind bars for her crime and taken to the Magistrate court where she pleaded guilty and asked for forgiveness and was made to write an undertaken that under no circumstance is she to take any child under her care. The little girl’s parents were contacted from Kogi to come for their daughter with evidence that they are her parents.