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House Help Tales (1): Child Labour Is A Crime, But Northern Minor Girls Are Constant Victims

Twelve years old Habiba Lawal, was still young when she was thrown into slavery. She was handed over to an agent three months after her mother’s death. However, she believes her stepmother influenced the decision.

A week after eavesdropping on her stepmother’s conversation with her father, an agent came to take her from Ajuye village in Nasarawa to Yola, the capital of Adamawa State.

“I was handed over to a woman — a mother of two,” Habiba told WikkiTimes. “I start my work from 5:00 am till 10: 00 pm after they have gone to bed.  I am the last to sleep.”

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“Working with her was a nightmare because any little mishaps will lead to serious beating and hunger strike,” she recalled. “There was a bed but I never sleep on it, I sleep on the floor.”

From Mama to Aunty — Habiba’s bittersweet ordeal

The toxic experience she had in Yola with a woman she simply identified as ‘Mama’ would be effaced with her the nice treatment she got from an Abuja household. Sadly, she had to leave.

Habiba, now 19, told WikkiTimes she worked in several houses. She spent a year and a half in Mama’s house in Yola from where she moved to Abuja and spent three years with the accommodating family.

“I never wanted to leave but I had no choice. Our contract expired and my father came for me,” she said.

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Habiba’s ordeal resumed when she was taken to a woman she would call “Aunty” in Suleja, Niger State. “Aunty was the worst of all,” she said. “Had it been I was taken to her when I was 12, I couldn’t have made it.”

She would later escape from Aunty’s place after six months of excruciating hardship and physical abuse. But going back home again was a wrong decision she wouldn’t have made.

A disappointment?

When Habiba returned to her father, the latter made her homecoming a regret. “I am disappointed in you,” she quoted her father’s words. Habiba scolded herself, even when was not supposed to.

“At first glance, my stepmother slapped me and there I knew I made a mistake but I promised never to go back to Aunty’s house,” she narrated.

Like a nomad, Habiba had to leave her father’s house three months after. This time around, she decided to hunt for a job.

All the time Habiba had suffered from one house to the other, she did not know what her monthly pay was, nor did she know who was receiving the stipends.

For the first time, she started earning N5,000 from Aunty Hafsa who employed her after she left her father’s house.

“I’ve never collected any money for my work,” she said. “I didn’t know when or through which channel it was paid until I started working for Aunty Hafsa in Abuja where I earn N5,000 each monthly.”

According to her, Hafsa was nice and did not show segregation between her (Habiba) and her family. 

Had Habiba gone to school, she would love to become a human rights activist, “so I could fight for vulnerable people like me,” she said.

Sourcing money for marriage

Fatima Hamza was 15 when her mother coerced her to hustle so she could get a befitting matrimonial home setting.

Now 20, she told WikkiTImes her mother said she to have work get things for “my matrimonial home as she doesn’t have enough money to do that for me.” She explained that her father was against it but later succumbed.

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Recounting her experience with a family she worked for In Kaduna, Fatima said: “I was beaten, punished and abused. I almost got raped by my employer’s husband.” This forced her to terminate the one-year contract. She left — unpaid — after spending three weeks with the family.

“This is not the life I want,” Fatima cried. The 20-year-old lady said she left school in primary two and would love to continue her education.

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