Stolen Childhood

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'Either you have to marry or be a street hawker. The choice is yours.' My father gave me only 2 options when I was sever years old. I choose hawking and the series of events that happened in my years of being a hawker still haunts me to this day. I made friends who would eventually die in an accident when chasing a bus or a vehicle to sell their things. It was where I learnt that the life of a hawker is not a life that anyone should live.
Street hawkers and vendors- Stolen Childhood- The Uncharted Minds
The number of child street hawkers is on the rise in Nigeria. Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye

We hawk not for the fun of it but because we were left without an option.

Life as a hawker in Bauchi was very tough.

I could still remember how we went about in twos hawking of one commodity to another, we were not known for hawking a particular commodity, we are known for hawking what is consumable at every seasons and time. It’s not a life anyone should live.

I lived it years ago and could still tell exactly how it hurts; the memory of it and the hellish experiences we had to bear running from one car to another in the middle of a busy road and the scorching sunburn your ebony skin. Hawking is not a life, it’s like being dead-alive because you risk your life to stay alive. I lived that life.

I was seven when I was subjected to modern-day slavery called hawking when Baba na (my father) woke me up in the middle of the night and said, ‘As the man of this house and as your Baba (father) I have decided to give you two options to life, you have to choose between marriage and hawking.’ He went further to say that I have till tomorrow morning to think about it.

My eyes were wildly open all through the night thinking which to pick in the no option options that my father laid down. I finally picked hawking not because it is a better option but even if I had chosen marriage, Baba na would still have subjected my sister to this life of no life.

The following day my life as a hawker began, I started with selling ruwa (sachet water). My first day on the highway with the basket on my head; I met Halima, the most beautiful and selfless girl I have ever met.

She had always wanted to be a lawyer but the death of her mother subjected her to this life of no life. We always imagined having a better life together, where she reads law and I; a business consultant.

She made the adventure of hawking a great experience for me. She looked out for me like a sister and caution me not to follow any customer to any secret corner to collect my money or give them change.

She told me to always watch out because hawkers die on this road every day.

Baba na never told me that there’s more to his options, I got to know when it rained and I could not finish selling the water given to me for that day, my father flogged me and said it’s either a total sells or rod on the back.

The survival of the fittest became more challenging, we run on the highways like those running for tournaments. We were subjected to a life of race without medals.

We run in the sun! We run in the rain! In strength or weaknesses, we run!!!

Running was a lifestyle for us. The street drank our blood. We lose hawkers every day like we lose nothing, death became something that never wearies the heart, the accidents were now normal to us.

So, the day I finally made up my mind to quit Hawking was at Winti dada. We were having our normal race, pursing a bus carrying passengers, when a car hit Halima. I watched as she went down. Her basket fell hard to the ground and every sachet water burst open and poured out on the ground. I saw how hawkers gathered round her calling her to stay with us. She lifted her hand beckoning on me to come closer. I pushed further and knelt close telling her to stay put while we look for means to get her to the hospital but she pulled me close and whispered into my ear, ‘Live your dream and mine’.

I watched her take the last blood in my hands. I cried not just for a friend but for the fact that we died the day we started hawking.

I took a great look at Halima, a girl of so much worth was lying lifeless like a weed.

I took my bucket and left not to the house but to live for Halima and myself.

I left Bauchi to Jos that night with the money I made from my sells and the money Halima put into my hands as she altar her last words.

Life in Jos wasn’t funny but was better than hawking, I slept in the front of a church until morning when the clergy asked me what I was looking for and I narrated my ordeals to him, and he promised to help me which he did by connecting me to Mama Faruk who sells food.

I started as a sales girl and she made life a living hell; she gave me food once a day and made sure I work the little I ate out. She accused me of theft and call me names at any given opportunity, but to me, it was still better than the life of no life called hawking.

There I met Mrs Olubumi who was running an NGO that deals with girls education. She enrolled me and I made sure I did my best to secure a scholarship to study in one of the best University. While filling my JAMB form as to the course to study at the university I chose law, because I must live for Hamila.

I am finally done with law school and called to the bar and I am now in National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) studying Business Administration.

I found my way back home after 10 years of finding myself, only to discover that Baba na was dead.

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Richa Sinha
Richa Sinha
3 years ago

Is this a true story or just a fiction?
If it is a true story then, boy, we have to start thinking about the kids who have to do this…Truly devastating to find out about this

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Srinivas Moghekar

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