- Joel Gunter
- BBC Africa came
Last month, BBC Africa Eye uncovered an illegal market for the sale and purchase of children in Kenya’s capital Nairobi. After this news came to light, the police arrested seven people on charges of smuggling. But apart from the smugglers, there are mothers of children on the other side in such illegal purchase sale, what is their status? What are the reasons where a mother agrees to sell her baby for just £ 70?
Adama says that life was easy when he had parents. Though there was less money, there was not much option, but things were somewhat organized. She went to school, there was no problem of eating and drinking. Worries were low. When Adama was 12 years old, his father passed away and his mother remained no more than a few years later.
“Life became very difficult after that. I had to leave school and arrange for Gujar Basar,” says Adama from his village in the western countryside of Kenya.
At the age of 22, Adama met a man and became pregnant. Adama gave birth to a daughter, but only three days later the child’s father died.
Adama brought up the girl in some way. But after 18 months, both of them needed income to live. Adama left her child to her old grandmother and reached Nairobi in search of work.
Her elderly grandmother then told Adama, “Take care that you are going in search of work for your child’s life.”
Looking for work
Adama started selling watermelons on the streets after reaching Nairobi, but it was not earning much. She used to steal whatever money she brought home with her. Life challenges were far greater in the city. Adama has a bruise on his forehead that was applied during self-defense. Regarding this mark, Adama said, “Some people were flirting, when the matter went beyond the limits, I had to confront them for self-defense.”
After this, Adama started working at a construction site, where she did not get any wages. After this she reached the nightclub. Adama requested the boss to send her directly to Nani in Pagar village. After a few days, she started keeping some money with her so that she could rent a house to live. A few days later, with a slightly better salary, Adama got a job at another construction site, where he met a man. Both started dating each other. After a few days, the man told Adama about the child’s desire.
Adama placed a condition in front of the person and said that if he brought his daughter from the village to take him along, then both of them can also do their child. That person agreed to it. For five months after Adama became pregnant, the man paid the rent and bills of the house, bringing food and food to the house. Adama was waiting for the right time to bring his daughter to the city and one day that person disappeared and did not return.
When there is no place to eat for yourself, in such a situation, the worry of giving birth to a child, many women can feel it. However, in such a situation one should hardly think of selling his child to unknown person. But for some mothers facing extreme poverty in Kenya, selling your child to smugglers is one of the few options to save survival.
Buying and selling of children for a small amount
Smugglers pay a nominal amount in exchange for these children. Sara was just 17 when she became pregnant for the second time. He did not have the means to nourish the child. He sold his child to a woman who offered 3000 Kenyan shillings i.e. less than 2000 rupees.
Sara told, “At that time I was very young, I did not feel that I was doing wrong. After five years I started to feel hurt. I wanted to return the woman her money.”
Many women who sell their children for such money know all about it. He told, “Many girls sell their child due to difficult challenges. Maybe she is tortured by her mother and has nothing or she is still in school while pregnant. 15 or 16 years old Girls have a lot of problems. There is no one to support, so these girls lose their child and much more. “
Kenya is one of the countries where the maximum cases of getting pregnant in Teenage are seen in Africa. According to health experts, the situation has worsened during the Corona epidemic, because women have been forced to become sex workers for a living, and the closure of the school system has also affected girls.
Prudence Mutiso, a human rights lawyer in Kenya, is an expert on child protection and reproductive rights. He told, “I have heard many stories of such situations of women and young women. Young women come to cities in search of work, then come into relationship with men, get pregnant and then the father of the child disappears.”
Corona exacerbates the problem
According to Prudence Mutiso, “If the child is not the father for the system of living, then these women and women have to find avenues for income. In search of these paths, they start bargaining their child. Money is also required from them, so that they can feed themselves and their first child. People do not accept it in the open, but it is happening. “
Adama hid her pregnancy at the construction site until her inability to lift the cement sack began. After this, they did not have work, but the rent had to be paid every month. For three months, the landlady showed softness but after that Adama was thrown out of the house. Adama, who is eight months pregnant, would reach there only to sleep at night and would leave from there in the morning. Adama recalls, “When the day was good, food was available. Otherwise I would sleep only by drinking water and praying.”
Like Adama in Kenya, women trapped in difficulties reach smugglers for many reasons. In Kenya, it is illegal to have an abortion unless there is a danger to the child or is necessary to save the mother’s life. Because of this, only without recognized dangerous options exist. Apart from this, there is a great lack of awareness in the rural areas of Kenya about sexual health and reproductive health issues. There is less awareness about the process of child adoption in a legal manner.
Kenya Convener of Charette Health Poverty Action, Ibrahim Ali said, “There is no government support program for women and young women after unintended pregnancy. Such women are considered stigmatized. They are tortured in rural areas. They definitely get out of there and reach the cities, but they get caught in the difficult challenges there. “
Expectation or smuggling trap
Adama did not know what options are available to him to leave the child safe or there is no information about the process of adopting the child. He told, “I have no idea about this. I had never heard of it.” At first, Adama had thought about illegally getting an abortion but this idea did not stand in front of his faith and after that the idea of committing suicide also came up.
Adama said, “I was very stressed. I started thinking how to commit suicide so that people forget me.” But a few weeks before the birth of the child, someone made Adama meet Mary Euma. Euma asks Adama to give up the idea of having an abortion or committing suicide. Euma illegally operates a street clinic in Nairobi’s slum Kayole. He gave 100 shillings to Adama and asked him to come to the clinic on the scheduled day.
Mary Euma’s clinic is not really a clinic. It is a two-room arrangement behind a shop in Kayole Street, in which old empty containers or bottles of medicines are kept. After this, women give birth to children in the room. Euma sits here with her helpers and does the selling of children for little profit, they do not care about who and why the child is buying.
Euma told Adama that the loving husband who bought the child is a wife who cannot bear her child and they are waiting for the child for a long time. But in reality, Euma sold the child to the person in the street who brought the right price.
Euma tells pregnant women that she was a nurse but does not have any medical equipment, nor does she have any expertise, nor is there any information on cleanliness to be maintained during the birth of children. Adama recalls, “Her place was very dirty, she was using a small container for blood, there was no basin. Even the beds were not clean. But I had no other option. I was desperate. “
BBC Undercover Reporter
When Adama reached the clinic, Mary Euma gave him two pills to eat without warning. It was a painkiller. Mary Euma had a line of buyers and was also a little anxious about it. But when Adama gave birth to the child, there were some problems in his chest and he needed immediate care, so Euma asked Adama to take the child to the hospital.
A week later, Adama walked out of the hospital with a healthy baby. The landlady, who drove Adama out of the house, agreed to keep Adama again. She also started taking care of Adama’s child. Shortly after this, Adama again reached Mary Euma. Euma again gave 100 shillings to Adama and asked him to come to the clinic the next day.
Euma sent a text message to the buyer of the child, “New package has been born.” Sent another message, “45000k”
Mary Euma was not giving any 45 thousand shillings i.e. 300 pounds (about thirty thousand rupees) to Adama. She was asking for this amount from the buyer. He offered to pay Adama a third i.e. 70 pounds (less than seven thousand rupees). Mary Euma did not know that the buyer of the child was an undercover reporter working on a BBC series that would investigate the issue of child trafficking throughout the year.
When Adama arrived at the caretaker clinic the next day, she sat in the back room and started waving her baby in her arms. At the same time, in the secret conversation, the alleged buyer told Adama about other options and Adama changed his decision. She went out of the clinic adopting her child and took him to the Government Children’s Home. As long as no one adopts that child, they will be taken care of there.
The BBC tried to get Mary Euma to react to the allegations in this story, but she refused to respond.
Shoe shop dream
Adama is now 29 years old. She is now living in the same village where her childhood was spent. Still many nights they have to sleep hungry, life remains difficult even today. Adama does get occasional work at a nearby hotel, but that is not enough. She tries not to have drinks. Adama wants to open a shoe shop in his village where he can bring and sell shoes from Nairobi.
But it is not so easy. Adama has no contact with his son, but he has no regrets. He told, “I was not happy to sell my child. I did not even want to touch that money. But there was no money in leaving it, then I felt fine.”
However, Adama is well aware of the area around the Children’s Home. This Children’s Home is near the same house where she was evacuated during pregnancy, shortly before the birth of the child. Adama said, “I know that the area is safe and the people who take care of it are also good”.
(Njeri Mwangi reports together for this report, pictures taken by Tony Omondi for BBC)