Susanna was fifteen when she was taken. Aunty Rosemary had come to the village that Christmas with the promise of a better life for Susanna in the city, education and a chance to become a city girl, she said with a smile on her face that revealed near golden upper front teeth.
Susanna was excited. She had heard stories of girls from her village who went to the city and returned to rebuild their father’s houses and send their siblings to schools. Susanna never imagined she would go to school, she always thought she would end up like her mother, married at eighteen and have plenty children for her husband.
She went with Aunty Rosemary to the big city, the city she had visited several times, but only in her dreams. She knew her life was going to change; she just didn’t know how much.
Life in the big city was nothing like she had imagined. The buildings were different, the systems were different, and the people were different too. It all seemed very strange to her initially, but aunty Rosemary assured her that with time she would fit in just fine.
Life with Aunty Rosemary shocked Susanna. Where she stayed when she arrived was even smaller and more despondent than her home in the village. It was a small bungalow somewhere in Bariga; she had inherited it from her husband after his death several years ago. It was divided into two wings: One side had a popular Buka named after her. And the other side had a small office and two other rooms. Susanna and five other girls shared the smaller room, while aunty Rosemary had the larger room to herself.
Susanna and the other girls worked in the Buka from morning till night, cooking, washing dishes and serving customers all day. Then at night Susanna noticed the other girls hardly slept, they would be called out several times each night, and would return moments later only to be called out again by aunty Rosemary.
Susanna’s first week was rather uneventful; save the disappointing welcome and picture she had imagined of the city. It didn’t take long before she too got called out one night. One of the other girls tried to hold her hand, but she quickly let go as soon as aunty Rosemary’s voice echoed through the walls again.
Susanna entered aunty Rosemary’s room for the first time and envied how large it was, compared to the room she shared with the other girls. There were several small sized beds in the room partitioned into cubicles with thin curtains hanging from the ceiling. As she walked into the room aunty Rosemary ushered her into one of the cubicles and whispered to her “Be a good girl and make him happy,” her brown upper teeth glistened in the room light.
Susanna refused vehemently and eventually another girl was called from the room to attend to the customer in the cubicle.
From that night, Susanna was made to sleep in the Buka and only had one meal a day. Aunty Rosemary would beat her with long metal spoons she used for cooking and assured her she was eventually going to become a ‘good girl’ or she would continue to suffer. When Susanna still refused to give in after a month, aunty Rosemary introduced a new form of torture to bend Susanna to her will. She had two boys hold her down and rape her, while she watched and told her to be quiet. When they were done, she forced a few tablets down her throat and asked the other girls to clean her up.
After two more encounters like that in a space of two weeks, Susanna knew the only way to end the torture was to give in to aunty Rosemary’s desire and be a ‘good girl’.
This fiction story is inspired by similar stories of many women in Nigeria and across Africa, whose lives have been derailed by perpetrators of torture and human trafficking, especially of young girls who are lured by promises of a better future, but are forced and trapped into prostitution or drug trafficking.
As we commemorate the annual United Nations World Day against Trafficking in Persons – 30 July, we at Doing Good Works Nigeria, invite you to speak out against the crime of torture and human trafficking and support victims and survivors throughout the world.