Monday 13 November 2023

Better Days

Photo by Binti Malu on Pexels

By Marire Adebanjo

I opened my eyes to see the spirogyra decorated white ceiling of my room. It was not intended to be that way. It was usually just white but rain drops from the leaking roof has prompted this.

It is October and it rains at least four times a week. The ceiling continually gets soaked with rain and drips into the rooms. I usually liked the rainy season because of the cold. I would just curl up under my blanket and remain cosy but now, I dread it. I always have to be conscious of when it rains to make sure I put buckets and bowls to collect the dripping water.

Now I awaken into another morning in this dreadful building I call my house. My parents are in their room and my younger brother is awake next to me. I look over at him to see his worried face. I could tell that he is hungry… but I am not. He is only ten years old. We all didn’t eat last night because there was no food. I had gotten used to this over the years but I don’t blame him if he hasn’t. To be honest, I don’t want him to.

‘Good morning, Becky.’ he said.

‘Morning, my baby. Did you sleep well?’

‘Yes, but I’m hungry.’

‘I know.’ I said, a little angry at our situation. I got up from the flat mattress we slept on, which was akin to directly sleeping on the cemented floor.

At least, we still have garri left in the house. We could eat eba or drink garri. I walked into the living room and sat down on the old damaged couch that has been in our house for over 27 years: bought way before my 16 years old self became a part of this family. 

My family is unfortunate.

At some point in my father’s life, he was stable: slightly below average. There was food at home. We had the basics. We had happiness. As time passed, we suddenly needed to buy food daily. Now, we are in dire circumstances. Sometimes, he begs from his friends or siblings who care to help. His siblings are not doing so well either, but they are not poor. They could afford to take care of their own families but not enough to help others.

I am not the first child. I have an older brother in his early twenties and a two year old sister who sleeps in my parents’ room. My brother moved out after he began his undergraduate studies. I understand why… even though he never said it. Who would want to stay in this nothing place? 

At this time, my mum walked in and I greeted her. We no longer have conversations like we used to. Everyone’s tempers are easily provoked. Poverty does that to you. 

The other day, I was sweeping the living room and my daddy was there. I had not gotten to where he sat but I was about to ask him to move so that I could sweep. Out of nowhere, I got a resounding abara: a hard slap on my back. I looked up in pain, trying to explain myself while silently trying to will the stars away. I got slapped the second time across my face. I burst out in tears. My mum ran out of the room asking what happened.

‘Mavo Odjeri!’, she exclaimed in Urhobo.

Before we knew anything, my dad had hit me some more. I was wailing painfully but what could I do? My Mum managed to calm him down and the beating stopped. I still do not know what I did wrong that day. That kind of incident happens more frequently these days. So, now all we do is speak with one other when necessary to avoid such scenarios.

My mummy went into the kitchen to start preparing eba for us all. There was some okra left from yesterday and a small stew we could eat it with. I began to sweep the living room. After I was done, I ate and prepared to go where I learned to sew clothes. I work there now. I just started working two weeks ago.

My mum had discussed with my oga that I would learn and work for her for a few months to pay back the debt for the learning fee. 

I have managed to have a boyfriend who is way older than I am. He is even older than my brother. He gives me little money: out of which I buy food for myself and sometimes for the house. We are on holiday now and I need to prepare for my final year in secondary school (senior secondary school 3). My plan is to keep my boyfriend for as long as I can, at least so that he can pay my JAMB and WAEC fees.

My parents don’t question where I get my money from. They benefit from it, don’t they? I know this shouldn’t be how to sort this out but I don’t have a choice. Yes, my mother benefited from the community empowerment program by the government. She got a grinding machine but that doesn’t do much for us. So, if I can’t get help from my parents, I have to help myself. My relationship can be viewed as a problematic one but I don’t mind. 

As long as I survive. 


Like Becky, there are young girls who are forced to choose transactional relationships to survive. Poverty erases the dignity of the human soul and while sex work is work, people shouldn’t be forced to choose that because of the circumstances around their lives. At Shades of Us, we believe that children must be protected from the crippling effects of poverty. The government can create social safety nets that ensure families do not face the most debilitating effects of poverty as they work to keep their heads above water. Empowerment programs should empower…and there can be ways to ensure palliatives do not further impoverish families. And parents must protect their children…even in the face of multidimensional poverty. 

Together, we can lift families out of poverty: one family, one individual at a time. 

1 comment:

  1. This is touching. Love how the story captures the point.