Salewa has grown weary of the long journey. The road linking Tewure, her village, to the city, is a bad one but the rickety truck conveying her and others made the situation worse. The rear of the vehicle was also mostly occupied by goods and there was barely enough room for comfort as they journeyed. But there was only one way to liberate their families from poverty - to face the uncertainty tomorrow holds, here in the city.
The smoke from the exhaust suddenly became unbearable and the jalopy came to an abrupt stop after a rude jerk. The driver alighted and so did Hajia Bako - the brain behind the journey. It was only then that Salewa and five other girls breathed in fresh air devoid of smoke as they alighted from the rear. The truck had developed a fault and would require a temporary repair needed to get them to the city, at least.
Hajia Bako hovered around the six girls like a mother hen would to her chicks, while the truck was been fixed. The older woman is the custodian of the young girls while on transit. Hajia, as popularly addressed, supplies raw food items and cheap labour to city dwellers who are in need of domestic workers. She knows the very core villages where farmers would queue up begging for her patronage on their harvests. She is a big time customer that would buy a huge percentage of their farm produce at a go and pay in cash immediately, in as much as the farmers do not mind the ridiculous amount she intends to buy from them.
They also feel highly favoured when she agrees to take their children to the city. Reasons being that a certain stipend comes back to the family as long as their girl works in the city with whoever she connects them with. Secondly, leaving the village to the city is likened to moving from grass to grace, the girls themselves become local champions upon their return. They are honoured and highly valued. And lastly, parents of girls working in the city are held in high esteem. They need not be made chiefs before they enjoy some uncommon waivers or access that an ordinary villager would not get, all things being equal. So to them, Hajia Bako - their door of opportunity to the city, is a demi-god!
To the city dwellers on the other hand, Hajia is a woman of valour and great connections. Her business acumen is second to none as she always meets her clients at their points of need. They only need to make their specifications known, then a commitment fee which is half the total fee. And upon her arrival from her travelling spree, delivery will be made and that is, once the full payment is complete, no story!
Away from that, there's always a contractual agreement between Hajia and her clients such that no payment be made to the domestic workers she brings to them. All payment must be made monthly unfailingly to her alone, else....! Then she will in turn pay the families of the said girls in her own time and terms. So to Hajia, her hovering over these girls was rhetoric, the fortune they would bring her is what she was protecting.
"Really, ..that means we can continue" hajia replied the driver-turned-mechanic looking his direction. The repair didn't take as much time as they all expected. The girls especially thought they would have enough time to get rid of their leg cramps due to the uncomfortable position they had been all day. All faces except Salewa's, wore frowns that got their custodian angry. She has the kind of resilience rare in a girl of her age.
"city life await you but your lazy legs choose to glue you to the road, I can see the wrong picks among you....would your family rather wallow in poverty than taste good life...." she threw at them rather harshly in their native language. And before she could continue her rant, the girls were taking their positions at the truck's rear once again. Shortly, the truck roared back to life and the journey continued.
Salewa got lost in thought once again. At age eleven, she has served three different Masters in the city. This would make the fourth. At the age where many of her mates are still tied to their parents' apron strings, she has no choice than to start contributing her quota to her poor family. Her father rings it to her ear like bell that she has a lot of responsibility to take care of, her four siblings and still counting, she being the first child of her own mother. She also has seven half-siblings, they were older but everyone run a parallel program in their little home. Salewa is always up and doing, but her little effort on their farm wasn't just enough to bring the much needed food to their table. Her mother couldn't help much too as she is pregnant with another baby, she always is. For as long as Salewa could remember, her mother is either pregnant or nursing a baby, so there's always a limit to what she could do on farm. Only her immediate sibling could complement her hardwork on farm, but still they are both too young to get any meaningful farm yield. She was excited to go to the city the very first time at age eight. To her dismay, rendering services for money was not any easier than farm work especially in an environment where she was treated like a lesser human being. She always vowed never to go back to the city but the condition at home always seem to have worsened in her absence. After staying a short while, she would show interest in going for a greener pasture once again. This time is not different. She sighed lightly as she came back to reality.
Finally, the sight of tall buildings in the near distance jerked her back to reality. The truck now drove on tarred roads just like the exotic cars that sped past them. The girls woke themselves up that they've arrived in the city.
"Yes,...we will get there shortly, I brought six of them, it's first come first serve" Hajia's phone conversation went on and on. Till the truck stopped rudely once again.
Different expressions appeared on the girls' faces, but who cares. Salewa only took a deep breathe.....a huge one enough to give her courage to face whatever life was going to offer.