#Imagine Bradford, through the lens of Ash

Ash

Ash Cooper was born in the Bahamas. The son of a croupier, he was brought up in various countries in North America, Europe, the UK and the West Indies. He is an M.A. student at the University of Bradford and the proud father of two grown-up sons. A few years ago I was working as a pawnbroker. We had customers from all walks of life: mostly ordinary working folk, some business people, even the odd teacher and local politician. Some of our customers were down on their luck, of course, borrowing a few pounds on the strength of a little gold ring or bracelet until their next social security cheque arrived. Of this last group, a handful were street workers – prostitutes to you and I.

 Between June 2009 and May 2010 three of my customers were picked up off the streets while working and murdered. Their bodies were dismembered, and at least partly eaten by a man, Stephen Paul Griffiths. The remains of one of the victims were never found, and only parts of the others.

 The serial murder of street workers is a thing that happens in other places to other people. But I had known these women for several years. Not just their names and faces, but to stop and say ‘hello, y’alright?’  to them if I saw one or the other as I walked from the shop to my car. The end of my working day, the beginning of theirs: the two oldest professions in the world.

 For the people of Bradford, the cases brought back traumatic memories of serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, who murdered thirteen women in and around Bradford and Leeds between 1975 and 1980. More recently, in 2006, five prostitutes had been murdered in Ipswich in Suffolk. How was it, people asked, that a generation after the Yorkshire Ripper murders, women were still routinely running the same risks of assault and murder on the streets?

 Nothing has changed for women who work the street since 2010, or indeed since 1975. They still face the same risks of rape, abduction, assault and murder, day after day, night after night.

So if I imagine a Bradford at peace, it is a Bradford where these women were not the victims of a cultural violence which condones and ignores violence by one gender against another. I imagine an England where they were not the victims of a cultural violence that condones and ignores violence against the poor, the marginalised, the unimportant. I imagine a city where these women were not the victims of a structural violence which somehow led them, through poverty, ill luck or unfortunate decisions, to find such a risky way to earn a living, and then kept them there at the bottom of the social pile.

 I imagine a Bradford where no other women will meet the same fate as Susan Rushworth, Shelley Armitage and Suzanne Blamires. RIP.

***

Ash is a coursemate in my African Politics class. He is extremely intelligent in world politics and to think he is not offering that course as a module just beats me. This post definitely gave me the shivers.

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Stripped at midday

Rape

Time-check 1.30 a.m.; the sound of the footsteps I’ve grown accustomed to for over 3 years. The first time I heard it, I thought he wanted me to get something for madam since she was pregnant but it turned out oga needed my back-side. He opens my door and I immediately grab my wrapper above my chest with a sleepy eye, I murmur good morning Sir; with a stern face grabs my hand and says if I utter a word he’ll strangle me, I was totally confused. My mind flashed through the day’s activities, I couldn’t remember breaking oga’s favourite drinking glass; I ironed his shirts well and placed the hanger in the exact position madam instructed me. While I was still lost in thought, he drags me up, switches off the light, with my back against him his hands went for my pants and while I tried to struggle he hits me hard on my face; his right hand grabs my mouth and with his left hand he holds my fragile waist and I feel something enter my anus.
This was the beginning of my nightmare. I couldn’t tell anyone; after all they were my “Messiahs”, my father is late and my mother lives in the village, I’m supposed to be the child living in the “city”. I eventually summoned up courage and told (mama) madam’s mother, she warned me never to mention it again.
This isn’t just another make believe story. This is a true life experience by a house help I’ll call UC. My friend and I sought professional help from an agency handling such cases. Investigations revealed two other relatives of the men were sexually molesting her too. Oh!!! We cried; thought our battle had ended only to hear the charges against the men were dropped; the men said she’s an adult and it was consensual.
My dear UC has been stripped of her panties in the dark but on this day SHE WAS STRIPPED NAKED AT MIDDAY by the lies of these men.
Today is celebrated as the United Nations International Youth Day with the theme “Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward”. The youths are recognised as one of the most mobile social groups in the context of migration. UC is one of such migrants; moved from her village to the city with the hope/promise of a better future. Did I mention, she was neither enrolled in school nor empowered with any skill acquisition all the time she lived with the family.
I have a few questions: –
• Is there no law for such cases i.e. house helps?
• Are we saying those men should be walking the streets free without justice?
• If a young lady above 18 is raped, can the law address it?
• Do we have homes where ladies especially house helps, who have been sexually abused and are above 18 can be rehabilitated?
The house helps are a minority group and they are voiceless. They can’t go on Twitter and tweet #househelpnotsextoy, publish a post on a blog or share a video on YouTube. Plans are underway by the agency to unite her with her family in the village.
These are my fears: –
• What seed are we sowing into the society, if she doesn’t go through some form of rehab?
• What lesson is she taking with her, when the society through the law couldn’t defend her?
• Who do we blame tomorrow, if she becomes a sex-worker?
Let us all remember “The woman is the only source of life to the world, once she’s defiled, everything coming from her is defiled too.”

Help!!! My husband is after our grand – daughter.

Crying woman

Sometime ago a woman who had endured the pain of seeing her husband sexually molest their daughter couldn’t take it anymore, when he made similar attempts on the child (grand-daughter) he fathered with his daughter. This is what my people call Alu (Taboo). Here I was thinking this was new, only to read up a similar situation by a Social Worker in South Africa and I quote him “One of the saddest cases I’ve had to work with was a little girl, who was raped by her grandfather. The horrifying twist is that the man had fathered the child with his daughter, whom he had repeatedly raped as a child”.

Over the past few months, I’ve heard so many cases of sexual abuse on children; from the four year old Indian girl who was raped and eventually died to the recent eleven year old orphaned Nigerian who had a similar experience. The era we live in calls for drastic actions to be taken: to safe guard the rights of children.

African Committee of Experts on the Rights & Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), the treaty body established to monitor the implementation of the African Charter selects a theme annually for the Day of The African Child. In 2012 the theme was “The Rights of Children with Disabilities: The Duty to Protect, Respect, Promote and Fulfil”. With the instances mentioned above and many more led to the theme Eliminating Harmful Social & Cultural Practices Affecting Children: Our Collective Responsibility for this year’s Day of the African Child which is commemorated every year on the 16th of June by member states of the African Union. This has been celebrated since 1991 when it was first initiated by the Organisation of African Unity now known as African Union. On the 16th of June 1976 in Soweto South Africa, young people took to the streets in a march protesting the poor quality of education as well as the right to be taught in their language. More than a hundred people were killed and thousands were wounded. This day has been set aside to honour the young heroes who stood up for their right.

Some of the Practices will be discussed below: –

  • Female Genital Mutilation – This is often referred to as female circumcision. It involves surgical removal of parts or all of the most sensitive female genital organs. It is believed that by mutilating the female’s genital organs, her sexuality will be controlled, but above all it is to ensure a woman’s chastity and virginity before marriage and marital fidelity thereafter.
  • Early and Forced Marriage
  • Son Preference – The issue of producing an heir or di-okpara has sent many women out of their matrimonial homes even when they have female children.
  • Virginity Testing and offering of young virgins to priests and children accused of witchcraft.

The question is, how do we step in to eliminate this evil? I went to buy something and this girl walks in, I wasn’t sure how old she was but she looked like a teenager but she’s on the big side. I’ll call her Alice. The guy selling kept on taunting her; calling her biggy and she kept on saying stop it, you know my name. I stepped in and spoke to the guy , when she left he said she has an eight month old baby and she’s only sixteen, out of school and God knows how damaged her self-image is. I ask, wasn’t someone accountable for that little girl whose innocence has been stolen.  When will a law be passed for men who steal the innocence of little girls? The society turns around to speak ill of ladies not knowing some of them were violated early and couldn’t speak up because of society’s perception. What can we do as individuals?

DAC

I don’t have the magic wand that can right all these wrongs but educating these children goes a long way to expose them to their rights. Every girl-child has the right to go to school and choose a partner; Mutilation violates International Human Rights, every child irrespective of sex is a blessing from God. Let us all join this course; no one really has immunity. It just could be anyone.

The Day of the African Child came into existence after lives were lost during the protest; please let us not wait for another protest to step in. I’m tired of seeing sad and hungry faces representing African Children. We can change that perception; one child at a time. Start the revolution, enough of complains. Africa is a great continent and her children are exceptional; given the right and enabling environment she’ll flourish.

IMG00367-20110205-0822
This picture brings back lots of memories. These are African Children and they are great (Just wondering if I can be spotted out)

 LOADS OF LOVE

JMAD.

What lies beneath?

Apple tree

Looking at that tree, you don’t need a rocket scientist to tell you it’s an apple tree. A friend put up a tweet and I’ll quote him “I judge people by their tweets” and I replied “An apple tree doesn’t produce orange, even if it was grafted, an apple-orange fruit will be produced.

Back in my days in the university, there was this lady I respected so much you know, the type we call Spirit-filled, tongue-blasting, demon exterminator. Yea she was all that but something happened and I lost some form of respect. We had a meeting and there was a disagreement between her and someone and the things she said didn’t go down well with me. I had placed her way above, but in a few minutes all that came crashing down because of her attitude.

We’ve heard so much of the importance of “making a first impression”.  She may have been having a bad day and reacted in that way, but the problem here is, everyone present that day won’t sit around and wait for her explanations. When you’re pushed to the wall, how do you react? There have been countless stories of rape occurring as a result of alcohol and I ask one simple question, who’s to be blamed for the rape: the lady, guy or the alcohol?  Here’s my opinion and like I said MY OPINION (I’ll like to hear yours). I feel alcohol is like a body to enable the thoughts on the inside come alive. Anyone who commits rape and blames it on alcohol is committing another offense of lying. My dear, you’ve nursed the idea ( even if it wasn’t going to be forceful), long before that day.

Guard your heart

The greatest Book of all time has this to say “As a man thinks, so is he” Prov. 23 vs 7, “Guard your heart, for out of it flows the issues of life” Prov. 4 vs 23. I’m going to ask a few questions and it’s for everyone regardless of religion. What’s the content of your heart? Beyond your beautiful/handsome face, what lies beneath? Who are you when your door is closed to the world?

I remember speaking to someone on watching pornography. *Takes a deep breath*. You know, we’ve heard there’s always a good side of everything. Newsflash!!! There’s no good side to porn. You only end up having unattainable expectations from your partner. If you want to stay sane, sever yourself from it.

Gandhi

What do we occupy our minds with daily? When the Israelites were beaten by snakes, God asked Moses to erect a staff, anyone who looked at it received healing. Note the word LOOKED. We can’t take in junk and expect to produce anything different.

Truth is, we may not express all the nasty stuff we have on the inside, but it’ll definitely show up one way or the other. We can only succeed in pretending for a while but we can never be consistent if the root of our old way of doing things is still receiving nutrient from the same soil. You can’t truly change by just saying it or temporarily putting off the little vices. Our change comes from a renewal of our minds. It’s a continuous exercise.

Can we take out time to unveil the contents of our hearts? When something good happens to a friend and we send our congratulations; if our hearts our ripped into two, will it be the same report? Has jealousy eaten you up? No one may know because you are always smiling and you’re always in the picture for every celebration. I learnt something a while ago and I’ll share it with you. You may have a friend who’s got everything going: good job/business, amazing relationship/marriage and all that and somehow whenever you hear another good news a tinge of jealousy wells up on the inside. Here’s what you can do, speak a word of blessing over the person, thank God for the person. This is the secret, whatever you wish someone has a way of coming back to you, and unconsciously you are getting rid of jealousy.

Change your thoughts

There you go. I’m hopeful you’ll start working on the contents of your heart.  May your heart be filled with love till there is an overflow.

LOADS OF LOVE.

JMAD.