Note from the author:
This is a true story told by way of fiction in order to mask people’s identity and to cover for forgotten details. The language is also different.
Disclaimer: I know it should have said “burnt” instead of “burned,” just in case you wondered.
Someone did care about Djene!
She had silent admirers who thought long and hard for ways to get her out of that nightmare.
You have to understand that in an environment where people are taught to mind their business, it’s often very hard to step in, even in obvious unjust situations.
Now the question remains, could they do enough to actually make a difference?
Well, let me take you back to the night when I last spoke to Djene.
Everyone had a great time playing, running, telling stories, and enjoying the breezy night.
I could tell that we were all happy to see Djene have fun because it rarely ever happened.
But, as I said before, I didn’t get the chance to speak to Djene in detail about her life and why she was with Khadia.
Fast forward to a few days later, something interesting happened.
It was an early afternoon and sunny outside. It was a very relaxing day for me. There was no school that day and I had the house to myself for a few hours. I was sitting in a rocking chair made of bamboo. As I was rocking back and forth, fresh scent from the beautiful flowers in our garden helped to ease up my mind even more.
I was enjoying my early afternoon with some cold fruity juice and all of a sudden, I saw two men walking swiftly and angrily towards Khadia’s house. They were wearing sandals and West African thobes that are commonly worn by men in various parts of West Africa. They did not look like residents in our area and no one seemed to know them. I wasn’t the only one curiously staring at them as they walked. They looked like travelers because they were each carrying a small bag that was held with one hand while it hanged on the back.
They greeted the residents they came across and unexpectantly started talking to Djene who was sitting in front of Khadia’s house washing dishes. Khadia wasn’t home, but Djene was left in charge of taking care of her baby; as usual. After a while, to everyone’s surprise, Djene handed the baby to her neighbor’s ‘maid’ and started walking away with the two men. Her neighbor was Khadia’s closest friends, so she must have trusted her maid enough to leave her the baby.
I wasn’t yet sure what to think when I saw Djene walking with the two strangers. “Does she know them? What’s going on? Where are they taking her? Wait… Are they her family members!?” These are some of the thoughts that gushed through my mind. I was worried, excited, not sure, yet puzzled! I was curious but wasn’t sure what to do or say.
Before they completely left, they stopped and started talking to one of the elders (an old lady) of the neighborhood. I couldn’t hear what was being said, but the lady seemed happy, and best of all, Djene seemed happy! “Is this it!!???” I thought to myself. I could barely contain my excitement. I looked around me and saw other people also staring while having smiles on their faces. Few more people joined the talk with the two strange men. Before I knew it, greetings were exchanged, the neighbors hugged Djene, and Djene and the men continued walking away.
“WHAT!? What just happened!?” I again thought.
I saw people talking around, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying. What I did notice was that they seemed satisfied and happy.
A few hours later, my mother came home. I excitingly told her about what happened and she said, “It’s about time that someone came to get that girl. It could have been some family members who just found out about what she was going through here.”
A moment later, the older lady who first talked to the two strange men came to our house to speak to my mother, but, she didn’t stay for very long. After she left, my mother gave me a summary of what happened that day.
Basically, the two men were distant family members who recently found out about the way Djene was being treated by Khadia. They came from a town very far away from the city we lived in. Djene was supposed to be with Khadia for a period of time to help her with chores around the house and her baby. There were no continuous contacts between Khadia and Djene’s family, so, none of her family members knew what was going on.
It was normal in that society for people to entrust their young girls as helpers or servants to other families, even for years. And it goes without saying, the trust is based on their children being treated like decent human beings, paid for their service, and returned to their families after an agreed period of time or after their service is no longer needed. Sadly, because of the limited line of communication at that time, many of these young girls ended up getting mistreated and taken as … let’s just say it like it is …, slaves.
Getting back to the story, the two men who took Djene away were family members sent to take her back home. Someone who witnessed her mistreatment by Khadia looked for her family for as long and hard as possible and went to inform them.
So, as it turned out, my question was answered; people DID notice!
She wasn’t as alone as I thought.
People DID care!
And, they acted!