BY FATI MUSA MARTE, JUNE 15, 2022 | 02:53 PM
A two month old baby boy to the arm, four-year disabled to the back, Kaltum Mustapha must be reflecting about what the future holds for her each time she finds a quiet moment.
She has six children with a husband who has three more wives.
But where is this man now, this father of many kids, even?
He is back in Baga, his hometown, where he lived with his three wives. That is now normal, given the agenda of resettlement now pushed by the Borno State Government.
Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum, the state governor, has resettled several displaced communities, after over six years of their flight. They were forced to flee their hometowns by a rampaging that was nonstop. Boko Haram was in town and it was a reign of terror. As an immediate consequence, many, such as Kaltum, had had to leave.
In the long-term, her present state is the type of things they must have certainly normalized living with.
Seated beside her already slanted tent, sun rays falling on her face, the lanky woman's next meal lies on the prospects of the success of her sixteen-year old daughter, who had gone out to beg.
In essence, the family is fed from the proceeds of street-begging.
Then come to her ulcer, thanks to insufficient food, her disabled son and the two-month old—which, only when our reporter began to make a sense of, her shirtless boy emerged from nowhere, crying for food!
'We await your sister’s arrival,' our reporter had her say confidently, obviously a ruse to ‘suspend’ him.
Again, where is their father?
The problem the family is facing is ordinarily ‘a father’s responsibility’. In an ideal situation, even where there is a divorce, a father has a duty to look after his children.
Kaltum’s husband has divorced her nine months ago. At the time, she was already seven-month pregnant—a pregnancy he said, according to her, was not his.
In addition to the divorce, he clapped it up with total abdication of his fatherly responsibilities.
The six children, of which he had already dismissed the last as not his, were left to Kaltum’s enterprise, which is begging.
Of course, what would become of an ‘abandoned’ mother who had no any education, displaced and without a job, pressed with the need to look after six of her children, other than street begging?
'My dream was to be a mother for them, a strong one; not to leave them with a begging legacy.
‘Feed, educate and clothe them like other children.
'Not begging, no, not that,' she said, visibly weeping.
What is the fate of the father of these children, should the matter be subjected to an ideal justice system, one might think.
According to Kaltum, even before the divorce, he was not in the habit of taking care of her and her children.
In addition to accusing her of extramarital affair, she factored in the fact that he doesn’t carry out his fatherly responsibilities, to demand a divorce.
He granted it and in her words, ‘faced his forward.’
As the responsibility of catering for the children squarely lies in him, Kaltum went to report her ex-husband to Human Rights Commission through one of its contacts in the camp.
Kaltum learned of the commission and its works through their constant advocacies and awareness campaigns organized in the camp.
'His action were deliberate, he admitted it. He even told me that he rejected my last child because I refused to live with him.
'He has now left the camp with his other wives,’ she said, accusing him of deliberate abdication of his duties.
'Even before our displacement, the situation is the same. But there I have my farm and so food is not a problem.
'He is a very clever man. We both have our farms, after harvest, he would ask me to use mine for the family.
'He would sell out his own portion and would never use the proceeds for our good,’ she added.
They both come from Doron Baga, which has a very fertile soil for farming and water bodies for fishing. There, it was much easier for her to look after her kids, even with the father’s nonchalance.
Here, even her last resort to report him to the authorities, fell short of causing him to carry out his responsibilities.
The order given to him to do what was required is, many months after, yet to be adhered, she said, adding that he had, to cap it all, returned to Doron Baga, with his other wives.
Our reporter could not therefore get his side of the story, as he had left the camp and returned to his hometown.
Kaltum’s story is just one among many in the IDP camp. They are already beginning to accept total abandonment from their husbands as the realities of their lives.
Our reporter thought there is a case of limited access to justice among men and women living in displacement camps, especially those that are uninformed.
This and other things alike, has plunged many women into begging, at best, and prostitution, at worst, to survive with their kids.
A report in 2018 on Care Rapid Gender and GBV has indicated that the conflict has expanded the role and responsibilities of many women from the status of domestic and reproductive worker to the status of head of and main decision-maker of the family.
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18 September 2021