A Girl on the Street

On a radio program on Wednesday 26 August, a member of the RGPF advised parents to, “Ensure that you supervise your children at all times.”

But it is obvious that this girls’ parents weren’t able to supervise her at all times, or at all. She said she was twelve. She was leaning forward, sitting beneath a wooden table on a sidewalk in Grenville. She was wearing a dirty white dress, her legs spread open, with no underwear on.

Women gather around her with all kinds of questions: What is your name? Where do you live? How long have you been out here? Where is your mother? Why you have on no panty?

Others express their thoughts otherwise: I am a mother, I don’t know where my children go end up. Nobody doh call the police yet? Eh, this girl. All you doh play stupid. This girl doh want help. This girl always running away. Man using her all about the place. She bad too much. People always trying to help her and she doh care. If my Pastor was here, he’d surely pray for this girl. Stewps, you Pastor probably know her and can’t do nothing. She doh hearing. Where’s Social Services?

One woman runs to a nearby store to buy her a pair of underwear. Another comes back with an employee of the Ministry of Social Development, who’s aware of the girl’s case. The girl laughs. “I doh going with those crazy people. Them doh care about me. I going in town. I walking.”

“Come, come, put on this.” Women crowd around her as she puts on the new yellow panty. Others go on their way. A young man comes by, “That girl doh good.” She laughs again. “Thirteen years she have and she getting on so.” She counters, “Thirteen? I doh even reach thirteen yet. Is twelve years ah have.” Witnesses reply, “And where is your mother?” “My mother doh concern about me. She tell me come outta she house and go.”

“What kind ah mother is that?” Some want to know. And then people who know the girl walk by. “A. Girl you again? What you doing here? You doh stopping that stupidness.” To people who don’t know the girl, they say, “Her mother lives just in ——-.” “That girl spoil. She wicked. She doh behaving she self.”

A woman interjects, “What stupidness. If this girl end up on the street and she wicked, is because somebody teach her to be so. If she ha only twelve years and she dey here saying these kinda things, is spoil she spoil. She didn’t spoil she self. Is people what spoil her. Something doh right in that child head for she to be getting on so.”

Stories emerge. She had been on the street since Saturday. It was Monday when all this happened. She has run away countless times – from her mother’s home and from a shelter. She has a case file with Child Protective Services. She’s known all around Grenada. People everywhere know her and about her. People have taken her in and she only causes trouble.

The police know her. She has been in their custody before and put into government care. On this day, she refuses to go to the police, even though she says someone rape her up. Someone from Social Development volunteers to bring her to the police, she refuses.

More stories. Her mother knows she’s out on the street, but she can’t deal with it. She doesn’t know what more to do with that girl.

A group of people selling clothes beckon to her. They talk to her and give her a bag of clothes. An hour later, she is sitting on the sidewalk, leaning on a column in front of the building that houses Social Development. Her legs are spread wide open, showing the yellow panty that was bought for her moments earlier. Child Protection Services along with the police have been alerted. Soon she will be in custody – that is if she doesn’t run away before the authorities show up.

A woman tells her teen daughter, “That’s why I always talking to you. Out here is not a nice place. All kinda things happen to children who don’t listen. Others pass by and add, “Poor ting.” While the girl says, “Nobody doh concern about me. Them people in dey doh concern about me. Me mother doh even concern about me. I doh like them crazy people.” “Is demon she have,” says someone hearing her story. “People give up on that girl already.”

This is just a day in the life of a girl on the street in Grenville. By now, she may be in protective care somewhere. What can we really do about children in such difficult situations, especially when they reject the care that’s offered to them?

As the member of the RGPF suggests, parents should be always aware of their children’s whereabouts and activities. In reality, that is not always the case. So many things escape parents’ watch, things which can destroy children’s childhood, and potentially their adulthood. It takes a village to raise a child.

Our villages, while sound physically, are being broken spiritually, psychologically, morally. Our responsibility to each is great, maybe more than we feel we could handle, hence the beneath-the-surface brokenness in our villages. As much as we’re admonished to not be afraid to talk to all children regardless of who their parents are, there are obviously much in the way of our message reaching where they should, in order to effect change.

It is said that faith without works is dead. Along with our resolute commitment to actively care and support each other, we must go deeper within and renew our faith in our creator who we know have put us here for a reason. Girl on the street in Grenville, obviously, I believe I don’t have what it takes to be the one to steer you in the direction you need to go, considering you think no one can help you.

Maybe the help you need is beyond a bath, a bed, new underwear, the advice of a counselor. So I commit you to the hands of the Most High, trusting he will provide the help you need. Amen and Ashe.

Ama Jaba

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