The Girl and the Heap

 

Kuchigoro

October 2015

The sun is bearing down on our small group as we make our way through the large, sprawling Kuchigoro community. The heat rises from the ground…and the large garbage heap that we are heading towards. As I turn the corner, I am amazed at how close the pile of rubbish is to some of the homes. A young girl is squatting on the heap. Her two younger siblings, one, a crying toddler, are waiting for her. It is hard to tell if they are boys or girls, both with close cropped hair, clad in shorts and tee shirts equally dirty. A brown dog lazes underneath a nearby tree. When it gets up to stretch, the toddler cries louder and the other sibling frantically calls out to their sister, all the while trying to lift the toddler across a clogged gutter and away from the disinterested dog.

When the girl has finished, she runs down the heap. I speak to her. I ask her name, how old she is and why she isn’t at school. She replies, in English, eyeing the camera hanging around my neck.

“Where are your parents?” I ask. If I’m to interview her, I need to obtain permission.

“My mother went out to sell groundnut,” the girl replies. “And your father?” I ask. The girl shrugs. “Who is at home?” I venture. Just then, a gaggle of schoolchildren rushes up the heap. Schools have closed. It appears that the children make a detour to play in the garbage. The girl I have been speaking to seems prepared to go back up the heap but her siblings are not being cooperative. She picks up the toddler. “I will take him home to my grandmother’s house!”

“Wait!” I call out. “If I take your picture, I have to talk to your grandmother,” I tell her. I hurry off to fetch our translator and extra consent forms. I’ve hardly turned the corner when our guide calls my name. I turn around. The girl’s uncle approaches us from the direction of their home. He is on his way out.

“Does it have to be her?” he asks me when I tell him I would like an interview with his niece. “She doesn’t speak good English,” he adds. “Her English is good enough,” I tell him. The man nods. He helps me fill the form and signs.

The girl is nervous but I can tell from the look on her face that she really wants to be interviewed, to have her photo taken. I smile at her. In a sudden display of tenderness, her uncle tells not to worry. “You will go London,” he adds. The children who have gathered to watch the proceedings yell a loud “Amen!” The girl grins. We begin our interview.

By Michaela Moye

I wrote this story during my  time at MIND (Media, Information & Narrative Development). During this particular field work, I was wearing two hats – one, as a trainee under the WATCH Media Training in Story-based, Gender-sensitive and Non-Adversary Reporting, and two, as the communications consultant, conducting interviews in Abuja communities. The featured image is a still from footage shot by Kassim Braimah.  The Girl’s face and upper body have been blurred to protect her privacy. 

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