LOUD WHISPERS: A Tray Of Locust Beans

The person sitting next to Mabel nudged her. Her name was being called. She hadn’t been listening. Her mind was far away. Many years away.  She had been thinking about the pain. She had often wondered how it was possible for any human being to survive that kind of pain. Then her mind wandered even further back to how she got to be in pain in the first place. A few weeks after her twelfth birthday, she noticed some blood on her panties. Her grandmother, Mama, had told her this would happen one day. She had been told, ‘Soon you will become a woman. You will bleed every month. This means you have to stay away from boys’. She was not told why she had to stay away from boys, and she did not want to ask because she did not want to upset Mama.  She did not know when ‘soon’ would come, so she decided not to worry about it. Then her period came and she had to go and tell Mama. Mama and her older sister Mary, were the only relatives she was close to. The others were in distant places and like strangers.  Mabel and Mary’s parents had died in a car accident, five years before. Mary was sent to live with a relative in Ibadan while Mabel lived with their paternal grandmother in Akure. Mama sold provisions as well as locust beans known locally as ‘Iru’.  In the afternoon after she returned from school, she hawked some of Mama’s locust beans. Then Mama fell ill and could not go to her shop. Mabel had to hawk the Iru for longer hours than she used to.

One day, Mr Felix, the tailor who lived two streets away, called her in to his room to sell him some Iru. He then pinned her down and forced himself on her. He covered her mouth to prevent her from screaming. When he was done, he gave her N200 and warned her not to tell anyone. Mabel was too scared to let anyone know, and besides Mama who was ill and had her own worries, there was no one to tell anything. Mary was not there. Mabel kept hawking her Iru after school, but made sure she did not pass by Mr Felix’s house. Soon, things got very bad for Mama and Mabel. There was no money in the house for them to buy food, and even when they had something to cook, Mabel had to do it because Mama was unable to. Mabel stopped going to school, so that she could look after Mama and sell Iru.  Sina was three years older than her. He was in her school as well and hawked bread  for his mother. He was very  kind to her. He gave her some of his bread to eat, and would lie to his mother that he lost one or two loaves when he tripped and fell with his tray, or a policeman had forcefully taken one from him. She liked being with Sina because he made her laugh and she looked forward to his company. After what Mr Felix had done to her, she now understood what Mama had said about staying away from boys, but she thought to herself, ‘Sina is a good boy. He will never hurt me like Mr Felix’.  When Sina kissed her, she did not push him away, and when he lifted her dress, she did not stop him. It felt  good to be with him. He was her only friend and she did not want to hurt him. That meant he would stop talking to her, and she might even go hungry if he did not give her the bread she had become accustomed to.

A few weeks after she had started going to the abandoned house in their neighborhood with Sina, she was stopped by Mr Jasper, a policeman who always seemed to be in a bad mood. He asked her to follow him, and since she was too afraid to ask where to or why, she obediently went with him. He took her to his house and did the same thing Mr Felix had done. This time, she did not cry. When he allowed her to leave, she turned to him and said, ‘You need to give me N1,000’. ‘Why?’ he asked her. ‘That is what a full tray of Iru costs. I need to explain to Mama where I have been and why I have not sold my Iru.’ He gave her the money. It became a routine. Locust beans. Bread. Sina. Mr Jasper. Then she became pregnant. By now, Mama was feeling better, and was able to move about. Mama wailed and shouted for everyone to hear, ‘Who has impregnated a thirteen year old girl? What kind of monster has done this’? Mama asked her who was responsible, and after a lot of beating and threats, she named Mr Jasper as the culprit. She was silent about Mr Felix and Sina. When Mama went to see Mr Jasper about the matter, predictably, she was threatened with arrest, a beating, and even death. One of their neighbours who was a teacher, Auntie Cecilia, advised Mama to go and see Lawyer Tina who usually helped with cases such as this. Lawyer Tina was a smart, immaculately dressed woman, who drove a shining black car. She spoke English as if she had been speaking it from the day she was born and she spoke so quickly, sometimes Mabel did not understand her. Mabel had never seen any woman like her, not even her teachers in school. Lawyer Tina responded quickly. She took her to the Ministry for Women. They declared that Mama was an ‘incompetent’ guardian. Mabel did not know what ‘incompetent’ meant. The Ministry said she would either have to go and live with another relative, or go to the government rehabilitation center. Mama did not want her sent to relatives far away, so she agreed when Lawyer Tina offered to look after her as a temporary guardian. Mabel liked Lawyer Tina a lot, because she talked to her about a lot of things and answered all her questions without scolding her like Mama. Lawyer Tina had told her that they would wait till after her baby was born, and then do a ‘DNA test’ to determine if Mr Jasper was the father. If he was, he would go to prison. This made Mabel nervous. What if it was not Mr Jasper? She however knew she needed to say something. The longer she waited, the more trouble she would be in. She eventually found the courage to confide in Lawyer Tina. Her reaction shocked her. She expected Lawyer Tina to scream at her and call her a prostitute, useless and wicked, and beat her like Mama had done. Instead, Lawyer Tina burst into tears and hugged her tight. She called her a victim and said that that she had been ‘explooted’.

She had her baby after a lot of pain. That was the pain she was thinking about when she was nudged out of her reverie. She was in labour for many hours, till Lawyer Tina insisted that they perform an operation. ‘You can’t expect a thirteen year old to push a baby out’ she yelled at the Doctors. Lawyer Tina took her case to Mrs Kitara, the Governor’s Wife, who decided to adopt her. She would remain under the guardianship of Lawyer Tina, but all her expenses would be covered by her new benefactor. Her sister Mary was brought back from Ibadan to stay with her in a new apartment that was arranged by Mrs Kitara. Mabel was in awe of Mrs Kitara too, a kind lady who also spoke like Lawyer Tina – plenty of English and very fast. She also smelt very nice. Mabel day dreamed of how, one day, she would be like them.

The applause continued as Mabel stood up and walked towards the stage in the auditorium. The Vice-Chancellor shook her hand and presented her with a special plaque as Best Graduating Student, Faculty of Law. Even though she could not see them, Mabel knew that Lawyer Tina, Mrs Kitara, Mary and her son Emmanuel, were in the audience. Mama was still alive, but too old to make the trip to attend her graduation. Mabel never found out who Emmanuel’s father was. Mr Felix skipped town and Mr Jasper was transferred to a state in the North. She never spoke to Sina again. All this was ten years ago. Now her dream had come true. She was going to be like Lawyer Tina and Mrs Kitara. Knowledgeable, articulate and successful. ‘I am here because of them’, she thought. ‘Young girls are exploited and abused every day. They did not judge me. They gave me opportunities. They saved my life. I will dedicate my life to helping others ‘, she silently promised herself. As she walked back to her seat clutching the plaque, she no longer remembered the pain. Only the hope she had been given.


This story has been written to mark the International Day of the Girl Child, October 11th.


Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com



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12 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS: A Tray Of Locust Beans

  1. Fola Richie-Adewusi October 11, 2016 at 10:53 am

    Hmmm Y.E there are many Mabel’s that you rescued. May God reward you as you continue to give hope to the hopeless!!!

  2. Olakunle Olajide October 11, 2016 at 11:17 am

    This is so touching.. Really emotional. Oh my!! A thirteen year old mother. I wish we have more of lawyer Tina who can encourage and not castigate. Happy international day of the girl child.

  3. Legzycool October 11, 2016 at 11:19 am

    I hope this story would help a girl child out there. I am sharing asap.

  4. Tbams October 12, 2016 at 9:36 am

    Waoh… Wat a beautiful story. Tears clouded my eyes as I got to d ending part of her story. Her dream was fulfilled. God saw her through and she learnt love from people around her. She is indeed a victim and she was also able to scale through, but it’s not all victims like her would be able to scale through such pain and suffering. May God have his way on the younger generation ijn

  5. Bamisebi toluwalope October 12, 2016 at 9:43 am

    There are lots of mable out there. They are victims. And it’s not all of them that are as lucky as mable. She was able to receive love, care, and wasn’t dejected.
    I feel teenagers should be enlightened about menstrual cycle, and sex education. And should also be encouraged to speak out when things that are not right goes wrong with them.All is well ijn

  6. Donald October 12, 2016 at 11:31 am

    Hummmm…. Really moved by this. May the Lord send help and Love to all young girls out there – being victimized. May their silent cries be heard.

  7. OLUWATIMILEHIN October 12, 2016 at 11:56 am

    VICTIM # this is become rampant in this country. Even film producer preaches it. VICTIM Is a movie for all to see . Marble fortunately got a benefactor before things got out of hand unlike the other girl in the movie, which got the girl revenging on any guy that crosses her part. It’s a real pain that I wouldn’t want even an enemy to witness . It is well…

  8. Mercy October 12, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    There are lots of MABELS out there.
    Maybe Mama wasn’t careful enough, would mama even have the time to preach SeXUAL EDUCATION?.. Lucky Marbel, she got help in due time. MAY GOD HELP ALL WOUNDED SOUL AND SEND HELP TO ALL.

  9. DSEED October 12, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    This story is so touching. All our girls or ladies out there who as been a victim also needs someone like lawyer Tina to help them leave out that dreams and not be hooked up by there circumstances.

  10. Olowolafe Olanrewaju October 12, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    @mercy, mama can’t be blame at all. She is just am old person who sells locust beans, what did you expect from such person to know about sex education. The best she can tell her is the advice she have gave. The problem here is the first guy that forced her to bed. if she didn’t experience this she wouldn’t have find her self in a mess.

  11. olaluv October 12, 2016 at 8:26 pm

    The lesson here is to encourage the victims around us as that lawyer did. We don’t need to negelect or point fingers of accusation to them. We help them leave out that dreams and give hope for the future.

  12. lanfem. October 12, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    Better still is good we give our children sex education earlier so that they will know how to prevent themselves when we are to present. But for the children that have fall victim we should encourage them. It is not the end of the world.


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