The practice of street hawking in Nigeria and other parts of Africa has become a necessity due to factors such as unemployment, poverty, and the need for affordable goods. Despite government efforts to control the practice, it has continued to thrive as a part of the informal economy. This is having a negative impact on children’s physical and emotional well-being, exposing them to abuse, exhaustion, and other dangers.
Johnnywriter recalled “In 2008, the Lagos state government banned child street hawking during school hours to reduce the practice. But since then, addressing child street hawking has not been on the government’s agenda.”
Street hawking has huge implications for children’s physical and emotional well being. It exposes them to sexual abuse , physical exhaustion, vehicle accidents, death and drug and substance abuse and prostitution.
Johnnywriter’s short line experience: After receiving insults from someone who should be my younger sister’s age or less, I felt bad because he didn’t have morals maybe because I was with a carton of gizzards trying to market my products. Normally I go to offices, hotels and bars to market my products but I decides to do something different that night. ” I want to know how it feels to be like these Vendors, like these hawkers” I said to myself . A lady who stood with him had to apologize for the embarrassment, “Is okay my dear ” I put up an impression of acceptance and left. The first time have gone out to see how the world is, was the day my life changed forever.
Johnnywriter decided to experience the world from the perspective of a street vendor, selling his products from a carton instead of his usual routes to offices, hotels, and bars. He wanted to understand the challenges and struggles of those who must sell their wares on the streets to make a living. He encountered insults and difficulties, but also gained a newfound appreciation for the hard work and resilience of these individuals. The experience changed his perspective on life and the world around him.
As Johnnywriter approached a young woman near the Asaba Shopping Mall, he expected to have a pleasant interaction. But instead of a friendly greeting, he was met with insults and accusations. The woman made assumptions about his intentions, suggesting that he was involved in dark magic or nefarious activities. She walked away without giving him a chance to explain, leaving him shocked and saddened by the experience.
As he walked home that night, he began to reflect on the situation.
Getting to 10:59pm, Keke riders were busy looking for customers at the gate of Asaba Shopping mall(shoprite) at Okpanam Road, Asaba. He approached a young Lady in a professional manner but her words was the worst thing he ever heard in a long time, it wasn’t how Johnnywriter perceived her to be because of her appearance “Are you using this garnished gizzard to kill people or is that what baba(juju man) said you should sell and be rich after certain period of time? ” Johnnywriter was shocked, “No madam” He replied, she walked out on him and that night made Johnnywriter realize what the street hawkers /Vendors are/were going through.. He can still recall how he walked home with tears running down his cheeks, not for what I experienced that night but because of the hawkers on the street. “If they can do that to him, a well dressed and outspoken man then what happens to the street hawkers/Vendors” he asked himself.
After the eye-opening experience of street hawking, Johnnywriter decided to explore other aspects of life he had not experienced before. He began spending time with homeless people, hearing their stories and learning about their lives. He spent time with the elderly, listening to their memories and wisdom. He volunteered at a local orphanage, working with the children and learning about their struggles.
Each of these experiences expanded his understanding of the world and opened his eyes to new perspectives. He began to see the challenges and difficulties that people face, and he was inspired to use his writing to make a difference.
The sight of an elderly woman running after a bus to retrieve her money was upsetting for Johnnywriter. The fact that the man beside him did not give her the money before the bus left made him even angrier. He tried to reason with the man, but he simply shrugged it off, claiming it was not a big deal. Some of the passengers agreed with the man, but others remained silent. The lack of respect for the elderly woman’s predicament infuriated Johnnywriter and made him wonder about the state of society.
Johnnywriter said “Poverty is driving a rise in the number of Nigerian child hawkers and if the government cannot help, we should offer help to one another”.
No matter how you want to see it, I believe those are the people you definitely need to offer help to. They offer services to you not begging. They are not beggars, but sellers. They negotiate with you just to serve you not with guns but with pain in their eyes.. They believe in their hardwork, they are the real hustlers.
So, here’s something to consider: why do we treat street hawkers with such disrespect? Why do we mock and insult those who are struggling to survive? Why do we look down on those who sell goods from morning to night, simply to put food on the table for their families?
These are the future leaders of our country. These are the people with PhDs and Master’s degrees. These are the people who could one day change the world. They deserve our respect, not our scorn
We might wonder how anyone could improve their situation from such humble beginnings. But as the saying goes, “nothing lasts forever” and life can be unpredictable. What if one day you wake up to find yourself in their position? What if one of your loved ones becomes a street vendor? How would you want them to be treated? We all deserve to be treated with kindness and respect, no matter what our circumstances may be. Let’s remember to treat everyone with dignity, no matter what they do for a living.