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FIrst toilsOne stormy Monday afternoon in the village of Zareet, there was a rich merchant known as Abed. He was waiting impatiently for his merchandise to arrive so he could stock his shop. His was an assortment of everything from porcelain, rugs, glassware to eggs. He paced back and forth in the safety of his warm veranda wondering why the merchandise was late. Meanwhile Yego, the delivery boy, was busy working hard to dig out his donkey-cart from a muddy ditch and his two donkeys were not being team players at all. As Yego struggled to dig through the slippery stubborn mud, the rain seemed to fall faster and harder. Sadly, there was no help in sight as everyone was warm and cozy indoors. Yego simply could not give up as he knew that Abed was furious because of the long wait. You see, Abed had a temper, a temper so vile that the residents of Zareet believed he was not really human. How could one man hold so much anger, they wondered?

Finally, Yego managed to free the wheels of his cart and motivate his donkeys to start moving. As they moved, Yego could not help but ponder about his current situation;

How he longed to play, dream and attend school like other twelve year-old children. Sadly, he had been orphaned at the age of three and left in the care of Bidan, his uncle, who was a trader. By the time Yego was six years-old, he had already joined his uncle’s work force.

“You need to earn your space in my home!” Bidan would yell “and since you want to attend school so much, you need to earn your own fees too!”

Years went by as Yego toiled for long days on end in a bid to sustain his life and try and raise his own school fees. However, Bidan would always keep all his profits and use them to sustain his luxurious lifestyle while Yego was busy working as hard as his uneducated and malnourished twelve year-old hardened bones would allow.

By the time Yego arrived at Abed’s shop, the rain had already ceased leaving behind a light drizzle and huge puddles in the slippery mud. A festival of termites, mosquitoes and other bugs were also dancing around the Zareet Shopping Centre. Yego had barely managed to dismount his cart when a furious Abed started yelling at the top of his voice like a possessed man. He then generously introduced Yego’s face to his powerful fist! Abed did not care that Yego was just a child trying so hard to make ends meet, or that the storm had caused him to be slightly late.

After a few minutes, calm returned to Yego’s world, he picked himself up from the mud and despite his stinging face, he swiftly started off-loading Abed’s goods from his cart into the shop. All the while, Abed stood there watching and taking stock to ensure that nothing was missing. Luckily, Yego was a diligent and honest worker and everything was there and in one piece. As soon as he had finished off-loading the goods, he bade Abed goodbye. As usual, Abed responded, “ I will send the payment to Bidan in a few days.”

That evening, Yego got home extremely tired yet he still had to clean the cart and feed the livestock. He later went into the kitchen where he joined Zaytun-the house yaya. Zaytun always put aside some ugali skuma for Yego. This was Yego’s life; after working all day, the highlight of his day was catching up with Zaytun about the day’s events. Months went by and business continued as usual. Yego’s counting and negotiating skills improved by the day.

One bright Wednesday morning, as Abed was double-checking the goods Yego had delivered, a Range Rover pulled up outside the shop. Abed quickly pushed aside the stock-tally to tend to this client who was obviously not from Zareet Village. An elegantly-dressed lady and a smart gentleman alighted and walked into the shop. As they were purchasing some items, Yego went about arranging the remaining goods on the verandah for Abed to continue with his stock-tally later. On noticing him, the lady walked out of the shop to the veranda and started questioning him. She asked Yego what his full name was, where he was from, who his parents were, why he was working on a school day instead of attending school. The questions were endless but Yego answered all of them as honestly as he could.

She then walked back into the shop and introduced herself to Abed, “My name is Miss Baraka and I am a human rights lawyer specifically working with children,” she started.  The gentleman‘s name was Mr. Idris, a government inspector. At this point, Abed’s facial expression changed. He knew only too well that he was in a lot of trouble for having supported child-labour as well as having physically abused Yego countless times. Miss Baraka continued, ”It is very sad that you have all taken advantage of Yego like this. It is even worse that the entire village stood by and watched this injustice on a child silently.” Miss Baraka refused to buy anything from Abed’s shop and went ahead to report Abed.toils b

They then drove off to meet Bidan who was later arrested and charged for neglecting a child in his care. Miss Baraka helped Yego acquire a full scholarship which paved the way for him to study, graduate and eventually run his own successful company. He also positively used his experience and education to start a foundation championing the rights of children abused by unscrupulous guardians.

Words by Christine Nderitu. Illustrations by Ian Arunga

First published in BINGWA Magazine Issue 13 2014