NIGERIA: Carnival Calabar Queen, beyond the glitz and glamour

Calabar Carnival Queen HER mum slipped away into eternity when she was a little child. She was raped by her dad at the age of 14, who had since remarried. Her stepmother is hardly in the picture. She sought succour at The Refuge, a shelter founded by Her Excellency Obioma Liyel- Imoke, Wife of the Cross River State Governor. Through Mother’s Against  Child Abandonment, MACA, another of Imoke’s initiatives, she went back to school under their sponsorship and hopes to be a lecturer in the near future.

She is a 13 year old orphan who thought she was in love with a 20 year old brick layer. She got pregnant and was thrown out by her uncle.. She is being cared for at The Refuge. While she says she’s in love and consented to being in an amorous relationship with this man, the man in question could be charged for statutory rape.

Sometimes in addition to poverty, teenage pregnancies do emanate  from cultural issues. Granted, MACA provides succour to some of the young girls affected, but, the real challenge for MACA may be getting society to change their mindsets on certain cultural issues that may encourage this act. In addition to this, they would have the arduous task of dealing with occultism and incest, which are also socio cultural issues.

A case in point is the pathetic story of Mary Akpan (not her real name), who was housed at The Refuge a while back. She would have been stoned perhaps to death by some irate members of her village as her pregnancy was considered a taboo.

It was an affront to a supposed impeccable image of the village – an outright sacrilege. The man with whom she shared her moments of secret passion and pleasure, which almost turned lethal, had slipped into oblivion. Obviously, this harsh judgement had eluded him.

Underneath the glitz and glamour, this what the CCQ queen is saddled with, the unglamorous task of preaching abstinence to young ladies, some of whom already have contrary mindsets. The ladies  have no form of livelihood and sell their bodies for paltry naira notes that are fast depreciating to the US dollar; some of them try and earn a living by hawking fruit and other commodities under harsh weather conditions. They end up being lured into the beds of not very affluent and morally decadent  men who rob them of their dignity.

There still is the issue of how to effectively deal with the babies born under the earlier mentioned circumstances – rape, incest, statutory rape etc. Almost 100 babies born at The Refuge are being fostered in warm and loving environments.

MACA works closely with the Ministry of Social Welfare to ensure that the incessant cases of abandoned babies can be reduced to its barest minimum.

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