The forgotten children: Part 3

The forgotten children: Part 3

MASERU – “TAKE this vagabond lelinyane (offspring) of yours and get out of my house,” Khahliso recalls the hurting words of her mother, angrily referring to her granddaughter as a young animal and a hobo.
Khahliso, 22, is a mother of a two-year-old girl whom she is raising in an abandoned government house that does not have doors or windows along Mpilo Boulevard in Maseru.
The house has become home to a group of sex workers who are often high on drugs.

The young woman, like many sex workers living in the house, is HIV positive and on antiretroviral treatment.
Khahliso does not forget her mother’s piercing words.
“She told me that among her three children I am the only one with HIV infection because of my rebellious behaviour,” Khahliso told thepost.
Instead of taking the baby with her, Khahliso left her parents’ home to continue her sex work in the streets of Maseru, where she ended up living in the abandoned house belonging to the Cabinet, a government ministry directly under the Prime Minister’s office.

She says she would sometimes send money to her mother to look after the baby when she had had enough, but she admits that it has been a while without sending any money to support her mother and baby.
Just last week, Khahliso’s mother came and left the little girl at the door, telling Khahliso that she could not look after her baby anymore.
“Each woman has to look after her own children,” Khahliso recalls her mother saying.

Oblivious to the crisis, the little girl was jovial and was playing when thepost visited the house over the weekend and happily calling our photographer “daddy”.
Khahliso, however, did not become a sex worker because of her sour relationship with her mother. Rather, she says she was lured into the trade years ago when she was still in primary school well before she reached puberty.

“We were happily living together with my mother despite that she has anger issues,” Khahliso says, revealing that she has two siblings.
They lived in Upper Thamae, about six kilometres from where she is now living, and she does not remember when they left their original home in Roma, Sefapanong Ha-Motebele, because she was still too young.
Her mother has been a street vendor in Maseru from as far as she can remember “and that’s where I grew up and made friends”.
Khahliso says she would come to town to watch street singers and dodge school while her mother was busy selling goods in the streets, unaware that her daughter was in the streets too.

This, she says, happened too many times that she ended up hanging around in bars with friends until late at night.
That was when she associated with the wrong group of people who introduced her to Maseru’s night life.
When she was in Standard Six, Khahliso quit school and, instead of helping her mother sell goods in the streets, she set about perambulating the streets aimlessly and spending nights in bars with a bunch of homeless children. This was despite that she had a home to go to.
Khahliso was also into drugs, which made it difficult for her to live in the house with her mother.

“In the end my mother told me that it was pointless to continue sending me to school,” she says.
With time, she met a homeless young man whose daily routine is to help motorists park their cars on the road sides for payment during the day. He would guard street vendors’ wares at night.
Khahliso fell pregnant and two years ago she almost gave birth in the street but the shack owner intervened after being made aware of her situation.
“He took me with his car to Tšepong (Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital) where I gave birth to this child,” she says, adding that her boyfriend was supportive during that time of need.

She says the boyfriend was unaware that she was a sex worker and she would lie to him that she survived on begging from people of goodwill.
However, the boyfriend discovered that she was a sex worker and dumped her and the baby.
Khahliso says when she was discharged from hospital, she went straight home where she shocked her mother with the baby. Her mother took her in, but it was a life of being constantly insulted.
“I was living under a hail of embarrassing insults from my mother,” she said.

Her boyfriend would always claim he was broke each time she went to him asking for money to support their daughter.
“Sometimes he would give me M10 in coins,” she says.
Unable to look after the baby on her own, Khahliso decided to go back to sex work.
At the time the baby was in the safe hands of Khahliso’s mother, until recently.
Now the baby has to endure nights without her motherly care as Khahliso seeks money on the streets.

“I leave her with Nteboheleng (a sex worker who no longer goes to the streets due to health problems) at night,” she says, adding that she fears what would happen to the child if rapists pounce at the house.
Cabinet says it is planning to tear down the house and is calling on the police to drive out Khahliso and other illegal occupants.
Khahliso says because of the rebellious behaviour she displayed, she is now afraid to go to her mother to ask for forgiveness.
“I long to go back home to my mother, if she can welcome me back,” she says.
“But I am afraid.”

Caswell Tlali & Khotsofalang Koloi

Previous Dream of ending poverty fades
Next Gaddafi’s Libya (and mine): Part Nine

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