Dear Mr. Annan:
How are you doing? I trust that life has been good. Mr. Annan, do you remember me? Probably not, but I certainly remember you. It was sometime in 97 or 98, at a very exclusive and nameless restaurant somewhere in Airport residential area, in Accra. You were there with a woman and a boy/ teenager, I assumed they were your family. I knew who you were and was a little star-struck, so I kept peeking. In my peeking, I noticed you constantly staring at me, it was a very small/intimate place. At the time, I thought you were just being a perverted old man, as they all were. Now when I look back, I think maybe that wasn’t the case, considering who you were. Perhaps you kept looking because you recognized the disturbing scene occurring before your own eyes. In a restaurant that no one even knew existed, where there were very few guests who all seemed to know the female (Lebanese?) owner. A place where you wouldn’t be exposed to the horrific and publicly accepted exploitation of children by expatriates. But, there I was, an underage girl sitting in a private restaurant with an old European man. I wonder what was going through your mind Mr. Secretary General? Did you wonder where my parents were? Let me tell you, my father had gone into economic exile, as a lot of Africans did. He was not part of the elite, he saw no hope for himself and his family in Ghana, so he left, a trained engineer, he went to be a taxi driver in the Land of Milk and Honey. My mother, not being able to look after me, and seeing no hope for me in Africa, abandoned me to my father, who arranged for me to join him in exile. I wouldn’t see or speak to her again until I was 13/14. And my extended family? I’m sure you’re aware that in Ghana leaving your children with extended family is consenting for them to be worked as slaves, and abused in all kinds of horrific ways. As for the life I was in, it was no big deal Mr. Annan, I hadn’t been a virgin since 10 years old, my father had made sure of that, and set the standard for me on how I was to be treated. He had given permission for my guardian to kill me should he want to.
Now, as a child, the “white savior” image was firmly implanted in my head, as it was with many other Ghanaian kids. And I believed they would save me from the life of hell I was living with my father and his partner, in this “civilized” country. It was also firmly implanted in me to do the “right” thing. So, I believed I was doing the right thing when I told the authorities what my father had started to do. Do you know what they did? A lot of nothing. Actually (and I didn’t see it at the time), they showed me just how unworthy of protection I was as a little black girl. The Children’s Aid Society (CAS) took me back to the house of horror and left me with my father’s partner, who maintained her relationship with him and visited him. The Police did their part by returning me home to that soulless woman when I went looking for help. The Crown attorney on my case did her part by having my trial stayed, in effect giving my father back his parental rights. Although he had been arrested for something else, and thus couldn’t come near me physically, the stay removed the little legal protection I had. So, with the help of my stepmother, and their Ghanaian friends. They arranged and took me out of the country.
I disappeared, and nothing was done, not a single one of those authorities lifted a finger, I was nothing.
The CAS, whose chief mandate is to protect, did not seek to protect me. Instead, they were focused on getting me to testify in a case trial that was never going to happen. All the human rights laws, all the child protection laws, the convention on the rights of children having been signed and ratified, and still, I had NO RIGHTS.
So I was gone, and a year later CAS closes my case citing “unknown whereabouts”. Today court documents for my trail are no where to be found, as if my case never even happened. That’s how insignificant I was in their eyes, even though I was a citizen of this "civilized" country.
I’m sure you’ve heard all the stories and jokes about African parents who send their “westernized” children home for “misbehaving”. I’m sure you know that this is a common practice. How is it then that no one has questioned the mental impact on those children.
In my case, I was sent back to a life of instability, violence and humiliation as punishment for being a “bad girl”, bounced from one relative to another, adults who simply didn’t know how to love, and saw children as nothing but property and didn’t have the skills or resources to deal/cope with a very troubled preteen in an appropriate way. People who only understood the language of violence and humiliation, when it came to children.
So Mr. Annan, in case you wondered why this girl was not in bed, resting, so she can go to school tomorrow, study, and maybe one day contribute to the improvement of society? I was one of those children who was sent back. Beaten, raped, traumatized by the very people who were supposed to look after me. All before my 11th birthday. What chance did I stand? Going from one society where the institutions designed to help me did nothing, to another society where those institutions did not even exist, kept as prisoner, not allowed to return to the country I had come to see as “home”. It was up to me to find help, and wanting to return to my "home", I had to find people from there to help me. At 12 years old, I started looking for help outside my “familial” network, that search led to street life which lead to my being in that very exclusive restaurant, where you saw me, said nothing, did nothing. At the time I was probably around 15, and had given up on finding help. At only 15, I was already broken. How can I find any value and worth in myself?
You’ve done so much for the rights of so many people, and I admire you for that. I only wish that some of that humanity could have extended to your own homeland, and the vulnerable people there. I was one of many children being exploited by people who had no regard for our lives, because our leaders had no regard for our lives.
Not many people can say that they sat in such close proximity to a UN Secretary General, and considering who you were and who I was, I had to write this letter and I hope it finds you one day.
An Unprotected Child.