You are walking down one of the London roads. It has been sad. England lost on Wednesdays semi finals. Was best chance to nail the world cup. Anyway. Life must go on. Football is only a sport. We must work and buy, and cook and eat. That is why you have this heavy bag of shopping. It is mid afternoon. As usual, these days, London is littered with so many folks (foreign, immigrants, local, etc); begging for cash. Some have become really demanding. Like this chap who rushes at you, specifically asking for a specific amount of dosh or money.
“Just twenty pence, please. TWENTY!”
Or the young, tall black man, who has mental issues. Now he towers around you like a giraffe munching acacia tree leaves. Or a bobbing 1980s boxer Mike Tyson.
“Please give me a pound. I need a bag of chips. You don’t have? I am so hungry. Please, please, just a pound!”
When you repeat that you don’t have, he glares at you: “Give me fifty pence then. I am starving. I need chips. PLEASE!”
One day a beggar cursed when you said you had finished all your money during shopping.
“I knew you wouldn’t give me anything. You never do, you ARE SO MEAN....”
And it is a soft, quiet insult, declared with a mix of malice, frustration and disdain.
Lately beggars and people with all sorts of mental health problems have mushroomed AND increased across London. According to the Vagrancy Act of 1824 it is still illegal -and against the law- to beg or sleep on streets. But charities stats released early 2018 -pointed to a 169 % increase of the homeless since 2010.
So you are walking down the road with your groceries and see a woman seated by the road side. She is holding a small cup. A toothless pink smile quickly beams towards you. Looking slightly tired and aged, (probably in her 50s) she catches your attention. You put a pound into her cup. She immediately pulls it away, cautiously.
In Swahili we would say “ananyakua mkono.”
“What is the problem?”
She holds the cup in her hand. Cautiously eyeing your fingers and the coin.
Says: “Because. Mens they grab dis. And they run....Bo- Bo- Bo...with all my moneys.”
Say that again please.
Apparently rival male beggars, always watch her from a distance. Each time this woman, (whose name we don’t know) is offered some cash, those lurking, preying eyes from a short distance, take note. They rush over and grab her money container. That is what she was trying to explain in broken English...
You understand. You let her have the pound and as she puts it away somewhere else, she holds the rest of smaller coins to thwart (or avoid) any future fellow begging stealers, if we may coin a new word.
Few days later you meet the same woman outside a cafe.
There are two well dressed younger women- bending, chatting to her.
You eavesdrop slightly and hear....snippets of the conversation.
Her name is Luzy, Suzy or Tizzy. You cannot hear everything. You also learn that Luzy, Suzy or Tizzy....has recently been hospitalised.
The women seem to be from a charity or human rights organisation.
Few minutes later as the two leave, you corner them and confess you would like to chat.
There is something called “data protection” in this country. One cannot release information about another person without approval from the source. Being aware of this you ask if...
No, they say they are not from any organisation. Just curious and keen to help those suffering and malingering on streets. They are both university students.
Soon you learn the story of the begging female.
She lost her children in very harrowing circumstances.
Prior to the children she went through FGM or female genital mutilation. The two female students are not certain whether it was a North African country or the Middle East. She had been married to a husband, a trader who travelled alot. Each time the man went away, the wife would be sealed so she could not have sex. That is the purpose of FGM to stop women from cheating while husbands are away.
There are four types of FGM – the two most common are removal of the clitoris or lips of the sexual organ. The other two are “worse.”
One only leaves a hole to pass urine and monthly period fluid. This causes alot of pain and even death. Early this year Unesco claimed 200 million women have undergone FGM globally. Such women -like Luzy or Suzy or Tizzy- live in agony and are forced to flee to Europe. Mind you, FGM is also practised in rich, developing nations.