At first, it took a little bit of time for me to really focus on the heap of clothes tucked away alongside the walls of a nightclub on Broad Street. At least that’s what I thought it was, trash; until one day I walked closer and I saw her, Tutu-Girl, huddled in the corner.
I realized that she never faced anyone. She likes holding her head between her legs, most often to avoid stares and “his voice” that she keeps “hearing in my head.”
“What is wrong Tutu-Girl” I’d always ask her before giving her something to eat. She normally replied with, “I don’t want to talk,” and “I would accept it.”
Though this went on for months, I’d bend down with her on occasions and tell her that I was there for her. This continued until one day she lifted the rag that she loves to cover her face with. I saw it, right then – the story behind her pain when her face was completely unveiled.
In 2013, many newspapers began publishing a picture of a woman who had an infant. Though I am not sure of the various headlines, the story was all the same. It’s alleged that Tutu-Girl was evicted from her living quarters and found herself on the streets. Unfortunately, the papers reported that her 8 year old son was not around when it happened. Tutu-Girl claimed he was spending time at the time, and that she would continue to sit on Broad Street until he comes looking for her.
This went on for weeks and in between her stay on the streets, those who had read her story began dropping things for her and her baby. Tutu-Girl would never take the handouts. They were just placed on the ground beside her.
Blankly she would stare at the passing cars while her infant slept in her arms. When onlookers would try to talk to her, she would only nod her head. And then one day, mother and child disappeared without a trace. Ebola came, ravished and destroyed homes, but still no sign of the pair. It was later rumored that Tutu-Girl found her son, but there was no proof.
However, immediately after Ebola, a woman whom many tagged as being mentally disabled and homeless began sleeping around where Tutu-Girl and her infant child once slept. No matter how people tried to talk to her, she would never uncover her face. No one as yet had a clue that this woman was the talk of every newspaper in 2013.
Sometimes drug addicts sleeping close by would inform this paper that Tutu-Girl slept with them in an abandoned building; and one night, I spotted her creeping into the abandoned building.
I wanted to know more about Tutu-Girl, and have been following her since.
“Tutu-Girl, where is your baby?” I asked in curiosity.
“Since one woman took her, I’m still waiting for her to bring her back,” she told me.
What about your son, who they said you can’t find?” I added.
“I keep hearing his voice in my head but I can’t see him,” she answered.
Whether Tutu-Girl’s claims are true or not, there have been reports all over Monrovia about mentally disabled or homeless women on the streets giving birth to babies who are whisked away by those who happened to be around when they go into labor. Madea, a mentally disabled woman who we covered in this column, gave birth to a baby on the street and afterwards a neighbor took the baby and has had him since. This is the third time someone has taken Madea’s child, and presently she looks forward to rehabilitation in order to be able to get her children back.
In another instance, a woman who walks along the roads in the Congo Town community was pregnant and at the end of her pregnancy, she was spotted walking around without the baby. Community members rumored that the baby was taken by people after the mother went into labor.
Unable to express any fear or concern, these women have had their babies taken away without a second thought by those who think that it is in the best interest of the child to do so.
For Tutu-Girl, it has affected her, and she has made it clear that she wants her baby back, saying with a smile: “I don’t know why they can’t bring my baby back. She’s a big woman now.”