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Life on the Edge: Scent of the Streets
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Life on the Edge: Scent of the Streets
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Nigeria has had some success in getting more women into government and business. But what about those in the crowded and often violent slums of Lagos? Meet three girls from one of the city's poorest and toughest neighborhoods, all looking for their chance to escape.
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Segment 1

TITLE
Bisayo (Age 25), Onyinye (Age 18), Gift (Age 22)
VOICEOVER
Bisayo, Onyinye, and Gift are "area girls" in Lagos, Nigeria. Area boys, well they play rough and dirty, though some do make it good. But what is an area girl? Something cool, or just a girl without a job? And in a difficult world can they "make it good" too? There’s evidence everywhere if you know where to look.
TITLE
Scent of the Street
VOICEOVER
In the commercial capital of oil-rich Nigeria, Ajegunle is one of the poorest and toughest neighbourhoods; like many big city slums still struggling to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Neighborhoods here are called "areas" and some girls are called "area girls." Including Onyinye.
ONYINYE
My name is Onyinye. My friends have this funny name they call me, Shenkes. I’m an area girl -- for now. And, well, I’m not an area girl because I choose to but -- An area girl, you can't actually classify it into one person. It’s different ways. You have some girls that are area girls but not because they do anything, but because they’re just rough. They are just rough and tough. They like trouble. They like, you know, anything trouble.
VOICEOVER
Onyinye left school at twelve. No qualifications. What she does have: brothers and sisters.
TITLE
The family
ONYINYE
I have ten siblings altogether, from the same mom but from different dads. My growing up wasn't nice, it wasn't nice. My mum has to carry almost all the responsibilities alone: school fees, feeding, clothing and all that. So I’m growing up and I can’t just be depending on my mum for almost everything when I know she doesn’t have. This area that I stay, it’s kind of common, it’s almost what we do here. We, you know, we date men. So it’s basically what I do for now. That’s what I do for now. My sisters, my family, they know about it, they know everything about me actually. So, it’s not like they are comfortable with it, but I have to do it because I don’t want any of them to do it.
VOICEOVER
Instead of relying on boyfriends, Onyinye wants to work.
ONYINYE
When you are in your house, you can be free. You can do whatever. But when you are on the streets you have to give them this mean impression like you’re scary, because if you act like one "botty" they climb you.
TITLE
"Botty" = softy. "Climb you" = rip you off.
ONYINYE
We are headed to the cafe where I do most of my research. It’s just a stone throw from this place.
VOICEOVER
Onyinye’s off to the neighborhood cybercafé. Some are looking for jobs; some are looking for the training and self-help courses that are on offer around here. Onyinye is looking for a modeling agency.
ONYINYE
I search for modeling agencies. So I try to send emails. If they reply to my email then I go, and if I get the phone numbers I call.
VOICEOVER
What sets the tone for area girls? Area boys.
ONYINYE
The area boys come out in the evening, that’s when they come out. That’s when they pick their pockets. If you are nice to them, if you are free with them, they can be nice with you. If you get into their wrong hands, they’ll beat you. They’ll beat you very well.
VOICEOVER
So are area girls all under the sway of area boys? Well, not quite. Meet Bisayo, an area girl who's graduated. Not cum laude, not to be a CEO. This natural born leader's become Onyinye's "area mother."
TITLE
The area mother
ONYINYE
When you have an area mother, definitely an area mother has to be somebody whose legs are very strong.
VOICEOVER
Protection? She’ll stand in front of you. Bisayo will settle arguments, win games, could have been a diplomat. Instead she is an area mother.
BISAYO
When you are the area mama for your house or for you territory, people will respect you and they will respect you persona? My guy, am I lying?
MAN 1
It's true mama.
VOICEOVER
What marks Bisayo out here, she says, she’s literally graduated.
BISAYO
I studied history and international relations -- a diplomat.
TITLE
A diplomat
BISAYO
I come from a wealthy home so my parents assisted me to go to school, but for the fact that I just want to be an area girl. I see myself as a star in my area.
BISAYO
Do you feel me?
MAN 2
Mama, mama, mama!
BISAYO
I protect my territory.
TITLE
I protect my territory
BISAYO
Maybe if I should see any outsiders who want to come and obtain my territory, in my cabal, I will overtake. When I graduated I searched for a job but I couldn't get work. So I play lotto to meet my daily needs. I win, I don't win, it's okay by me.
VOICEOVER
Bisayo is a leader, the kind you might want in the boardroom. Today she’s greeted as hero in the medicinal bar.
BISAYO
This is where I make my happy day, this is my "shepe joint" and these are my guys.
TITLE
"Shepe joint" = my hang out
BISAYO
This is where I enjoy my life. All my life! Shepe for life! And this is our mama, mama gangan. Come to this cabal. Everyone is welcome. You'll get everything. Even palm wine for life! Everything goes on my fingertips, because if I tell them to do something they will do it. So with that I believe I am being respected in the society and I can become a leader in the future. My destiny is to help the society.
TITLE
Become a leader
TITLE
Boundary market
VOICEOVER
So can a hardworking girl with more modest ambitions be an area girl too? Gift only went to primary school. Today she's buying ingredients for the "akara", or bean cakes, she sells. Work worth having.
GIFT
My name is Gift. In this area I'm an area girl, but I don't care what people think. I don’t get involved with the others. From my understanding, what makes me an area girl is the way I live. I don’t have time for trouble but if you want to find my trouble I’ll give it to you. I'm the one that brings in the money for the family. I help my family. I used to hawk, walking around selling stuff but I didn’t want to meet boys because they’d say, "Come sleep with me!" I don’t need that, and if you don’t do what they say -- Sometimes I’d go to the market at four, I’d walk to Apapa, come back after eight, they’d meet you on the road and rape you, all those kind of things. That’s why I stopped hawking and found a place to sell my akara.
VOICEOVER
This area girl is working a 16-hour day to help make money for her family. And she's running her family too.
GIFT
I go to the market, buy everything, come back and cook my food. I go out anywhere I like but when it’s time I return. You feeling me? It's not easy!
VOICEOVER
Gift has moved from selling goods from literally the top of her head to the street corner. Now she wants to move on to the next stage -- her own stall.
GIFT
If I get the opportunity, I’ll use the skills I learned from hawking and I’d go the market where I bought things to hawk. Sell them in a stall. I can't be an area girl forever. If I see a chance I will change, just leave all those things.
TITLE
I will change
VOICEOVER
It's true area girls are what some girls choose to be, but most don't want to remain forever. Our area girls stay on the right side of the law. Some don't. All have the talent and appetite for a decent day's work -- one of the Millennium Development Goals that remains elusive. Of course paid work could mean being an area girl no longer.
ONYINYE
The only thing you should know is that it's not funny; it's not nice at all. Most of us go through a lot of things in here that we are not proud of, so if we are given the chance, the opportunity, to change, we will chance.
TITLE
Since we filmed, all three area girls have completed courses in Life Skills, IT and Leadership. Onyinye is enrolling with a fashion school, Gift is finding the backing for a stall and Bisayo is learning Leadership Skills.
For more information please visit
http://www.bullfrogfilms.com