A doting, smiling mother cradles her first born caressing his tiny fingers in her hand. But 16-year-old Affiong Ene Essien is close to tears when she describes her journey to motherhood and says she was almost forced to give up her baby for adoption.
Affiong had been sharing a simple one room rented home in south-east Nigeria’s Akwa Ibom State with her mother, her sister and young niece. Her parents say they had no idea about their daughter’s pregnancy when she went missing.
“We had hoped she would get a job after completing her secondary school last year,” her father Ene Ekpe Essien told the BBC.
Affiong says the father of her child disappeared and cut off contact when she became pregnant. With problems at home, Affiong headed for the city of Calabar in neighbouring Cross River State.
Confused, scared and broke, she was extremely vulnerable. She says she was offered free food, lodging and medical care at a refuge for pregnant teenagers – but on one condition.
“Since I did not have anywhere to go, I had to accept to sign with them that I would give the baby [away] and go.”