MYP PERSONAL PROJECT
The rough conditions of the Kayayei in Ghana's urban markets has rarely featured on the agenda of the powerful. It is an issue, which has long been neglected but may now receive the attention it deserves. On December 10, President Akufo-Addo attended the fifth anniversary celebrations of the passing of the late Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama in Tamale. Here, a fund-raiser and auction took place raising money in support of the Kayayei.
The term Kayayei is drawn from the local languages of Hausa and Ga where kaya means burden and yei means female and is used to describe female head porters working in urban markets of Southern Ghana.
The money raised from the event will provide vocational and technical skills training for the young women living in outright poverty in urban slums. The girls migrate to the urban communities of the south in an attempt to escape the abject rural poverty of the North. In the cities they find themselves facing a dangerous form of poverty since they are now exposed to substance and drug abuse, violence, assault, and unplanned pregnancies.
Currently, 25,000 girls and women in Accra alone are employed as Kayayei at the markets. This number has risen dramatically since the late 1970s as the practice has become increasingly popular as a temporary livelihood strategy amongst young women in the face of poverty.
The women are payed very low fees for hard and potentially damaging manual labour. Despite this, the attention and efforts of the government and public on the issue is surprisingly sparse. As Gloria Dei-Tutu, President of Society for Women and Aids in Africa (SWAA) Ghana expressed it, "15-20% of the markets are made up of Kayayei, why is the government not doing more?" and one might add, why is nobody paying attention?
They are overlooked in the midst of colourful Kente, busy traders, and shouting street hawkers. While education and training of the Kayayei is necessary in finding alternative income strategies, it is not sufficient. Gender based violence, an uneven distribution of wealth across Ghana, and youth employment opportunities must be tackled in order to effectively address the problem. An additional key priority should be to provide sexual and reproductive health services for this vulnerable group.
To get started on this tall order, political and public attention is essential. Hopefully the President's travel to Tamale in December will lead to a change in attitude and attention.
In the meantime, you and I can make a difference by changing our attitudes towards Kayayei, giving them time and space to talk and share their stories, and, most importantly, providing them with the information on their SRHR and where they can access health care services.