Advocating for Porters in Ghana

Advocating for Porters in Ghana

Sisters visit with the porter girls at Kumasi central market in Ghana to learn about their lives and how to advocate for their safety and rights. Photo: Eucharia Madueke

Fou, a young female "head porter" (kayayoo in the local language) spoke with a group of women religious of Ghana being trained in advocacy. Fou's husband sent her to Kumasi to make money for the family. She carries heavy loads of shoppers' and traders' wares on her head and walks long distances in the hot sun to deliver goods. She earns less than 20 cedi (about $4) a week, which she uses for personal needs, for the baby, and to send home for the family.

With her 6-month-old baby strapped to her back and a huge enamel basin balanced on her head, Fou talks about her job while waiting for a customer. She says some traders and the public look down on her and verbally abuse her. She can't find any other kind of job, because she is uneducated: She likes learning, but could not go to school because her family lived in poverty.

Female head porters (kayayei) are unskilled, uneducated migrant women, aged 7 and above. Most are from poverty-stricken families of northern Ghana who move down to southern Ghana for work. Kayayei generally live in very poor conditions and lack social protection; they are exposed to all forms of sexual and physical exploitation, resulting in unplanned pregnancies and children being raised on the street. Because their job involves lifting and carrying heavy goods for long distances, most of them suffer physical ailments.

Fou's story represents many young women trapped in persistent poverty resulting from unjust systems; they probably will live and die without experiencing life to the full. Read the full story from Eucharia Madueke, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur in the Nigerian Province, who specializes in social analysis, grassroots mobilization and organization