Sad reality of Ghanaian girls who live and work on the streets

By Mohammed Abul Hairi Yussif, an A World at School Global Youth Ambassador from Ghana

Before I was appointed as a Global Youth Ambassador for education at AWAS, I was always questioning myself about the future of young Ghanaian girls who found themselves on the streets doing petty trade and head porter trade.

In fact, these issues were one of the major reasons why I applied for the ambassador program at AWAS. When I was appointed, I travelled with my friend Iddriss Musah Iddriss to do a survey on education and observed that many young girls, more than 9000 of school age, are out of school and found themselves on the streets of Accra, Kumasi and Tamale to earn a living.

We found that they have no place to stay, sleeping in the streets, and many of them become pregnant as a result. These girls told us they are from the three northern regions of Ghana. Some said they were dropouts and others have had no formal education .

Now Iddriss and I have created a non-profit organisation to deal with young girls’ education – in line with the activities of AWAS. It is called Best Tomorrow Foundation. Through the foundation we conducted this survey aimed at investigating the culture of girls and women’s labour migration from the three northern territories of Ghana to the capital and some southern cities to engage in a terrible trade called “kayaye”.

The term is used to describe the activities of these young girls and women who unfortunately find themselves in the head porter job market – where they are subjected to inconceivably heavy loads, social discrimination, theft and robbery and sexual molestation.

Mohammed Abul Hairi Yussif and Iddriss Musah Iddriss

In our quest to identify the cause of low female enrollment in schools in the three northern zones, we discovered that many of these girls were denied their basic right to education as a result of abject poverty.

Although Ghana has adopted free compulsory universal basic education for more than a decade, there are still an alarming percentage of girls who are not in school.

As an alternative, these girls turn to the kayaye business as a source of livelihood. Girls aged between seven and 19 – either forcefully or willingly – travel to the big cities from the north to become head porters. These girls use this cruel job as a source of preparing themselves financially and materially for their future marriages.

Many youth of our kind from various universities and polytechnics have been attracted to join our campaign and pledge commitment to our cause. Some chiefs, opinion leaders and media houses were served with the results from this exercise to prepare the grounds for our next action plan.

We are planning to go round with our volunteers to rural communities in the northern region to explain to people the importance of education and to campaign seriously to get these girls back into school and learning.

We will also educate them about the activities of AWAS and what AWAS is doing to get every child educated.

You can read the full report by Best Tomorrow Foundation here.