A recent tweet by @UN_WOMEN on Twitter caught my attention. It read, ‘Data from 68 countries indicate that a woman’s #education is a key factor in determining a child’s survival.’
This made me think about a particular group of struggling single mothers in Ghana whose educational background is nothing to boast of. What then becomes of the fate of their children? And what chance do they have of survival and securing a bright future?
In Ghana, they are called the Kayayei. These are girls or women who travel from the northern part of Ghana to the cities to work as porters. They carry loads for shoppers in a basin on their heads and charge according to the weight of the load or for the duration of their service. The lorry stations become their home and the sky, their roof. They stand through rainy nights because they have no shed to sleep under. Most of these girls are mothers and the sad part of this is that they carry their children everyday.
I had an opportunity to work closely with some of them a few months ago. According to the stories they shared, most of them had come from the north to seek ‘greener pastures’ .They have left their families and homes to move to the capital city of Accra to earn some money for a better life. The irony of this it that this ‘greener pastures’ they all hope to find is a demeaning one. This greener pastures renders them homeless. They can earn as little as 5GH a day which is enough to feed themselves and send some money home. They sleep outdoors, at the mercy of any weather condition. One of the young mothers who shared her story had left two of her children with her husband up in the north and had come to the city with her less than a year old baby to be a porter. Every story of a kayayei appears to be of a girl who leaves the north to the south for a better life but each girl has a different story. Some of them are running away from being force into early marriages, others claim they are little opportunities in the North and the weather conditions in that part of the country does not favor farming. Their migration usually interrupts with their education and some end up as drop outs.
If the tweet by UN Women is accurate, then what is the chance of survival of their children since most have very little or no educational background? If we could see in their future, would we see a bleak one? Would we see another generation struggling living from hand to mouth? Personally, I think these are women are survivors who to dare to leave a comfortable place called home to such a hostile environment in the hopes of making it in the big city. How much of a survivor is her child?
A good educational background can secure them a good job and so in the absence of that, they have to settle for menial jobs. Another thing to fear is that these semi literate or and illiterate women maynot deem it necessary to take their little ones to school .This is quite evident since most of these kayayei carry their children at their backs when they are working.
It all comes back to education, whether formal or informal these mothers need it for the sake of Africa’s future leaders. A country cannot experience development without empowering and educating their woman so the kayayei story has to be told as many times as it can to grab attention of stakeholders to offer practical solutions to this migration problem. There is no other way around it.
To save the child, you have to save the mother.