Yesterday I met a young woman called Naa Shika, Who is a Junior High School drop out. Her father was unable to send her to High School and her chances of gaining an education diminished further when she fell pregnant with her first child. She sells purewater in Michel Camp in Tema, ghana. Naa Shika lost her first son a few days ago and couldn’t go to his funeral because she didn’t have the money to get to the burial site.
My first encounter with Naa Shika was whilst visiting my family in Tema. I saw her running on the streets chasing her remaining two year old son with a stick threatening to beat him. I rushed out of my uncles yard to see what all the commotion was about only to meet a young woman a few years younger than me crouched on the streets sobbing. I asked her what the problem was. Through her tears she narrated her story. He son’s father had refused to give her 15 GHS (her monthly income from him) which would be used to buy food for her son. Through her frustration she’d chased her son down the street with a stick because he wanted to play. This little boy was running down the street screaming and in tears. I had to run after him and pick him up because of the passing motorists.
When I brought her son to her Naa Shika shared her story with me, she described the anguish she had felt because of the abuse she received (she’s been repeatedly stabbed by her baby’s father) every time she asked for financial assistance to care for their child.
Naa Shika makes less than 3 cedis a day selling pure water, she’s a semi literate single mother with little options for a better life. Her pain for those few moments became mine pain. She had made some wrong choices in her life, teenage pregnancy in Ghana is a great social problem. Some of the causes of this behaviour is due to the financial hardships young girls go through in their homes. Parents a unable to cater to the needs or take them to Senior High School to further their education. As a result many young girls turn to older men to provide their material needs. Many end up selling items under the harsh Ghanaian sun. Nevertheless it is a choice that some of these young girls make.
Naa Shika’s story is not unique in the many towns and villages in Ghana, many of our young women never reach their potential due to bad choices, irresponsible parenting and economic hardships and people like you and I who turn a blind eye to the needs of the Naa Shika’s of this world. Many go on to raise their children who in turn continue the cycle of bad parenting and the consequences of it. These nameless and faceless children are rising in numbers in our country and will in the long run create greater social problems like crime, increase numbers in children living on the streets and an increase in youth unemployment.
Our first instinct is to point the fingers of blame. We point it at our government, our parents, Naa Shika and dead beat father of her children. I ask that we all go to our mirrors and look at the person staring in it. We are all to blame for the Naa Shika’s of this world, for walking away when we notice a young girl walking romantically with an older man who is sometimes married or ignoring changes in the behaviour of the young people in your neighbourhood that you know. We are all to blam for not speaking up for these young women at the critical times they need it the most.
How many Naa Shika’s do you know? How many Junior high school and Senior high school girls do we know who are making these bad choices? Do we judge them, laugh at them and mock them? Our culture allows us to get involved and discpline the children in our communities (although this practice is dying). Until we realise that we are all connected and affected by everything which goes on in our immediate communities and nation we will continue to be contributors to our social ills which our future generation will pay for.
I challenge us all to identify all Naa Shika’s in our communities, Naa Shika is just a symbol of some of the problems our young people face. Get involved in your community, take time to talk to the young people and mentor them. Speak positively into their lives, advice and help them where you can. In the long run we will all be contributing towards creating a safer, happier society which we can all enjoy.