The 16th of June is a day set aside by the African Union to be observed as the African Day of the Child. It was set up to commemorate the march by a large number of African school children in protest against the obnoxious racial policies being implemented by the Apartheid Regime of South Africa. Hundreds of young boys and girls were shot dead by the security forces.
The Day also draws attention to the plight of the African Children. Unfortunately, the day passed without focusing on the plight of the numerous “street children” across the continent. One of such people who seemed to have been forgotten are the Kayayoos. Their plight seems to have been forgotten by the larger society in the country today.
But who are the Kayayoos? They were women from the Three Northern Regions who migrated down south to work as head carriers. Initially, those involved were adults but now a new phenomenon has emerged. The Kayayoos are mostly young girls of school going age and that is what makes their problem atypical.
These young girls, on getting to the nation and Regional capitals are affected by the harsh social economic conditions prevailing there. They have no hope for a better tomorrow as they confront the harsh realities of the New World Order. They work for longer hours carrying loads whose weights are twice their weight. They sleep in the open in front of shops and have no places where they can have their baths, change or dress up.
Sleeping in the open without adequate security leaves them prone to sexual attacks from male predators lurking around the corner. And if they become pregnant, they are forced to work through their pregnancy to support themselves and their pregnancies.
Even the strenuous and difficult life of the Kayayoo is not allowed to follow its natural span. She has to go through the additional hazard of being forced into a marriage with a man who at times is old enough to be her grand father.
The Daily Graphic of Tuesday, July 17, 2007 had a pathetic story of a young girl who was chained between the seats of a 2007 vehicle and the keys to the chains held by another person. On the front page of the paper with the picture of the girl whose legs were chained and tied to a seat of the 33 seater Mercedes Benz Bus was this screaming headline “To Hell and Back. The ordeal of a Kayayoo”
The story had it that “Mahad Seidu’s three hour ordeal, the tribulation of a head porter in Accra who was chained hands and feet, concealed under the metal seats of a 33 –seater Mercedes Bus and destined for a 723-kilometre journey into forced marriage in Walewale could be a classic set in primitive times”.
The issue of the Kayayoo needs the collective and pragmatic approach by all. Do we look on helplessly as our young girls waste the best parts of their youthful lives on fruitless ventures? Do we pretend all is well when the problem is something we have helped create and nurture?
This is not a matter that should be left for Government to tackle alone. Religious and Corporate Organizations, individuals, and Non Governmental Agencies all have major roles to play in this crusade.
In their sermons at various congregations, our Christian and Muslim preachers should expatiate on the teachings of Jesus Christ and Muhammad as they relate to love and good neighborliness. They should do well to explain to their congregants to emulate the good teachings of Jesus Christ and Mohammed about showing kindness to one’s neighbor. Devout Christians and Muslims would do well to practicalize these teachings by adopting some of these young girls and put them in schools to have formal education.
I enjoin Corporate Bodies and Organizations to make donations to support the creation of safe havens for these our unfortunate sisters and daughters. When one realizes the amount of monies corporate bodies spend on sponsorship of events like beauty pageants, sporting events and many others, one has to question oneself whether we have got our priorities right.
What are the many non-governmental agencies who rake in millions of dollars from foreign donors doing about the Kayayoo plight? We see a myriad of problems with solutions in sight. Yet, we pretend they cannot be solved. Let the NGO’s take up the issue of the Kayayoo as their number one priority and the country would be better off. Let them establish Day Care and Learning Centres for children born to these unfortunate victims of sexual abuses/harassment. Let our Members of Parliament live up to their responsibilities by enacting a law to curb this menace.
Let us, as individuals put ourselves into the plight of these our less unfortunate neighbours. And as we spend money to buy units to recharge our numerous phiones, let us think of the Kayayoo and put aside a little of that amount to enliven the lives of these young girls,
Let us by action, not by words take concrete and bold steps to enliven the gloomy atmosphere surrounding the Kayayoo. These are not impossible objectives. They lie within our grasp and it is to their attainment that our efforts should be concentrated.