Is there any
future for the Ghanaian porter (Kayayei)?
Masahudu Ankiilu Kunateh, Ghanadot
Accra, April 15, Ghanadot - There
was a loud scream. But all of a
sudden, the whole vicinity became
silent. Tears of pains filled the eyes of many as they
watched, but could not do anything about the situation.
This morbid situation or similar can describe the fate of
many thousands of porters, popularly called "kayayei" in
Blood oozed profusely like water from her nostrills, mouth
and other parts of her body as she sat at
a street corner in the city center of Accra. She panted
for breath and cried for help but
all to no avail.
She died soon after.
Traditionally, many of these porters migrated from the
Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions of Ghana, where
poverty is prevalent. They come to
urban centres in the southern part of the country
In recent times, the porter business
is no longer restricted to
people from the North. Others from villages and small
towns in Southern are also involved in the business.
Usually, the young, mostly female, are the ones that are
drawn to this business.
The porter trade is predominant in the two major cities of
Ghana; namely, the national
capital Accra and Kumasi, the Garden City of West Africa.
A number of porters narrated their
ordeal to Ghanadot at the Tema Lorry Station, a populous
station in Accra disclosed that they made scanty amount of
money ranging from GH¢5.00 to GH¢20 per day.
According to them, sometimes they could
scavenge the whole area without getting any load to
carry, meaning that there would be no
food, no water to bath and no money for other basic
commodities of life that day.
This is the basic lifestyle of the
Kayayie, always helpless and at the mercy of cheap labor.
The question, therefore is who
would care for the Ghanaian porter?
These Kayayie are Ghanaians. They
need to be cared for. A critical look at their
situation would show the extent at
which these people are suffering to make ends meet.
For instance in the morning, those who care to bath might
have to queue for long hours even after paying
for the convenience. This act is
not restricted to
public baths alone.
Perhaps, if you are used to modern
toilet facilities in your home, visiting these public
toilets would be a difficult thing to do because of
its unhygienic state or condition.
Those Kayayei who have no money to
pay for these facilities or the patience to queue
for the services do their business
at unauthorised places.
Besides, some of these Kayayie,
who cannot afford tooth brush and paste,
resort to the use of chewing sticks,
which act is not a bad thing in itself. The danger is
some may prefer to not chew the stcik at all, thereby
creating a condition of decay in their mouths. That
and the body odor which is prevalent within this community
of young women, whilst others use nothing at all. The
lack of attention to their body hygiene makes
them stink badly.
Sometimes, when the weather becomes hot and people
seek shelter, one could still see some in troops working
assiduously in the scorching sun with their babies strapped
on their backs and suffering as if
they have done something wrong to warrant such inhumane
treatment. They babies cry all day
long, yet they are not comforted.
Furthermore, most of them have become figures of ridicule by
the public. Drivers, passengers, pedestrians and those who
engage their services often times bellow
insults at them for no reason or at the slightest
They end up at the end of the day fgeeling very abused and
If one of them falls sick or is
knocked down by a vehicle perhaps that would be the end of
her life such as the woman we saw sitting
at the edge of the street with blood oozing from her
There would be noo money
to pay for hospital bills
should she even survive. They are not
registered under the country's National Health
Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
In the night, most of these people have nowhere to lay their
heads. Some sleep in front of shops, verandas, on top of
tables, open places and lorry stations. They are always at
the mercy of unfavourable environment.
are even raped
and the very young asmongst them defiled by older men and
This much is true as said
by Martin King, Jr.
"We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied to single
garment of destiny. What affects one directly, affects all
indirectly...Strangely enough, I can never be what I ought
to be. You can never be what ought to be until I am what I
ought to be,"
plight is a hidden tragedy in our society, but mostly
uncared for because of our concentration on other social and
health issues such the fight against AIDS and Malaria.
With the exception of few Non-Governmental Organisations
(NGOs) and other stakeholders, the majority of us have not
considered how best we can help solve this problem of
kayayei in the Ghanaian society.
There is no doubt that most of the children
that these Kayayei are producing,
and the young ones who are already in the
porter business, are human and because
may be endowed with great potentials
which if properly nurtured, would
be of great service to the nation, Africa, and the world at