After migrating from rural areas of Ghana, most porters in Accra’s market places (known as kayayo, plural: kayayei) have to contend with harsh economic constraints to survive. On a daily basis, they are exposed to several risks, including theft, rape and numerous social vices.
Many end up having children, and are unable to balance their jobs with providing the required attention and care children need. As a result, most of their children end up loitering on the streets, or are also sucked into the kayayo trade at very young ages.
“Hard working mothers like the kayayei, doing all they possibly can to provide for their helpless babies, strike a sensitive chord,” says Rose Dodd ‘09. “While people try to tackle the kayayei issue broadly, we also need to pay attention to their children. As the children get older, their development is hampered; they don’t fit in with the larger society and are largely uneducated. Until the kayayei phenomenon is adequately addressed, we need to take care of the child caught in the middle.”
In the absence of affordable and reliable childcare centres, most of the kayayei have to carry their babies around with them while working, exposing the young children to several dangers in the market place. A frequent shopper at one of Accra’s busiest markets, Rose had observed the plight of kayayei children firsthand, and had been looking for ways to help. Now with assistance from the Ford Foundation, she has teamed up with students from Ashesi to build an early childhood development center, Kaya ChildCare center. The focus of the center is to provide dedicated child care support to the children of kayayei while their mothers are out working.
"The kayayo's child is not a street kid, nor is he/she a kayayo, yet," she explained. “I want to keep it that way. Hopefully a good early childhood development centre - a place the mothers can trust - will build in them a mindset for higher success.”
In setting up Kaya ChildCare center, the team hopes to support the kayayei in providing for their children’s development in the critical formative years. The center is designed to run to fit the schedule and life of the kayayei, and also provide meals for the children.
For Rose, being at Ashesi, first as a student and now as a lecturer in the Business Administration Department, the community’s ethos fosters a desire of service and participation. “The courage to contribute a solution to this problem is something I developed at Ashesi,” she said. “Working on this project, I am able to better understand what it takes to do research or projects in some of our local contexts. Most importantly, I appreciate what it takes to even attempt to make difference in the lives of others.”