Kayayei menace must be tackled comprehensively
News that 15,000 kayayei (female porters) are to benefit from skills training is, indeed, heart-warming, not only for those engaged in the business but also for the larger society.
Over the years, young girls and women have moved in droves mainly from the northern part of the country to the south.
The push and pull factors have included lack of job opportunities, education, market for their produce and social amenities such as good roads, electricity, pipe-borne water and generally good infrastructure.
The girls who arrive in the cities face many daunting challenges that include rape and defilement, streetism, exploitation by both the people they work for and those who serve as intermediaries or agents to find jobs for these vulnerable women.
Many of these women and girls have ended up as prostitutes because that may be the only job opening available to keep body and soul together. A lot of social problems have arisen out of these circumstances.
It is, therefore, just right and appropriate that governments have, over the years, put in place policies and programmes to ensure that these kayayei have decent living.
Skills training has been organised and is still being pursued and we applaud the government for this intervention.
But the Daily Graphic has some concerns. For years many of such programmes have been organised but the country is still grappling with the kayayei menace.
Have we, as a country, followed up on those who have been trained to assess the impact of the training on their lives?
Some time ago those who were given similar training were encouraged to abandon their deplorable conditions in the urban centres and relocate back to their hometowns to set up.
But looking at the ages and the sheer number of kayayei in Accra alone, we will not be surprised if those who were beneficiaries of the skills training abandoned their shops and other establishments to relocate back to Accra and other cities.
We say this because in the rural areas it is difficult to get patrons for the services provided.
At times too patrons fail to pay for services rendered. We agree that skills training and other interventions to engage our teeming female youth are the way to go and we advise beneficiaries to take the training seriously, as they cannot engage in kayayei for the rest of their lives.
However, we reason that skills training alone, and even providing start-ups for these young women, will not be enough. The authorities should critically examine previous training programmes to put in place a comprehensive programme that will ensure that the nation benefits from what is being invested in these women.
The government should also find more innovative strategies to empower rural communities in other forms of income-generating activities such as putting graduates of these training programmes in cooperatives and ensuring that they have a ready market for their handiwork.
We consider the kayayei issue as a blot on the conscience of the country, especially if one looks at where and how they live in the streets with their young children and babies.
One needs to visit places such as the Central Business District and the Circle Station at Darkuman in Accra to come to terms with the reality of their suffering.
Any initiative that will help deal with the problem should, therefore, be supported by all.