Kayayei are porters in our markets. We know kayayei as women and girls who toil in the hot sun in the daytime, carrying heavy loads of shoppers at the major markets in our big cities.
But this is only what we see in the day. Their deprived condition is most manifest at the time when all eyes are closed and people are enjoying a comfortable sleep in their homes at night.
The purpose of sleep is to allow the body to have enough rest to prepare it adequately for the next day’s activities.
Because of that, nobody jokes with his or her sleep, and we all want to experience it as comfortably as possible.
You would be amazed and even angry if you have ever seen how these kayayei sleep at night.
Eyes open, please!
I can confidently say that, collectively, we have either deliberately or inadvertently closed our eyes to the plight of some people in our society who are driven by the genuine desire we all share — the desire for opportunities -, but unfortunately plunge themselves into a life that is harsh, unpredictable and retrogressive.
Drive along the New Town road and the streets within the Mallam Atta Market at dawn and you will be appalled.
Sleeping is uncomfortable and a struggle.
Hundreds of women, girls and babies are piled up like sardines on the bare floor in front of closed shops.
The sheer number of babies involved even tells the possible expansion of the existing crisis and its complexity.
Bathing in open
It is these same women and children who wake up from that rough sleep and continue with the toil in the scorching afternoon sun, with even the babies strapped at their backs getting some of the stress.
There are areas within the suburbs of Nima, Maamobi, New Town and some parts of Kokomlemle where these women and girls bath after their hard day’s work.
Unbelievably, bathing for them is in the open, along the streets that run through communities. If this issue does not require urgent attention, then what does?
You have solicited their services before and probably, you meet them around en route to your workplace.
But one thing that is not immediately obvious to observers is the sheer numbers which become apparent only when you move around locations within the capital city where they sleep at night.
Their increasing number is itself a problem, let alone the resources needed to address their situation.
As a country, we cannot be unconcerned, allowing these vulnerable groups to face such challenges.
The government can help by sensitising them to the right information for them to make informed decisions in relation to their lives and future.
Civil society groups and individuals should show compassion and help in anyway possible to make a difference in their lives.
The writer is the Director of Programmes,
Institute of Current Affairs and Diplomacy.