Ghana Girl Porters Carry Heavy Burden of Forced Labor and Forced Sex
August 2, 2005
In May, the International Labor Organization reported that Ghana was one of a list of west African countries still engaged in forced labor. The report cited the Kayayei -- a hybrid term combining the words for "work" and "girl" -- in particular as those who "are exploited by those who offer them shelter."
The girls are lured to Accra, the capital, by promises of a decent job and a chance to benefit from a growing economy fueled by international aid. "So they get here and have no choice but to sleep in corridors of shops and offices, paying rent in kind with our bodies for sex," said Ashetu, a former Kayayo who has since formed an association to advocate for the women. "And the watchmen don't want to use condoms so the girls get pregnant -- a lot of them by the same watchmen and caretakers."
President John Kufuor has renewed efforts to help the Kayayei, who are thought to number in the thousands. Ghana's Parliament has approved a law to crack down on human traffickers, and the president is expected to sign it soon. The law aims to stem human trafficking in Ghana and to curb the smuggling of women and girls to Europe and the Middle East for prostitution.
Women and Children's Affairs Minister Hajia Alima Mahama has implemented a program to provide the Kayayei with health benefits through the new national health insurance program and credits to be used for school fees courtesy of the Women's Development Fund. The girls are being taught about HIV prevention and given male and female condoms, although most men are unwilling to use protection, Ashetu said.
Agence France Presse
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.