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African art from Ghana that tells a story. Artist Yaw Mensah

Kayayoo ©2013 Accra Ghana with permission all rights reserved by Yan Mensah

My name is Mariama but it isn't. Everything else I'm telling you is true. I am 15 years old and I come from Tamale in the north of Ghana. I am a Dagomba girl. The basin I am sleeping in is my most important possession. I use it to carry the goods of market women and customers. At night I use it to wash down. I will use it to do my own laundry in and when I need to rest as now then I can sit in it or on it. It is my tool my way of earning money.

Let me start with my earnings. On a good day, from dawn to dusk I can earn 3 cedis a day (about one dollar) I put goods, hardware, vegetables, groceries, in the basin and place the basin on my head and walk with the customers to their transport. My pay comes from the market women who hire me. The big problem is with the city guards. They stop us and ask us to prove we have paid our carrier's tax for the day. That's 50 pesewas. ( about 20 cents ). If we haven't then they take your pan and you have to go to the city council to claim it and pay a fine of 5 cedis which is more than my daily earnings. That's just awful.

I have been in Accra for more than a year. I have been home once. Why bother to come back? I send my money home every week to my family. I go to the busyard and find someone I trust going to Tamale and get them to meet one of my family to give the money to.
I sleep with 10 other girls in a shack room that cost us 5 cedis a week, between us. Some days I eat well, other days not so. Some days I don't eat. As I get older I'm getting stronger and will soon be able to carry heavy loads, especially food items. The heaviest load I can carry is about 50 kilos, on my head. That is starting to give me bad pains in my back and sometimes my neck gets "locked". The best day of the week is Sunday when the markets are closed. We dress up,do our hair, dance, meet our other country girls and laugh a lot. We help each other. I think I will not return when I go home next time. But then at home I earn nothing and here I can survive and send something back. I'll let you know.

Reflection by A White Father

The Society of Missionaries of Africa (The White Fathers). England & Wales Reg charity No. 233302
The Society of Missionaries of Africa (The White Fathers) Charity registered in Scotland No. SC037981