What is Kayayei?
The term Kayayei is made up of the Hausa word 'kaya' meaning 'load; goods; or burden' and the Ga word 'yei' meaning 'women or females' and refers to female porters who carry goods on their heads.
When young women and girls find that there aren't enough education or employment opportunities, or even not enough food in their village in the North, they often have no other choice than to head South to Accra or Kumasi to work as ‘Kayayei’ carrying loads around the market place. This is very strenuous and low-paid work and there is a lot of competition. Many times these girls find themselves sleeping on the streets, being attacked and sexually abused as well as being lured by men into sleeping with them in return for small money or shelter. Thus, these women are vulnerable not only to physical danger and disease, but also to losing their self confidence and dignity.
Here at BIBIR-GHANA, we believe that these young women deserve dignity and respect and have the potential to become role models and agents of positive change in their communities. Therefore, we are working to empower both girls returning from the Kayayei business and also those who are considering entering the Kayayei business by organising vocational training to provide them with a sustainable economic future. Mostly the girls are trained to be seamstresses. BIBIR has several ‘Kayayei centres’ in and around Tamale, where we provide each trainee with a sewing machine. This opportunity also helps to keep more young girls in the villages of the Northern Region.
Dressmaking is a very popular business in Ghana and one that gives seamstresses status and dignity in their community. BIBIR has enabled dozens of former Kayayei to do an apprenticeship with seamstress tutors throughout the Tamale area.
The training takes about three years and each girl is given a bicycle so that they can ride from their villages to the training center.
Although they often have to ride their bicycles for an hour to their training center in the morning and an hour to go back home at night, a large majority of the girls complete their training and graduate with pride.
In addition, BIBIR also supplies each trainee with necessary training materials such as a sewing machine, thread, cloth, and scissors.
Sometimes, if the family cannot give the girl enough money for food, we provide food supplies. After graduation the girls are given a sewing machine, small table, and stool so that they can become skilled entrepreneurs in their communities.