Posted by: rumnet | April 2, 2012


BIBIR-GHANA –Truly Fighting The Kayayei Menace

 (Published in the March 2012 edition of the advocate)

By Joseph Ziem

Beneficiaries of the BIBIR -Ghana Project

The fight against the “Kayayei” syndrome or menace in Ghana over the years has not been so easy a task for any government and other stakeholders, particularly non-governmental organizations.  

Kayayei is a trade often associated with children and adults from Northern Ghana comprising Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions, who migrate to the Southern sector of the country to engage in menial jobs i.e. carrying loads of goods and other stuff on their heads or backs from one place to another for pay. Some of these people, also work in chop-bars (local restaurants), hawk on the streets, assist market women in trading, act as shop assistants, fetching water for people, among others just to make ends meet.

The practice has been in existence in Ghana for over three decades now, and children under the ages of 18 including adults as old as 45 years, indulge in that hand-to-mouth job for a living. Majority of these Kayayei traders (80%) are females working in cities such as Accra, the nation’s capital and Kumasi in the Ashanti Region.

Various charity organizations including Tamale based Gub-Katimali Association, have estimated the population of Kayayei traders in Accra and Kumasi to be over fifty-thousand. While most of these Kayayei traders are school dropouts, some too are people who have escaped from outmoded socio-cultural practices such as forced marriages, female genital mutilation (female circumcision), widowhood rites, among others to seek asylum in those cities.  

Fortunately, there is one particular NGO in the Northern Regional capital of Tamale, BIBIR-Ghana, which has in the past two years, demonstrated an effective way of dealing with the Kayayei menace in the region and Ghana as a whole.

Through its Kayayei project, the organization enroll Kayayei returnees and those with the intention of going, into skills training (sewing) and pay for the entire cost of their training within the three year period that they would learn the vocation.

Besides, beneficiaries are given free brand new sewing machines/accessories including bicycles to facilitate their movement from their home to where they would learn their trade.

At the end of the three years, beneficiaries keep the sewing machines and the bicycles, while the organization further assist each of them to settle down at a location of their choice with a container shop and other logistics, and pay for them in installment within a period of time agreed upon between an individual beneficiary and the NGO.

Joseph Charles Osei, Director of BIBIR-Ghana told The ADVOCATE in an interview, that so far, the organization has since 2010 enrolled 87 young girls between the ages of 15 and 26 into sewing through the Kayayei project and paid for their training fees totaling GH¢36,392.40.

The Kayayei project, he said, has helped in gradually bringing back home young girls who had sojourned to the Southern part of the country to engage in menial jobs popularly known as Kayayei or head-carrier.

As part of their training, Mr. Osei explained, that beneficiaries are sensitized on reproductive health issues, personal hygiene, HIV/AIDS as well as other health conditions, since most of them were exposed to health hazards in their place of work/residence when they were down South.

How The Bibir Kayayei Project Began

In 2009, BIBIR-Ghana with the support of other NGOs and state departments in the Northern Region carried out a feasibility study in some peri-urban communities in the Tamale Metropolis to identify some of the potential Kayayeis (those planning to go) and returnees who were between the age group of 15 and 28 years.

The organization conducted its study in eight communities including Nanton-Zuo, Wamale, Kpanvo-yapala, Kulaa/Gbalahi, Taha, Sanzirugu, Kalariga and Yong-Dakpemyilli.

The objective of that study was to persuade those who were still planning to travel to the South to engage in Kayayei to rescind their decision and go to school or join those who had returned after several months or years of hustling and learn a skill with the support of BIBIR-Ghana.

So far, 24 beneficiaries from Nanton-Zuo, Kpanvo-Yapala 24, Kulaa 15 and Gbalahi 15 have benefitted from the BIBIR Kayayei Project and still counting. Under this project, the organization has supported over 70 children with free school uniforms, exercise books, schoolbags and other learning materials in some of the communities to enroll in school.

Besides, BIBIR-Ghana is also supporting the mothers’ of these beneficiaries with credit schemes to venture into commercial groundnuts oil extraction, shea butter processing and rice parboiling so as to support family income.

In the long-term, BIBIR-Ghana wants to build a skills training centre with hostel facilities for the training of the youth of Northern Ghana who are likely to migrate to the largely developed South of the country in search of greener pastures. The centre, according to Mr. Joseph Charles Osei, would train people in dressmaking, hairdressing, cloth weaving, beads making, carpentry, welding, electronic repairs and electrical installations, among others.  

This, in his estimation, would create employment opportunities for the youth and ultimately reduce the poverty and unemployment situation in the North and probably end the Kayayei syndrome.

Meanwhile, beneficiaries have since last year sewed 3,500 shopping bags which were exported to Spain for sale. Proceeds from those bags, would be used to train more people who are interested in learning sewing and other trade.      

About Bibir-Ghana

Bibir-Ghana, a local NGO based in Tamale has its operational areas in the Tamale Metropolitan and Tolon/Kumbungu District Assemblies. Established in 2005, the organization works with mainly women and children in deprived communities in the aforementioned districts. The emphasis is on giving children a good environment and health to enable them gain access to formal education so as to be the motor of change in society. It is because of its support for children that a local name “BIBIR” which literally means children in Dagaare, was chosen to enable many people understand what the organization stand for. Since children can either be direct beneficiaries through the distribution of school materials, they can also be indirect beneficiaries through the empowerment of their mothers. Once the women are empowered, the children’s education can be sustained.

Vision and Mission

Vision: The vision of the organization is to encourage sustainable socio-economic development of the disadvantaged people in Northern Ghana for “the best interest of the child”, providing the platform for community participation, creating the enabling environment for the survival growth and development of the child in their own communities. 

Mission: The mission of the organization is to strengthen the development initiatives of poor communities and provide the platform necessary for community participation and action for sustainable development. It is also to help the disadvantaged people towards identifying the path of realization of their rights and potential for sustainable growth and development.

What BIBIR-Ghana Does

Thus, with the support of FOUNDACION INTERVIDA in Barcelona, Spain as its main source of funding for projects, BIBIR-Ghana is currently working with eight communities in the Tamale Metropolitan and seven communities in Tolon/Kumbungu District Assemblies. In all 250 women and 160 men are engaged under different projects. The men are engaged in farming and livestock rearing whilst the women are also engaged in micro-credit and farming.

One of the objectives of its donors is “intervention or development projects aimed at promoting dignity and improving the living conditions of children and their families through the Convention on the Rights of the Child”. Every activity BIBIR-Ghana undertakes has a goal to improve the situation of the child in the end. The organization is mainly engaged in areas such as ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (micro credit and ICT Training at subsidized fees), EDUCATION (library, mobile library, distribution of school uniforms/learning materials, renovation of school buildings and organizing remedial classes for Senior High School leavers who did not pass) and FOOD SECURITY (Supporting farmers in ruminants production and Crop farming).


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