Salamatu’s Escape: From Forced Marriage to Desperation on the Streets.

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Part III: Forced Labour – Salamatu’s Kayayo Experience


Child Bride

Regular readers of this portal have been following the harrowing case of Salamatu, a bright girl born with dreams that stretched far beyond her corner in Damongo, NR. She had always aspired to become a nurse, inspired by the selflessness of healthcare workers who healed the sick and comforted the ailing. But her dreams took an unexpected and heart-wrenching turn when she was forced into an arranged marriage in her mid-teens as the fourth wife of a 47-year-old man she had no interest in.

“I had suicidal thoughts many times because having my husband forcing himself on me every night until a bleed [sic] sometime was painful, and anytime I refuse, he will beat me to pulps and still have his way with me. And anytime I reported to my parents, all they did was shut me up and said I should try and make my husband happy,” explained Salamatu.

By the time she was 18, she already had 2 kids in as many years, and she knew life couldn’t continue as usual for herself and her children.


Salamatu’s life took an unexpected turn when she escaped the forced marriage through a treacherous journey with her two young children, armed with just 100 cedis. Little did she know that her struggles were far from over.

Arriving in Ashiaman, Salamatu found herself lost in a new environment, trying to navigate life in her newfound home. However, fate had a different plan for her. After a period of homelessness, she crossed paths with a tro-tro mate she at the time considered kind-hearted. Little did she know what was in store for her.

After a period of financial support, Salamatu felt grateful for his help, Before long, the teenage mother of two moved in with her benefactor into a cramped kiosk in Accra Newtown.

Pregnant again

Life seemed to be taking a positive turn for Salamatu, but it was not to last. In a cruel twist of fate, she found herself pregnant once again. Instead of embracing the news with joy, her boyfriend treated her with disdain, belittling her and making her feel worthless. As her belly grew, so did the tension in their relationship.

“We became like enemies living together. Everything I did annoyed him. He even stopped providing food for my kids and I, and so I had to go out and find myself something to do.”

Salamatu met a group of girls that introduced her to the ‘kayayo’ business. Kayayei (plural) are unskilled female porters or bearers who are mostly migrants from the rural north in search of work. They generally carry their burdens on their heads for pittance.

“It was tedious, but it was able to feed me and my kids, and we were able to get basic things we needed,” explained Salamatu.

For a pregnant porter with two kids, a typical day as a kayayo was not easy at all, but Salamatu braced the elements to provide for her family. She had to carry heavy loads of her customers from dawn to dusk.

With the help of her other kayayo friends, her kids were baby-sat while she traversed the bustling market and busy roads.

Birth of a new baby

The day finally arrived when Salamatu gave birth, but the joy of welcoming a new life was overshadowed by heartbreak. Her lover, overwhelmed by his disdain for her, callously threw her and her children out onto the unforgiving streets. The freedom Salamatu thought she had found became another nightmare, leaving her with no option but to return to the streets, this time of Nima, a suburb of Accra.

Determined Salamatu and her lthird born

“He threw me out in the middle of the night with my new baby plus the other two, and with nowhere to go, I slept on the veranda of a shop till morning when the owner came and sacked me. I had to find my kayayo friends who took me to where they sleep in Nima, in the market where a hair dresser uses, so when she goes home, we use there as our sleeping haven.”

As a kayayo, Salamatu established good relationships with her customers, and some tipped her handsomely whenever they did business. Some days she could make 50cedi a day. That’s when business was good. On regular days, she made between 20 and 35cedi.


“My worst day came when I was knock[ed] down by a truck pusher and his truck whiles I was carrying my baby on my back and a sack full of onions on my head. I got injured in my arms and legs but luckily for me, nothing happened to my baby.”

The accident however made her stay home for almost three weeks, which meant life was hell for her and her kids until one of her customers came looking for her and was told about her plight.

“She took me to the hospital and paid for everything and bought me some food and provisions. I felt a sense of gratitude I have never felt before.”

These days, Salamatu and her children find themselves sleeping on the cold, hard pavements, seeking refuge on vendors’ verandas. The constant worry about their safety and well-being weighs heavily on her mind. She never imagined that her dreams of becoming a nurse would lead her to this desperate situation.

Without extra money to pay volunteers guarding the market at night for protection means she is always in a state of fear and restlessness.

“Every night, I pray the bad guys don’t harm me and my children. Luckily for us, we sleep and wake up still safe.”

As she fights to survive each day, Salamatu’s story serves as a stark reminder of the struggles faced by countless women in similar circumstances. Forced into marriage against their will, their dreams shattered, and left to fend for themselves and their children, they are forced to make unimaginable sacrifices.


“Things are very hard here, but I’m glad I took the bold step of running from home. I already completed junior high school, and would love to continue to SHS. I found a friend I stay with now who [babysits] my children. I’m trying to save towards getting into a day senior high school where I can go and come back for my kid. I just need to find a way around it.”

As Salamatu faces each new challenge, she clings onto hope, dreaming of a better future for herself and her children. It is a reminder to us all that no matter how dire the circumstances, the human spirit has the power to endure and overcome

An article in The Crusader states: “Call them slaves, and you are not far from the truth, for the situation of the young women in the kayayo business – head porterage – in Ghana’s Central Business District is worse than slavery. The daily routine of a kayayo involves hustling and harassment. They are isolated and neglected, without any hope for the future.”

The Law

Kayayei are as young as six years olds involved in the porterage business, carrying loads sometimes heavier than their own weight, a clear case of child laboring. These young girls do not attend school. They face severe health hazards, and they live in squalor. Whatever the kayayei are involved in, they are in breach of the 1992 Constitution with respect to the right to life (Article 13), personal liberty (Article 14), right to human dignity (Article 15) and equality and freedom from discrimination (Article 17).

The Children’s Act has several references to the protection of the child, particularly in Section 87 which states that:

1) No person shall engage a child in exploitative labor

2) Labor is exploitative of a child if it deprives the child of his/her health, education and development

The involvement of teenagers in the kayayo business is, therefore, a serious concern that infringes on Ghanaian and International Laws, and yet such serious criminality is glossed over on a daily basis.

Girls like Salamatu need all the help they can get to get them off the street, and we are calling on NGOs like CAMFED, UNICEF AND CHILD RIGHTS INTERNATIONAL to come to her aid.

Part One: Forced into Marriage as a Teen

Part Two: Escape from Forced Marriage

5 thoughts on “Salamatu’s Escape: From Forced Marriage to Desperation on the Streets.

  1. Life it self is not easy but some people leave better done others and I think this are the kind of people that people with money should invest in because she is still holding on her dreams

  2. Such a story , a sad and painful story , I’m able to feel salamatu pain , she was suffering but apart of there suffering she’s never giving up because of her and her children’s

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