Developing a just society based on equity and equal opportunities for all with respect for diversity.

Friday, November 10, 2017

A Warm Welcome from Zokuga!

On the 8th November, under the shade of a beautiful tree, we were welcomed by smiling faces of the people from Zokuga and the formal 'crouching down' greeting. Zokuga is my personal favourite out of the communities we work with because of their peaceful appreciation of friendship and love amongst the members and their guests. We are eager to get started; community sensitisations are always highly anticipated due to the chance to interact and learn with such wonderful people. The peer educators are full of energy, and their participation in the organisation and smooth running of the day is amazing to watch and we couldn't do it without them.

Here on the ‘Safe Choices’ project at RAINS we are raising awareness on kayayei through a series of community sensitisations where we focus predominantly on why people choose kayayei, its dangers and its prevention. The definition of kayayei itself may not seem to link to the sexual health work we do on the ‘Safe Choices’ project, but the sexual health related risks of kayayei which include sexual assault, STIs, HIV and unwanted pregnancies will be prevented through the awareness raising and prevention of kayayei.

"Tosa" in Zokuga
Photo Credit: Charlotte Bartholomew.
We began our sensitisation with a game called ‘Tosa Tosa’, a personal favourite of our cohort. In between the rhythmic chanting of ‘Tosa’, the children take it in turns to spell their names; a great way to get them all involved and energised. My role for the day was photographer, and I loved spending my time figuring out ways of capturing some of the beautiful moments that took place on the day.

The main bulk of our sensitisations takes the form of a question and answer session whereby the audience, divided into smaller groups, answer the following questions:

Kayayei Q&A
Photo Credit: Charlotte Bartholomew
  • What is kayayei?
  •  How can your sexual health be affected by kayayei?
  • What are the dangers of kayayei?
  • What makes people choose kayayei?
  • What can be done to prevent people from choosing kayayei?
We then offer explanations and hypothetical, relatable examples. This question and answer session can take up to 45 minutes and once this has been completed, we lead the group in another ice-breaker called ‘Make it RAINS’ to get everyone up on their feet and energized. As I am taking photos of this activity, I look over to the bench near where the sensitisation is taking place and see that the chief of Zokuga has come to watch and is enjoying watching the game; this was so unexpected and made us feel welcomed and supported by the community.

‘Make it RAINS’ was developed by Maddie, our team leader, and involves the portrayal of a rainstorm using the various different sounds made with our hands and feet, turning the name of our project partner into a simple and fun activity.

After this, we perform the play that the team wrote and rehearsed in preparation to give the audience an interractive portrayal of kayayei. The play follows the story of a girl called Amina, played by volunteer Abigail, who moves to Accra to do kayayei in order to earn more money to send home to her family living in a rural Northern community.
Volunteer Abigail playing Amina in the kayayei roleplay (in Nanton-Kurugu)
Photo Credit: Harriet Braithwaite

I play Abigail’s mother, who asks Amina for financial help, and I was given a real baby by one of the women to hold – she was absolutely gorgeous, only a few months old, and she didn't cry! Definitely a big highlight of my week. Amina experiences homelessness, extortion, exposure to bad weather and disease, lack of medical service and eventually sexual assault, HIV and unwanted pregnancy, before returning home ot her mother.

What a Cutie!
Photo Credit: Andrew Spiers
The women and children are always very attentive, and after the play we are able to open up a discussion with them on what they learnt from our performance and how they think they can work to prevent women and young girls turning to kayayei.

A big part of our work here is sustainability and community involvement, so a few of the main suggestions to ensure that people don’t turn to kayayei include the improvement of livelihoods and alternative trading opportunities as well as the promotion of education and vocational training. It is vital that we listen to the community themselves when we are determining ways in which to improve sexual health and living conditions. 

The day was a big success and we rounded it off by taking lots of photos with the women and children, the chief and the community. A young boy and a young girl, about the age of 4, followed us round and I have very fond memories of their big smiles when we showed them the pictures of them on the camera. It was a beautiful day and I am so grateful to have been a part of it.

By Charlotte Bartholomew

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