Ghana - Internal migration is prevalent in Ghana, where young girls from the rural north move to the urban city markets of Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi in the south. Commonly referred to as “Kayayei,” these young head porters are self-employed girls and adolescents who carry loads for traders and other customers in the open market for money.Ranging from 6-15 years old, these unaccompanied children leave their homes with ambitions of paying for education and making a better life for themselves and their families.

According to the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, there are approximately 20,000 Kayayei in Accra. As they usually come from low socio-economic backgrounds and possess very little transferrable skills, the Kayayei face numerous human rights violations. 

The poor working conditions and informal nature of their work heightens their exposure to gender based violence, sexual harm, theft, exploitation and abuse. They are often exploited by patrons who either refuse to pay or pay very little.

Lacking protection, the Kayayei frequently face verbal, physical, and sexual abuse at the hands of patrons and other bystanders. Their low socio-economic background compounds their suffering from reproductive health issues and sexually transmitted diseases.

Since the young women rarely have access to electricity or light, and they often sleep unprotected in the open, the violent incidents that the Kayayei endure often take place at night when there are no witnesses.

It has been shown in various settings across the world, especially in refugee and Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps, that having access to light at night can help to deter and prevent GBV. Solar lanterns, in conjunction with efforts by local NGOs and other agencies can help improve the Kayayei’s safety.

With all this in mind, IOM is handing over 200 solar lanterns to the Kayayei Association of Ghana on International Women’s Day 2016.