No sleep last night- hotter, stuffier- I began concentrating on the intervals when the fan was going to hit me with a tiny reprieve as it rotated back and forth, just counting the hours until the rooster outside my window would give me the signal that I could end the torture and face my last day in Ekumfi-akre. Today I will meet with a handful of women who the leaders have chosen to be the first women trained (I am very curious about the selection process, I have to say, their wives? Women they perceive to be ‘leaders’ in the community?) We shall see. I am somewhat anticipating that there will be more than a handful of women in attendance. I am sure word has spread and all the women who are curious about the project and eager to be a part of it. Again, I just hope we can somehow make this happen. The thought of going through all of this, giving them hope, justifying our efforts to the leaders, who are clearly skeptical of yet another empty promise.
I am hoping today is a bit less intense as yesterday.
Meeting with the women completely invigorated me. As expected, we asked to meet with 5-8 women and about 30 started pouring in. I requested that all the men leave so that the women felt like they had the freedom to speak freely and we began asking them the questions I had prepared based on Rachel’s list (my partner from Women’s Partnership Market). They were all very eager to talk and answer, meanwhile I was trying to select the woman who seemed to have the authority, who everyone stopped to listen to when she spoke. I chose two women who were older than most of them (probably in their 40’s). Joyce and Mercyaban. It was Mercyaban who showed the most initiative though, she came to speak to Meshach after we finished and seemed really interested in leading our/their efforts.
The things we learned didn’t surprise me but were still heartbreaking nonetheless. Out of about 30 girls/women, only 2 were ‘married’. All but 2 had 3-7 children and most were between the ages of 13-18 when they first gave birth. Out of all of these women, none of them had a partner, none of them had an income and none of them received support from the ‘fathers’ of their children. After the women knew they were pregnant, the men would say it wasn’t theirs and disappear. There is not family planning, no sex education and no birth control available to them, so this is their fate.
Only 3-4 of the women/girls had any education and only 11 of the women sent their kids to schools. The rest simply could not afford the fees. The amount of money they had to take care of their 2-7 children ranged from 5-40 sedis/day….that is approximately $1-$10 dollars/day. Can you imagine?