At sixty two years, she would been a retiree per Ghana’s Labour Law on the retirement age and with two grand children, her duty after retirement will simply be, getting stressed by her grand children or perhaps, being asked to dress up her grandchildren for school each morning as done in many homes in Ghana.
But the demise of her husband, the family’s “support system” truncated that dream. The unavailability of funds to feed and service utility bills triggered the desire to search for greener pastures. For Madam Mary, the lives of her child and an unborn one could not be gambled.
Just like the many urban migrants in Ghana, Madam Mary Arthur, a native of Gomoa Tarkwa in the Central region was lured to believing there are abandoned job opportunities in the capital by her aunt. Madam Mary’s husband of twenty years had been buried few months back. With no hesitation, she made the journey to the Greater Accra region, the land where “honey flows” on the streets.
She settled in the home of her aunt in Kasoa, a suburb of the Central region which shares boundaries with the Greater Accra region. Securing good education for her children was her top most priority. With the little funds she arrived in the city with, she established a local eatery popular known in Ghana as “chop bar”, a business that lasted but for a while.
I started a chop bar (local restaurant) business in Kasoa, but business went bad.
After her first attempt at work failed, she resolved to try stone quarrying, a business she was introduced to by a friend. At age thirty six, she jumped on the opportunity not bothered about how muscular that job can be.
I was lucky to meet a stranger who later became my friend and introduced me to the stone cracking business. I initially had no idea of the business, I thought it was machines that were used to crack the stones.
Funds raised has been the main livelihood support for her and her family. Madam Mary Arthur recounted one of the horrific days in her life as a labourer.
“I could not pay for my hospital bills when I gave birth so I would come to work till I was able to pay the bills of my newly born baby”.
Adwoa Maame as popularly called in the vicinity, described the types of stones she has had to crack.
The smaller sizes are called “kanana” while the larger sizes are “chippings” and are best used for making concrete for strong foundations of buildings and pillars of houses.
While at it, a second suitor emerged.
For twenty years, she has manually cracked stones for sale.
“At first when, I started, a full truck of load of the stone was Ghs 4, I was charged 20 pesewas to start. If the stones are not hard, it takes me three days to get a full truck but if it is hard, it takes me at most ten days for two full trucks”.
A truck full of cracked stones sells at Ghc 170 but she purges her monthly income at Ghc 500 and Ghc 600.
After deducting laborers loading fees of Ghc 30 and land fee of Ghc 20, I go home with Ghc 120 for every truck.
With she and family members living below $1 a day, she manages to save at least Ghc 10 each month.
“As of 2015, about 736 million people still lived on less than 1.90 US dollar a day: many lack food, water and sanitation”, a United Nations Nations Development Programme report on Sustainable Development Goals reveals.
About 84.3 percent of multidimensionally poor people live in Sub-Saharan Africa (558 million) and South Asia (530 million), according to the 2020 Global Multidimentional Poverty Index.
Madam Mary Arthur also had childhood aspirations; ” education, become a secretary, and a responsible mother”.
My parents couldn’t afford could not afford my school fees so I dropped out.
Though, the elderly among her children supports her in the stone cracking business, she says wants a different story for her children.
Madam Mary’s first child hawks…on the street ls of Kasoa.
The second child, 23, was a bus driver until he had a fatal accident. The last of her children are a fourteen years boy and a twelve years girls. They are both in junior high school.
One of my children is about to complete Junior High School and has insisted that he wants to continue his education so , I have to continue working to make sure that he gets his dream fulfilled.
“Hopefully, someday the Lord will send a helper to take us out of this menace”, she claimed.
Madam Mary though falls within the age bracket of beneficiaries of the LEAP programme by government to financially support elder women with some funds each month, she has never benefited from it.
The Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), a cash transfer programme introduced by the Government of Ghana would have come in handy for Madam Mary Arthur but for her age.
The LEAP programme was introduced in 2008, as a support system for extremely poor and vulnerable households with the following categories of eligible members:
- Orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) or,
- Persons with severe disability without any productive capacity and
- Elderly persons who are 65 years and above.
By: Collins Kwabena Nsiah|www.zamireports.com| Kasoa|Accra.