Making a difference - Akua's Story

Shaping the futures of girls in Ghana

Francis Kokoroko
A girl leans on a window
UNICEF/UN357822/KOKOROKO

18 December 2019

Bridget Akua Afful will turn 17 in November 2019. She lives in Elmina in the Central Region. Bridget smiles a lot and she is very playful. “In this community, the only professionals people respect is the military or the police. They are the only ones who are able to bring order and raid the ghettos”. Bridget expresses why she wants to be a military officer in future.

She is a huge fan of the English football team Chelsea FC and is very active in sports at school. She enjoys playing football and running track.

The seventh born out of eight children, Akua experienced parental neglect from her mother whom she lived with in Elmina. It is quite a common occurrence for single mothers within the Elmina fishing communities to let their children fend for themselves due to poverty. Akua's siblings are each of different fathers and her father lives and works in another town called Abandze, a town 34km away from Elmina.

With not much to do as a young girl, Akua would leave the house in the morning with her friend who was being cared for by a boyfriend. Akua’s friend shared her meals and money with her and this led her to look for a boyfriend also. Young boys in the ‘ghettos' worked with the fishermen at the beach to earn a living aside the peddling of hard drugs and the engagement in other illegal activities.

Akua received another form of love and care she wasn’t getting at home from her boyfriend and she cohabited with him.

I dropped out of school because my family couldn’t afford it anymore and I started a relationship with my boyfriend who was a ‘ghetto boy’. In the ghetto, I was idle all day because my boyfriend would go to work in the morning with his young assistant with whom we lived together in a single room. He would give me some money for food and I would stay there till he returned. I was 15 years old by then. We would smoke Indian hemp and have sex. I wasn't taking care of myself and I hardly took a shower. I got sick eventually. I grew lean and looked unhealthy. I would not advise anyone to go to the ghetto because it is not safe. The most traumatic experience that happened to me was very violent and it nearly cost me my life”.

Akua recounts her life just a year ago in the ghetto in disgust and anger. She raises her shirt to reveal a scar on her back, an incident she admits made her leave the ghetto. “Whenever there is a fight in the ghetto, it does not get settled until someone bleeds.” Akua was trying to break up a fight when she got cut on her back with a knife. She was rushed to the hospital for treatment and she left home to her mother and family.

With an initial intent to revenge the assault on her after she healed, Akua changed her mind when she joins a community girls’ group—Promoting Adolescent Girls' Safe Spaces[PASS]— that mentored and provided guidance for adolescent girls. “Joining this group has helped changed my behaviour and I now have an appreciation for my prospects in life."

"I have learned a lot about personal hygiene, how to be respectful and also how to take care of myself during menstruation.”

Akua has re-enrolled in school and enjoying her science classes. She is in JHS one and very optimistic about writing the junior high final examinations.