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Helping Young Women Get Ahead

By Kelly Jennings-Robinson

There are not many employment opportunities in the Northern regions of Ghana.  Many girls and young women living in extreme poverty often leave their rural homes, migrating to more prosperous cities in the south to find work.  Cities provide more opportunities to earn money which they can then send home to support their families.

Most of these young women have no formal education or qualifications so their employment options are limited. Many become kayayei, which means head porter. Head porters make money by carrying heavy loads of goods on their heads and selling them in the bustling markets of Accra and Kumasi.

There are many challenges…

The hours are long.

The pay is poor.

The loads are heavy.

The working conditions are dangerous.

They are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

They face daily discrimination and marginalisation as there is social stigma associated with being a head porter.

Their employment options are limited.

Until now.

Opportunity International has been transforming the lives of head porters since 2015. Our vocational training and livelihood programme provides the these vulnerable young women  with the skills, knowledge and materials to start their own small businesses. The young women first select a vocational skill that is quick and easy to learn. This includes soap-making, bead-making or bread-making. They then complete an intensive training course to learn their chosen skill as well as basic business and finance skills. This ensures that they know how to make high quality goods so they can turn a profit.  Upon completion of the programme, all participants receive a starter kit with the materials they need to make their first products. They have all they need to manufacture and sell! By empowering the head porters with the ability to earn their own income, many will  move back home to be closer to their families. Not only does this provide them with safety and security, it also contributes to the economy in their local communities.

They will earn more money.

They will not be vulnerable.

They will break the cycle of abuse and exploitation.

They will have employment options.

Introducing Bridget


Bridget started working when she was ten years old.  She carried bags on her head and ran errands for visitors to her local market to earn money for her mother and her aunts. As a teenager,she was kicked out of her family home because she was not earning enough to cover her portion of the rent. She dropped out of school so she could work as a full time head porter.  She was living in a slum when she met her boyfriend who encouraged her to join Opportunity International’s training programme.

“I was lucky to be one of the 10 selected from my area. For three weeks at the training centre, I learned how to make liquid and bar soap. I have also learnt how to make other detergents and air fresheners. “

Bridget is now 21 years old and has big dreams. She manufacturing soap to sell to local customers and has increased her profits with each batch that she produces. She is planning to buy a mixer in the future so she can expand her production of liquid soap for wholesale customers. Her future is bright. 


              Bridget displays the soap that she has made. 

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