New project in Ghana is providing dress making and hair styling skills to former teenage prostitutes
Mary Magdalene Yartey is a project officer at the Ghana office of the IChristian Charity called INN, or International Needs Network. She said peer pressure and lack of parental support are among the reasons that young women go into commercial sex. She described the practice as a form of exploitation since it targets children as young as fifteen.
A task force made up of community leaders identifies young girls in the sex trade.
“They go around at night to places where people solicit for the girls’ services. They talk to the girls about our programs and if they are interested, we introduce them to it.”Yartey says.
According to Yarety, the young women are counseled on reproductive health issues, including the dangers of unprotected sex. They are then placed in skill training programs. Fifty-five young women have so far been trained in hair dressing, dress making and production of batik clothing materials.
“We look for informal training centers in the area which are decent. We pay for their training fees and acquire school uniforms for them. We also provide them with the tools of their trade.” explains Yarety.
Yartey says, “parents of beneficiaries are encouraged to offer relevant support in order to make the training program a success. Many of the girls had left home and living with relatives or friends. They needed money and were only loosely monitored. “
The training program asks the families to offer the girls food, shelter and encouragement until they learn a trade and can stand on their own.
One beneficiary I’ll call Akosua said she is making steady progress in her dress making apprenticeship program. She displayed some dresses she has made in the shop where she works.
They include two skirts designed for a large sized figure and two blouses made from wax print.
“I was collecting money from men but now I have to learn to make something for myself in future,”Akousa says
Akosua has dreams of establishing her own dress making shop and give employment to others in the future.