“ If you give a remedy to a woman with headache or back ache, but do not also provide advice or help to change the way she carries the load, it is like throwing water into a basket” Emperor.
Head trading women, that is women who carry the great weight of their goods for sale upon their heads. In rural areas women can walk for miles in between villages in the often vain hope that they will lighten the load for the return journey by making even some small sales.
And what do the women carry to sell? It may be lengths of bright coloured cloth for dresses and wraps. It may be kitchenware, basins and buckets. It could be dried fish or herbs. It might be soaps and detergents, loaves of bread and trays of eggs. Great basins of cassava root and baskets of wood are carried this way.
Whatever it is, there needs to be enough of it to warrant the days’ walking and to provide sufficient choice for customers. It has to be a heavy load.
Women carry their goods in large metal basins or on flat trays or in plastic laundry style baskets. A coiled cloth pad is first put on the head and then, sometimes with help from another, the load is hoisted aloft. You see women walking the dusty roads and weaving in between village thatch and mud houses, walking tall, with beautiful postures, and in heat of up to 35 degrees or more.
The women are also mothers, farmers, cooks, housekeepers. They are strong, muscled, hardened by long days of very hard work. They are motivated by being often the only breadwinner in a family. They want to earn enough to save “little by little’’ to educate their children so that their future lives will not be as harsh as their own.
Head trading women have wonderful posture – when they are young. After 10, 20 or more years’ head trading they come to Mafi Seva clinic in the Lower Volta region typically with ailments like these:
- Severe and chronic headache
- Blurred vision
- Jaw pain
- Sinus pains
- Breathing problems
- Backache and joint pain
- Waist pain
- Abdominal pain
- Menstrual difficulties
The Bicycle Depot
See, what happens when a Head trader moves her stock to the front and back panniers of a bicycle; she frees her head and spine from pressure
She can breathe more easily and recover the health of her lungs and abdominal organs
She can exercise joints and muscles instead of straining and damaging them
She can cycle farther than she can walk and therefore gain more customers
The Depot becomes a meeting place for her
Located as it is at a clinic, she can see a homeopath and nurse when she comes to pick up or drop off the bicycle.
The Bicycle Depot works like this:
The bicycles are in the Depot at Mafi Kumasi Hope Homeopathic Medical Centre, a central location for women traders in this area of the Lower Volta.
A woman signs for a bicycle for the day and loads her goods, leaving her basin in safe keeping at the depot.
She returns the cycle at the end of the day and contributes 1 to 2 Cedis
(Cedi is about 25p) for the upkeep and repair of the bicycle.
The Depot has a bike repairer already on site as well as storage facilities at this newly developing Mafi Kumase clinic.
It is a simple scheme, but effective. There is already a bicycle project in the Northern Volta region, operating like this, but for Kekeli health educators rather than for Head traders. Kekeli (meaning Light)
are locals, mainly women, who volunteer to go round to all the outlying
villages to provide health and reproductive education.
A strong bicycle costs £50, another £20 for panniers, puncture repair kit and locks. £70 to change the daily life, wellbeing and life chances of a woman Head trader.
Please help Head Trading Women.
Please donate to the Bicycle Depot.
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