IOM, Government of Ghana Distribute Solar Lanterns to Vulnerable Migrant Girls, Call for Increased Protection and Inclusion

Community Stabilization, Gender and Migration, International Migrants Day

Accra – As part of its commemoration of International Migrants Day, the UN migration agency (IOM) together with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in Ghana this week (201/12) distributed 280 solar lamps to Kayayei – female head porters – and called for increased coordination to address protection concerns.

The Kayayei are girls, as young as six years old, who migrate mainly from the three northern rural regions of Ghana in hopes of generating income for themselves and their families in urban centres such as Accra and Kumasi, carrying loads for traders and other customers in exchange for money.

The informal nature of this work exposes the Kayayei to numerous human rights violations, including gender-based violence, verbal and physical abuse, theft and exploitation by patrons who either refuse to pay or who pay very little. Push and pull factors, including poverty, traditional harmful practices and difficulties in accessing education, as well as the existing demand for porter services in the markets, contribute to the persistence of these flows.

Advocating for a comprehensive and coordinated approach to address the Kayayei phenomenon, IOM Ghana this week (20/12) hosted a stakeholders’ meeting to pool knowledge and expertise from Governmental and non-government representatives working with the Kayayei, including UN Agencies, Ministries, NGOs as well as representatives of Kayayei associations. Five Kayayei were also present – the youngest being 13 years old – and participated very actively to the working group discussions.

During the meeting, IOM presented the results of a baseline study to consolidate background information on known areas of origin and migration patterns, profile and organization of the Kayayei, key protection issues and past and current interventions by government, UN and civil society.

The study is meant to support current planning and mapping work undertaken by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection. Building on the conclusions of the study, participants had the opportunity to discuss issues in small working groups and to review the current situation, identify priority needs, gaps, lessons learnt and share best practices to coordinate upcoming interventions.

During the stakeholders’ meeting, 230 individual solar lamps were distributed to Kayayei, while50 larger lanterns were given to trained Kayayei leaders. Abuses, including of a sexual nature, that the girls endure often take place at night, and access to light has been shown to be a crucial element for protection, helping to prevent gender-based violence and other abuses.

Mohammed Salifu, Head of the Agbogbloshie Head Porters Association also shared with the participants the story of a recent rape that took place in the neighbourhood after torrential rains had left the entire area in the dark.

“This is a confirmation, if we needed any, that our solar lanterns will have an important protective impact for the Kayayei recipients, especially those who sleep in the open,” said Sylvia Lopez-Ekra, Chief of Mission for IOM Ghana.

The representative of the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Comfort Asare, Director of Gender, commended IOM for organizing this timely meeting and informed the assembly of the Ministry’s plan to roll out a comprehensive mapping of all the Kayayei in the upcoming year.

For more information, please contact Benedetta Mangialardo at IOM Ghana: Tel: 0302 742 930 Ext 2414, Email:

  • IOM Ghana Chief of Mission, Sylvia Lopez-Ekra, handing solar lanterns to Mohammed Salifu, the Head of the Agbogbloshie Head Porters Association. They are accompanied by Comfort Asare, Director of Gender from the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, (left) and several Kayayei (right). Photo: IOM 2017