When Valentina asked her older sister for money to buy a sewing machine so she could learn a trade, the response wasn’t complimentary.

“Go to Agbogbloshie. You can work as a head porter otherwise known locally as ‘kayayei’. You will make money then you can buy your own machine,” she was told.

Rather than a sewing machine, her sister handed her ¢100.

“That was all I had and I used it to take a bus to come here. I didn’t know anyone here,” says Valentina.

She was 12 years old then and in JHS 1. That trip, lasting more than 20 hours from the Upper West regional town of Tumu where she comes from, to Accra, was her first out of home.

Her full name is Valentina Roberts but people call her Mamuna.For two years, Valentina has been working in the Agbogbloshie market as a head porter, staying in the nearby Old Fadama slum where thousands of other girls with stories like hers live.

She says “I wake up at 4 am and work till night. Anytime I wake up, I think about the pain I would be going through carrying things in the market and I get scared,”.

In a day, she carries an average of 50 loads, making ¢50 on good days and ¢40 on bad ones.

“From the money I make, I send money to my parents so they can take care of my siblings. I buy foodstuff and other provisions and send to my family. They always call me for money,” she says.

Valentina’s elder sister who showed her the way to Agbogbloshie was the first to come here. She dropped out of school too and lived and worked in Agbogbloshie for more than 5 years. Today, she is back in their village learning a trade.

There are rarely any data on the number of “Kayayei” in Ghana largely because they are unregulated. However, the Association of Kayayei estimates Accra alone has at least 6,000 of them.

Like Valentina, many of them have truncated their education and are facing the harsh realities of life in Accra. in their quest to earn a living.

This is the first of a five-part series by JoyNews, which highlights the life and struggles of Ghana’s Human Shopping Baskets, known locally as “Kayayei” who mainly come from the five regions of northern Ghana.