It is no secret that hundreds of thousands; possibly millions of Ghanaians make their living selling food and household goods to commuters in traffic.
This phenomenon used to be far from our homes, but lately, it is getting very close to us with the early morning rush hour vehicular traffic build-up going as far as to residential areas. For instance, from Ashaley Botwe School Junction, where I live, to Madina, for those who are familiar with that route, you would agree that when the road was under construction, there were no street hawkers at all. But all of a sudden, I noticed one morning on my way to work that the route has turned into a point for sale for people selling plantain chips, pure water, chewing gum and all kinds of stuff. Even street beggars have seen the growing opportunity on that route and they are fast pitching their camp there to beg for alms from commuters in heavy traffic.
I ask myself “where were all these people when the road was under construction – didn’t they have a place to sell already?”
Much as street hawking is a genuine source of income for many homes, it has been a thorny issue in Ghana for many years, particularly because children under 18 are largely involved and that makes them vulnerable to all kinds of risks and abuses. For one, it is illegal for children to be involved in any form of hard labour, including street hawking.
Again, every child has the constitutional right to education, but in many cases, children in street hawking are deprived of education. Even simple things like children’s right to play are seriously breached by the pressure on them to get on the streets and make some money or be denied food. Obviously, the risk of being run over by a vehicle, the exposure to the harsh vagaries of the weather, and even the possible abuse by wicked people means they are being denied their right to protection as well.
This issue has been the topic of many talk shops; at conferences, in political speeches and in the media, and yet no one is really taking the bull by the horn to ensure children are cleared from the streets into the classroom. It would appear enforcement has become a challenge because street hawking for many kids is more of an issue of survival than anything. Some of the kids are selling on the streets because they must; if they don’t, they will simply not food to eat even for a day. Abject poverty at home compels some parents and guardians to throw the children on the street to earn some income to support the house.
Indeed, another phenomenon fast growing alongside children in street hawking is the even more worrying trend of children beggars, some of whose parents sit in the street corners and ask their children to walk between moving vehicles in traffic and beg for alms. Some visually impaired and crippled adults also use children as escorts in their trade. This poses a present danger for the kids and also threatens to mar their future.
The Gender and Children Affairs Ministry recently launched a campaign dubbed “Operation get off the Streets”, targeted at removing beggars on the streets, particularly children. As far as I know, that campaign is yet to see the light of day. I want to appeal to the Minister that when the campaign takes off, they should extend their operations to the Ashaley Botwe School Junction area because the street beggars and hawkers are pitching their camp there seriously.
In a BettyBlueMenz Perspective, We all know times are hard, but that does not also mean we should always do the wrong thing just to survive; otherwise, criminals can also cite economic hardship as justification for their crimes.
Children involved in street hawking is illegal and for that matter, the DOVVSU division of the police must get involved and start making arrests, particularly those parents who sit in the street corners and release their children to beg and or sell.
The Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) has embarked on a number of decongestion exercises to clear street hawkers operating at unauthorized places. But just a few days after the AMA go silent, the hawkers get back on the streets. This means enforcement must be supported with measures to get the hawkers a permanent place to sell their items so that we can keep our streets and pavements free.
I rest my case here…