In the heart of Accra, there’s a landscape that belongs in a sci-fi movie. Agbogbloshie is a sprawling slum, famous for its eco-unfriendly recycling practices. Electronics are disassembled and melted down and lots of other toxic stuff goes up in smoke here. Pro-Link has a couple of projects in Agbogbloshie. One is the ADRA/Linkages HIV/AIDS and STI testing and screening project. They have a drop-in centre and their clients are male and female sex workers. A team of peer educators scours the alleyways for clients, providing them with education and referral information. They also keep tabs on their clients for follow-up care. The other project is called Obraapa, where sex workers are taught how to make a variety of beaded items including bags, decorated slippers, necklaces, bracelets and earrings. While I was there a group gathered around a table and started sorting beads. Aggie, a feisty gal leading the group came charging over to me holding up some coloured beads. Would I like a bracelet? I pointed to my ankle. I had been craving an anklet ever since I saw the ones the Obraapa women had made for my boss. Aggie’s fingers moved quickly and in no time she was fastening her creation around my ankle. Beautiful! It didn’t stop there, she also whipped together a chunky necklace and matching earrings. Wow.
This girl was talented. We took pictures and then the peer educators had to leave for their rounds. Despite such a challenging environment, the young women were playful and full of fun. “Is that your natural hair colour?” one asked me. “Well, not exactly, I lighten it. Is that your natural hair?” I responded. She laughed and patted her braids. “Not exactly.” We all laughed. Funny how that visit changed my preconceptions. Despite the sci-fi landscape, these young women were like young women everywhere. Full of vitality, hopes and dreams. Their work with Pro-Link has bolstered their self-confidence. They’ve seen other young woman who have become role models in their community and they know it is possible eventually to reach some of their goals. As they say here in Ghana, “God willing!”
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