A Ghanaian Expereince of Sierra Leone II
So…we ended with the “wanshy” ladies from part 1.
So what are the second category of ladies? The very young prostitutes in Freetown and Lungi. Lungi is the town/city where the Airport is located.
I know you are confused now so let me break it down. Sierra Leone according to wikipedia: is located on the west coast of Africa, between the 7th and 10th parallels north of the equator. Sierra Leone is bordered by Guinea to the north and northeast, Liberia to the south and southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Find a map here.
Right, so when you fly into Sierra Leone you land in Lungi which could well be a village in Ghana. Then you cross over to the capital Freetown in the mainland.
Because of the devastating war that lasted more than a decade, lots of young people especially girls have missed out on school. These girls are aged 15-25 that have missed so much school they do not find it worthwhile to go back. You will find these girls busy during the night…at the pubs, clubs and anywhere there is alcohol and men gather.
I will speak specifically of my experience in Lungi… I arrived in Lungi on Sunday about 2pm and went straight to my friends home where I also spent the night. After dinner, we “stepped out” into ‘town’. Everywhere was pitch dark. Now Lungi has no electricity as the government is still planning how to bring power from the main land to the peninsular. Even the airport is powered by a gen-set.
So five minutes walk from the airport is a line of bars, hotels and guesthouses. The most popular one is painted black – very convenient for a town that is pitch black! In the interior is river sand. Cool eh?
Time: it was 7pm and only men we were in this bar. My escorts were 2 ladies of Fulani extract originally form neighbouring Guinea. By 9:30 the place was full of droves of girls that were under 23years.
The music we a mix of Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone; and the style was “extreme grating and winding” . With skimpy clothes straining to cover what they are supposed to cover.
These girls have a constant lure of a smile on their faces and winking like the camera.
Then I started to pay attention. A third girl came to join us; a cousin of the one my escorts. She was a little above the exposure of self and smiling [my escorts were Muslims [though moderate] so they did not drink alcohol. Then it happened – the boyfriend of the 3 girl walked in a dragged her out. I stood behind, my training rushing to me. I looked for exit points and how to blend in and get lost! So after 15mins the initial 2 escorts came back to say the boyfriend as jealous that his girl was in the bar. [I thought, hell yea, I would be too..]
The pattern became even more clearer when I bumped into some staff of and INGO that I had had some consultations with. They were going to be on the same flight as me and were “chilling out the night” they said. Well these guys just shoved some girls into their shinny 4×4 and sped off!
At that point my colleague Mohammed Kanneh’s frustrations came to mind. Mr. Kanneh works for the West African Youth Network [WAYN] and always had problem with the fact that in the Sierra Leonean Youth Policy document; such attributes as “prostitutes”, “drop-outs”, “people influenced by politician”, etc were used to describe the youth of Sierra Leone.
So I said; wait…this is just right. Whoever authored the introductory section of that document was right and must be commmended. Indeed, if well intentioned people like my colleague Kanneh had any thanks, they should give it to the authors of the youth policy for being bold and describing their youth the way they did as it very much captures what it is.
I look to my country Ghana and I know we have issues of prostitution but to walk into a bar or pub and have 90% or more of the women there been prostitues is another matter!
But, I had fun. I danced, met a Ghanaian construction guy and his Sierra Leonean boy friend..I thought that was cute how they carried in. An oh, they shared their whisky with me which was great.
Lesson: For me, experiencing what I did in Lungi tells me as a social entrepreneur the existing fruitful opportunities in Salone; that my work and my aspiration to work with and for young people still has hope and perhaps Salone in calling my soul.
I say so because, I have never been to Sierra Leone or Liberia but for some reason these two countries hold a attraction to me. I was not disappointed by Sierra Leone. And I am sure Liberia will give me a better experience as I contemplate been part of the elections observation team for the October elections.
I believe also that my experience justifies creating internship opportunities in Freetown and spreading to other provinces.
In my mind, I toast to working in SL/Salone/Sierra Leone and working with these second group of women and bringing them hope and self dignity!