I have been working for twenty years now in the sewing business, and I have trained over twenty-seven apprentices, and they have all graduated, and they have now all established themselves somewhere, and currently, I am still working as a fashion designer.
I discovered my disability at the age of seven years when my mom was still alive but my daddy was dead. I was the only disabled child among my peers in school, and I was the only disabled child among my siblings and family, so I went through so much discrimination. My mom didn’t even like me as a daughter because of my disability. That is the reason why she refused to educate me. At stage three, I had to quit school. I wasn’t a happy girl at all.
When I quit school, I realized I had to do something, so I started making ground-nut cake to sell at the front of my house. As I was doing the ground-nut cake, patronage was very poor, so I stopped making the ground-nut cake, and I started with maize doughnuts, and people used to come and buy them in bulk and retail them.
In the course of the maize doughnuts, I saved some money and was able to buy myself a sewing machine. After buying the sewing machine, patronage for the maize cakes was very poor, so I diverted to flour doughnuts, and patronage was quite promising, so I saved some money and put myself into an apprenticeship for sewing.
I had this lady who used to visit me and help me with my household chores and personal things and suddenly she ceased coming. One afternoon, as I was enjoying the afternoon breeze, I saw this woman passing in an apprenticeship uniform, and I asked her, “Why have you ceased coming?”
She said, “It’s because I have started a sewing apprenticeship, so I don’t get time to visit you.” Then she asked, “Would you like to join me in the sewing apprenticeship?”
I said, “Yes, but my mobility is very poor, and even too get to the place and back will be very difficult for me.”
She told me, “I help you to the shop and get you back home if you are ready to learn.”
I said, “Yes – I am ready.”
The lady took me to the master, and she showed me to the woman. As custom demands, I needed someone to accompany me – a family member. I told my grandma, but she was very weak and old, so I had to talk to my mom, and because my mom didn’t like me, she didn’t want to accompany me.
When my mother finally accompanied me to the place, the proprietor said that there are certain household chores that I would need to do everyday as an apprentice. I would need to sweep. I would need to tidy the place, and with my disability, how could I participate? When one of the apprentices heard my plight, she said she would sweep on my behalf.
As I started my apprenticeship, I was still doing the doughnuts. Before daybreak, I molded the doughnuts, and in the morning, I would fry some. I asked permission from my trainer then to release me at eleven o’clock so I could come home and fry the ones I left for the afternoon, and I would come back at twelve. I was also doing coconut toffee.
It was supposed to take me three years to complete the apprenticeship, but it took me less than three years because I was very good. What I was doing was I was able to buy two sewing machines. I left one at home and sent one to the apprenticeship course. Whatever I studied there, I practiced at home, so I became perfect in one and a half years.
My friend’s father was the one who was sponsoring me, so I was able to save some money out of the doughnuts that I was preparing. With that money, I was able to get myself a shop. I rented it and started my business. I was later able to raise some more money to own my shop without renting.
At one time, I had as many as twenty-four apprentices studying under me, but in the course of that, there was a litigation on my land, so I lost my stall. Fortunately, I was with a church, and the head pastor made another stall for me free of charge, and those who had not reached graduation, I sent them to the new place.
I have been working for twenty years now in the sewing business, and I have trained over twenty-seven apprentices, and they have all graduated, and they have now all established themselves somewhere, and currently, I am still working as a fashion designer
Did you ever marry?
I met a gentleman, my first man, and I brought him to my mom, and she sacked him. I didn’t understand. I was very hurt. I loved him, and he loved me. But when I brought him home, my mom refused.
God willing, I met a second man, but when I got pregnant with him, I lost my baby in labor. When I lost my baby, I was so devastated. I was completely lost.
Since then, I have not had any man in my life. I don’t think any man is interested in me. If a man is interested, I would try for a third time.
Why do you think people with disabilities are mistreated in Ghana?
I think it’s because no matter how strong you are or no matter how you persevere, in Ghana, people still see you as an odd sort of thing. Very few understand us. If you are a disabled person in Ghana, marriage is very, very difficult.
I had one male friend that used to visit me, and the guy one day was walking with another male friend and saw me sitting in front of my house. My friend introduced me to the guy saying she was his wife. He wanted to see what the guy would say.
The guy passed a very funny comment. He said, “So we have all these beautiful woman around in this community, but you could only find this cripple.”
When you taught apprentices, did you teach any people with disabilities?
I had wanted to teach my female counterparts free-of-charge but none of them were ready to learn. I used to advertise that they should come and learn free, but none of them came. Part of the reason they might not have come was that they found me to be very bossy.
What is your hope for people with disabilities in Ghana?
I have no hope. With how the leaders treat us, I think there is no hope in Ghana. And if there is any coup in this nation, it will be disaster for persons with disabilities.