I had big dreams growing up. I wanted to be someone my parents would be proud of. I stuck to my books and studied hard. I excelled in all my subjects and my parents were proud of me. My teachers in school also loved me and never stopped encouraging me to be better.
I thought my life would continue along that path but life in its unfairness took my mother away from me. It was in 2016 and I was in JHS2. She left behind my elder brother, me, my younger brother, and my three-month-old baby sister. The baby didn’t know anyone except my mum and me. The first week of my mum’s death, my grandmother took her to her place but she brought her back. She said, “This baby has cried for an entire week nonstop. I can’t keep her.” Everyone realized that she didn’t cry when she was in my arms. So there was an unspoken agreement that I would care for her. I quit school and stayed home to take care of my sister. My dad was always busy. He left the house at dawn and returned late in the night. Whenever he got to be with the baby he didn’t know what to do with her. I became a mother at that young age. I fed her, bathed her, sang her lullabies, and did everything my mum used to do for her except breastfeeding.
This was a responsibility I wasn’t ready for, and it took a toll on me. I cried all the time especially when I saw my classmates going to school. After my mum’s funeral, one of my aunts who lived in Tema decided to take the baby in. When she saw how comfortable the baby was around me, she suggested that I live with her too. It was a better option than what I had at my dad’s place. My aunt helped out with the baby and I got to go to school. Due to my responsibilities, I found it difficult to study but I tried my best. By the time I wrote my BECE, my sister had gotten to know my aunt and she was comfortable around her. I decided to go live with my dad while I wait for my exam results.
When I went to my dad’s place I realized that things were different. My younger brother was no longer living with him. I asked him where my brother was and he said, “He is living with a female friend of mine.” I didn’t understand why he sent the boy away but I didn’t want to ask too many questions. As the days went by, things started making sense. We ate one meal a day at home. On bad days we wouldn’t have any food at home at all. When I got my period, there was no money for sanitary pads.
I understood then that my father was struggling with money and the situation was dire. After a while, he took me to go live with the same woman my brother was living with. It was a town in the Asante Akyem area, and the woman was kind to us.
When my BECE results came out my dad said he didn’t have money to help me continue to secondary school. I was devastated. I saw all my hopes and dreams come crumbling around me. I cried for days. One day the woman’s brother came to visit and saw me moping around the house. He asked questions and we told him about my ordeal. He suggested that I go live with him so he takes care of me. To me, he was an angel of hope in a dark moment.
I followed him to his house and his wife welcomed me. She was good to me. She gave me sanitary products and perfumes and body lotion. They both took good care of me and treated me as their own. I did the house chores without holding back. The man’s wife had a shop and I helped her sell. She trusted me to sell at the shop on Saturdays and I didn’t abuse that trust. Everything was going on smoothly.
One day the woman travelled, and the man came to my room at night. He said, “I took you in and I put you in school. My wife treats you as her own and I can see you are happy. You have to show your appreciation by allowing me to have my way with you.” I was terrified. I was only sixteen and hadn’t had anything to do with a boy. I started shivering but I gathered courage and told him, “If you don’t leave this instant I will tell your wife.”
He heard the seriousness of my threat and he left. That night I cried and prayed that God doesn’t allow him to force himself on me. The next day I went to him for money for school. This man gave me GH2 and said, “From now onwards this is the amount of money I will give you until you give me what I want.” It wasn’t easy for me. I couldn’t learn, I couldn’t concentrate in class. Hunger was killing me.
One Saturday evening the man’s wife accused me of stealing her money. I have never stolen anything of hers. I tried to tell her but she wouldn’t listen. The man was watching me with a look of triumph on his face. After that accusation, the woman started being hostile toward me. She only spoke to me when it was necessary. She stopped giving me sanitary products, body spray, and body lotion. I became very miserable. The man used that as an opportunity to try to persuade me to sleep with him but I refused.
Around that time, one of my teachers in school expressed interest in me. He showered me with gifts and money. Money that prevented me from starving and also helped me buy sanitary products. I accepted the teacher’s proposal and we started dating. He was the one who deflowered me. I enjoyed the benefits that came with my relationship with him. I gave him my body in return for favours. He paid everything for me including some fees in school. It didn’t take long for me to accept proposals from other teachers. I was dating three teachers and the school nurse. Life became smooth for me till I completed school in 2020.
When my WASSCE results came out I failed some subjects. I got a job so that I could save some money and resit those subjects. Unfortunately, I couldn’t save anything. I had to send part of my salary to my aunt to help take care of my sister. My aunt had complained that my dad wasn’t sending them money. Whatever was left of my salary, I used for my upkeep.
Somewhere along the line, I had my fifth boyfriend. He paid registration fees for me to rewrite my exams. When it was time for me to write I quit my job so I could focus. After the exams, I reapplied to the same company but they wouldn’t have me. I applied to several places but no one has hired me yet. While I was home sending out applications my boyfriend was taking care of me. He gave me the same amount I used to earn – GHC300. It got to a time he got tired and he stopped giving me the money. I didn’t complain, I understood him.
I kept searching for a job but nothing was happening. I met another guy and I started dating him too. He lived in another town. I visited him and stayed with him for three months. He made me comfortable and he also took care of me. I would have continued to stay with him but I had to come home. By home I mean the man who took me in and tried to sleep with me. When I returned he and his wife called me names. The most used one was “Ashawo”. They announced to the entire neighbourhood that that’s who I am.
I still do house chores to help them around the house. I don’t get support from anywhere. My aunt calls me to complain about my dad’s poor responsibility towards my sister. Because of this, I sleep around with whoever is willing to give me good money. I send the money I get to my aunt and keep the rest for my own upkeep.
To be honest, I don’t like what I’m doing with my life, I am only twenty-one. I want to change. I want to stop giving out my body in exchange for favours or money. I’ve written many applications for jobs but I’m not getting anything. The ones I get are far from me and they don’t come with accommodation.
Recently I was in my room when the man texted me; “I had big plans for you but you refused to give me what I want so I’m watching you. I see you go out with men and give them the thing I want. Now I will only allow you to continue living in this house if you stay in the house all day. If I see you dressed up to go out I will kick you out.”
I don’t know what to make of his threats. I am also looking at what he can do for me. He can afford to pay my fees for tertiary school but he is holding back. I am wondering if I should just give him what he wants so that I can also get what I want. I just want to make something out of my life.