The day I completed SHS I knew my education was over. I was in school when my dad retired. Mom had been sick for a long while and she wasn’t doing anything that brought in any income. My two other siblings were in school, the elder one was in the second year in university and the youngest one was still in Junior high school. My dad told me, “If you really want to continue your education, then you’ll have to wait until your elder brother completes, get a job and support you through school. It’s hard the way things are. We can’t add more hardship to our situation.” Mom told me to look for a teaching job or learn an apprenticeship. “You’re a woman. One day someone rich will find you and marry you so you don’t have to worry yourself like your brothers. They’ll marry someone so they need money. You’ll be married to someone so all you need is time.”
I completed school, came home and decided to take life by the horn and live it the best way that I could. My brother promised me that he’ll do everything within his power to get a job and take me back to school. I did the maths. He was in his second year when I completed school. He had two more years to complete, and then do national service before he could finally land a job. I didn’t want to sit idle and wait so I started looking for something I can do to raise money so I can help myself first before anyone comes in.
I saw a poster on the wall looking for workers. The salary posted was GHC 250-GHC500. That was 2010 and it didn’t look like a bad deal for an SHS graduate so I called the number and went to their office the following day. They told me, “What we have available now is a susu job. You’ll go around on our customers and collect their savings. You’ll also have to bring in new customers, at least five people in a week. If you’re able to meet your targets, there are extra incentives for that. The starting salary is GHC250. You’ll have to work your way up to the extra incentives. That can take you as far as GHC600 a month.”
I was poised and eager to get to the GHc600 but before work started, we had an orientation that advised the women among us to be careful of preying men. We were given tips and tricks to identify men who are not interested in saving money but rather interested in getting us into their beds. “The dangers surrounding your job will always come from these preying men,” they told us. “Don’t meet men in their offices alone. When they ask you to come home for their money, don’t go. They tell you to meet them after working hours, you don’t have to go. Create an intentional barrier that will make them know that your work is all you know and nothing else.”
During my first week on the job, I nearly resigned. It was hard. The sun didn’t make life easier for me at all. The walking never stopped until I started feeling pains in my legs and in my waist. I had a dream to fulfil so I kept going. The first month didn’t go well for me. I got only my basic salary. The second month too the same but I was saving a lot of money because I ate from home and wasn’t paying any other bills. That was the motivation for me to keep going. I had a boyfriend then, Ato. He was also an SHS graduate just like me. We completed school together in the same year. We were just following our teenage hormones and doing things we were not supposed to do.
Ato saw me one day in my uniform and told me, “So you didn’t listen to me? What sort of embarrassing job is that? You know I can’t date a susu woman. My friends will even laugh at me. If you love me like you said you do, then you have to stop doing that job.” I answered, “I have to stop doing this job because your love will take me to school, right? No problem, you can leave if I embarrass you that much, after all, what do you even do for me?” His friends indeed laughed at him so he stopped having anything to do with me. I got the message and left the relationship. I told myself nothing would ever distract me until I go to school.
Men came along but I brushed them aside. Those who were supposed to save their money with me were trying to save their emotions in me but I was quick to remind them of what I was there for. As late as midnight, I will have customers calling and asking me to come and visit them. There’s always an advantage to every disadvantage. Some men saved with me because they wanted me. A lot of them so it got to a period I was achieving my target month on month. There was this one particular shop I entered where the boss was very rude to me. He was a young guy, at my brother’s age but I later learned he owned the shop so even when he disrespected me often, I was patient with him. He wasn’t the one I was taking the money from. I was taking the money from his shop attendant.
The first time I went there and he saw me he said, “Stand outside and take your money. Do you have to get in here? Can’t you stand behind the counter?” And then he did mtcheew and left.
Every day when I went there, different wahala. Everybody there was happy to see me but not this gentleman. I learned to ignore him. “It’s money I came for, I didn’t come to respond to your anger,” I told myself.
I did this job for four years before I saved enough to go back to school. My brother had completed national service and had started working so I knew if it got harder, he could come through for me. My first year in school was smooth. The second year was going well. I came on a vacation one day and I bumped into that guy I said was rude to me, that young shop owner. I didn’t see him, even if I did, I was sure going to turn away but he saw me first and rushed to me; “Lady, what happened? Are you fighting with us? You just disappeared without telling us anything.”
“I should have told you that I wasn’t coming again? You didn’t even like to see me there.”
“That’s not the truth. So you mean you’ve stopped coming there because of me?”
“No, I won’t stop my job because of someone. Never. I’m in school that’s why?”
“Oh really? What school is that? Training college?”
“No, I’m in the university.”
“Wow, I didn’t know you had this huge dream. That’s awesome. Most girls do that job and they end up sleeping around with those guys in the shop. The one before you was doing it and I thought you were going to end up the same way.”
He apologized profusely and even took my number so he would call and apologize again. We became friends who talked every day. I told him my story and he fell in love with my resilience. “Many women won’t do that. They’ll rather sleep around to get through it. Good to know you’re different.”
He told me how he came to own the shop after the original owner, his brother, left the shop and travelled outside. “I had completed Poly when he was going so I decided to own it and run it as if he never left. So far so good. I’ve been doing great.” His story is similar to mine, from grass to grace kind of story so we talked often. He proposed one day and I said yes. I had come to know so much about him to be very sure about the kind of person he was.
When he came into my life, my brother’s job in my life ceased. He took over the care my brother should have owed to me and delivered it perfectly.
He paid my fees when I hadn’t even asked him to do it. He changed my hostel because he said the previous one, six in a room, was crowded. When I had to pay for books, he came through. When I needed extra money to keep my body and soul together, he gave me more than enough. I was in the fourth year, about to complete school when he took me home to meet his people. His father loved me instantly but his mother was a little bit off. She didn’t show any emotions for me to judge how she felt about me. Later, I learned that his mother didn’t like me because she felt I was going to leave her son after school.
When I completed school, I stayed around them often for her to know that I meant no malice. When I had nothing doing, I will go to their house and help his mother run her bakery. Because of her, I can start a bakery today and make it a success. There was nothing this woman didn’t teach me. She was even convincing me to start one wherever life takes me. “When it becomes hard for you to get a job, start this job. It’s all I’ve done to take care of my kids. Who doesn’t eat bread? So everyone else is your customer. You can’t lose.”
Right after my national service, he asked me to marry him. I was sceptical. I wanted a job first. I wanted security for myself before anything else but he said, “Don’t be selfish. Have I not shared everything I have with you? Why do you want your own first before anything? I’m still here, and I will help. Let’s do this before times change.” My parents were in support of him. My brother had become very good friends with him and he was also pushing me to do it. I was alone, fighting a losing battle so I said yes and we got married.
Two years later, we have a son, a happy home and a man I can always run home to when life decides to lash me outside. I thought he hated me when he was rude to me at first. He was rude to me because of the perception he had about me. He was wrong about me and I was wrong about him too. It’s the reason we’ve decided not to run this marriage on perceptions and assumptions. “Talk about it. Ask questions and it may surprise you the kind of answers you’ll get,” he told me. So in this marriage, we wake up with questions and look for answers together, in the process of seeking answers, we build a bond, understanding and grow the intentions of our partnership each day.
He’s back in school now. I’m the one holding things together from behind. When he’s done, I will go to school again while he stays back until I’m done. Then it will be his turn to go back to school again. The susu job was hard. The sun threatened to burn my skin and make life not too easy for me but look at what it brought me, love and a family I’m proud to call my own.