The Hidden Consequences of Globalization - Part 2
Institutional Advancement Manager - 10/21/2016
Author: George Mwinnyaa.
Ama told Akuba that both of her parents had passed away when she was five and that her uncle, who had been helping her with her education, could not do so anymore due to the increasing cost of living in Esiama. Ama told Akuba that she had figured out a way to be able to pay all her school fees herself and have money left over. Ama swore Akuba to secrecy, that Akuba could not tell anyone, especially her parents, about how she was getting money for school. Ama then told Akuba that every night when everyone is asleep, she leaves the school dorm and goes to a nearby road; there, she is met by men from either the mining company, oil drilling company, or gas company, who then take her to a nearby hotel, have sex with her, and then give her a lot of money. Ama claimed that in just a week she was able to get enough money to pay for the entire school year.
Akuba went back into her room, scared and confused, and did not know what to do. She knew her parents would be angry and disappointed if they ever found out about such actions. Akuba cursed the day the mining company took her father’s coconut farm; she cursed the day oil was discovered and ruined her father’s fishing business, but is was too late. Akuba knew that if she wanted to remain in school, she must find a way to pay her fees. She knew she could no longer rely on her parents. The only thing Akuba was really worried about was the issue of getting pregnant, but that was resolved when Ama told her that she could give her some pills that prevent pregnancy. Akuba decided that this was her only option; there was no other way. Within a week, as Ama promised, Akuba had gotten enough money to pay her fees and still had some money left over. In a way, Akuba was proud of herself for being able to earn her own money and even have extra left over, but she never felt good about her new job. She even planned to quit after paying for her fees, but she could always think of other things she would like to buy, so she continue to go with Ama to meet up with the men. She went home after her second year, again earning high grades. Akuba’s parents asked about the remaining school fees, and Akuba told them that a friend of a friend who works in the mining company paid the fees for her.
Akuba’s parents insisted to meet this generous stranger, but Akuba protested and said that the person wanted to remain anonymous. Akuba was enjoying her school break and was excited to return to school. She was no longer worried about her school fees, she knew she would be able to get the required amount very quickly once she returned to school and resumed her sex work. A few weeks before school was to start, Akuba started to have a bad cough and noticed some rashes on her body. She was taken to the hospital and a series of tests were done. Akuba learned that she was HIV positive. She was shocked. Her parents were certain there was some mistake with the tests, but the doctor confirmed the results again. Akuba was devastated; she regretted the day she became friends with Ama, and the day she decided to engage in sex work. Akuba’s parents took her home and life took another turn.
In Esiama, just like other parts of Ghana and Africa, there is strong stigmatization and misconceptions about HIV. Once home, Akuba’s parents quickly isolated Akuba, and provided her with her own chair, drinking cup, bowl, and a bathing bucket; she was not allowed to touch shared items in the house anymore. Her family members refused to touch Akuba for fear of contracting the incurable disease. Food and water were put at the entrance of her room, and she was never to step foot out of her room unless to visit the restroom. Rumors about Akuba having HIV spread in Esiama, and people avoided Akuba’s house whenever possible. Akuba became the hottest topic for discussion and gossip in Esiama and her family could not raise their heads when they walked in the community because of stigma and shame.
Akuba’s parents tried to take her to Eikwe Hospital, but faced another obstacle: no taxi driver who knew about Akuba’s situation would allow her in their car. Once they were finally able to get to Eikwe, nurses stared and whispered as they opened her referral letter from the Eisama health clinic. Akuba was directed to the HIV/AIDS management unit. She was informed that she must return each month for her anti-retroviral drugs. Month by month, Akuba and her parents struggled not only to get the money for the drugs and transportation, but also to find a taxi that was willing to take Akuba to the hospital. Many more taxi drivers heard the news about Akuba and started refusing to drive her. With the financial difficulties and challenges with transportation, Akuba finally stopped going to the hospital for checkups and refilling her drugs. There were a lot of things she wished she could go back and change, but it was too late. As her illness worsened Akuba continued to suffer rejection from family and friends, stress, frustration, and loneliness. The dream of a young girl who wanted to be a physician came to a tragic end from forces beyond her control. The globalization of Esiama did not bring prosperity to all its residents. Instead, for some like Akuba, it brought sadness and death.