Spotlight on FAWE:
Mary's Story
August 2005. Mary Sassah is 22 years old and lives in the small village of Atakrom, Ghana, where most people subsist on farming. CIRCLE partner FAWE first noticed Mary in 1997 when she played a leading role in a sketch about the importance of girls' education.

Mary Sassah recently told her life story on a nationally-televised talk show, organized by FAWE Ghana to create awareness of the hazards of child labor.
 Photo 1
Figure 1. Mary outside of her school

Mary's story:

I started going to the pineapple farm at age of 12, when I was in grade 3. I was working on the farm because that was the only way I could earn some money to pay my school fees. When I was 15 years old, my mother asked me to stop schooling because she couldn't afford my fees1. She personally went to my school to withdraw my nameā€¦.

I was so determined to continue my education that I moved to another village, where I stayed with a man, for whom I worked as a housemaid. I was able to continue my schooling for about a year, but my employer could no longer afford to pay my fees, so I had to come back to my old village and pass another whole year without going to school.

I reenrolled after I had saved some money from my work on the pineapple farm. I continued going to the farm after school and during weekends. I weeded around the pineapples, applied fertilizer or herbicide, harvested the fruits, and packaged them for export. I normally started work around 8 am and finished around 9 pm. Every morning before I rode the trucks to the farm, I had to carry my food and eat whilst the truck was moving, because the moment we get there, there would be no time for break.

 Photo 2
Figure 2. Mary in the pineapple fields where she once worked
Some of the men took advantage of us and had sex with some of the girls on pieces of packing cardboard, putting the cardboard underneath the trucks. Sometimes if you refuse these sexual advances, you will not be assigned on to work the next day.

I had to work on the pineapple farm until FAWE offered me the chance to go to a boarding house. I have stopped working on the pineapple farm since I now have a FAWE/CIRCLE scholarship2. During these hard times, I lost both my parents, but I am determined not to go back to this exploitation of my labor and dignity. I am now the Senior Prefect of the only Girls' Secondary school in the educational circuit.

Today I have my own farm. I hope it will sustain me during the vacation.

Some day I want to enter into the Police Service so that in my own small way, I can correct some of the injustices in our communities.

I will always thank FAWE for rescuing me and making available some of their resources to someone like me.
1 Approximately US$1.80
2 The scholarship will cover her fees, board, food stationary, and medication expenses until her final year in high school.