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Obiri Yeboah was born at Bekawi Bogyawe. At the age of five Yeboah lost the ability to walk after receiving an injection for an illness. Both before and during his time with the GSPD Yeboah worked as a tailor. He joined the organization near the beginning of its formation. He helped to spread the GSPD into Bekawi by promoting the organization and gaining new members.

“At the time that the [GSPD] was being formed they came to the rehab center to alert us. Most of us the disable persons were already there. The first came there to meet me when I was there… Kwasi Offei and Mr. Hagan and the rest. Our former president Mr. Wereko and Atakorah. When they came, I was at the rehabilitation center and they informed us of a group they’re forming. So they will come and pick us up on Saturday to the ministries where the meeting will take place… [At that time] it was very unusual to see two disabled persons walking together because of the stare from the public. It is still the same today. We even feel shy of ourselves as disabled persons when we meet on the streets. Even today when we are seen walking together in pairs or three, it would somewhat be spectacle to the public. In every two weeks we met and when we saw each other, we on the streets we encouraged each other to join the group… We started spreading the news to others and we met every two weeks. Then, GNTC, Kingsway, Glamour and other government owned stores supplied us with victuals. This helped the group to grow since we shared with the newcomers. With this success, the leaders decided to extend this program to other regions. Branches were started at Koforidua and other places as regions. Kumasi remained the headquarters. Mr. Wereko was nominated as our head to oversee the running of the group. The president was to be elected at the national conference which was unanimously given to him again. Mr. Wereko was very instrumental to the development of the group. He served two terms as the president of the group without any competition

The first route march we organized to launch the group attracted a very large crowd… It was a gathering of persons with disability. It looked like a festival with a paramount chief in attendance. Everyone wanted to know who we were. Kwesi Ofei, a cripple, with his dancing skills pulled the crowd to witness what we can do as persons with disabilities. His carefree attitude attracted lots of disabled persons to join the group… We started from ministries but I can’t tell where we ended it.

We kept publicizing the group. Any time we met a disabled person we invited him/her to join the group. During periods of choosing chiefs, disabled persons are not allowed to go out; they are mostly kept indoors. The group created an awareness of how disabled persons can also be educated. Our leaders exemplified this by their fluency in the English language. This encouraged parents to bring their disabled children to join the group. They always advised that, disabled children can be educated and trained just as normal children are trained. If you keep them indoors and feed them, how can they face life in your absence? This really encouraged parents to bring out their children. As you can see the group has developed from so much that districts has been formed in the various regions

Initially, I came from Bekwai Bogyawe to meetings. From the beginning, the whole Asante Region meet at Kumasi. Transporting oneself to the meeting grounds was a challenge for most of us. The leaders realizing that Bekwai Bogyawe where I come from, had many surrounding villages so they established branches there. We were to meet on regular basis to discuss issues. Our major concerns were to be presented at the major meeting at Kumasi by our representative. This is where I served as one of the leaders. Bekwai’s branch was established quite early. The tailoring was not lucrative there so my uncle from Krofrom had a place there for me where I went to establish myself. When I left Bekwai, I went back to Kumasi. But when I was at the rehabilitation center, I was in Kumasi so my role in Bekwai was short-lived…Whiles there we moved around the villages and introduced the group to them. There were no assemblymen at that time. We met with the committee members of the village and parents of the disabled persons. We often told them about the group where we meet and how to help their disable children live just as any other person. We often told them of our meeting days and how the government could help them. We encouraged them to snap out or avoid feel sorrowful and therefore the parents were asked to support their wards.

[The way forward for the GSPD is] the government has to give full scholarship to able persons. When you come to Gyaakye here the children pay school fees and light bill. One may get 10% out of every 100 disabled persons coming from good homes. Gyaakye is the main training grounds for the persons with disability. Not all disabled persons can acquire a particular life skill but when you give a particular task they can perform it. We appeal to the government to include us in the one district one factory project… We are concerned about the younger generation. It is our wish that the group help provide formal education to the younger generation. It is my major prayer. This will help us attain our freedom. When my father died and I couldn’t renew my caliper it had effect on me leading to my irregularity at school. So if I had a higher formal education couple with my trade, it would have been of greater benefit. It is really my greatest prayer.”

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This is the story of Edward Narh Tawiah, or Kofi, a fifty-two-year-old man from Tafo near Kumasi who lost a leg in a motorbike accident in 2008. His story highlights the difficulties he faced during recovery, the amount of support he has received from family and friends, and how disabled people have been treated by the government and by society more broadly over the years.


Accident and recovery

In 2008, Edward was in a motorbike accident while travelling from Akim Tafo to Bunso. He was taken to the hospital where his left leg was eventually amputated just below the knee. It ended up being a very expensive hospital visit, but Edward was fortunate that friends were able to help him pay the hospital fees. In the aftermath of the accident, Edward had to use crutches, but his mobility was still severely limited; he had to rely on family members to help him bathe. It also put his livelihood in jeopardy, since his job as a carpenter at Bunso Cocoa College entailed a great deal of physical labour and some of his managers didn’t think he could continue working.

Kofi walking through crops harvesting by hand

By 2009, Edward received a prosthetic leg, first an ill-fitting one from the orthopedic centre at Nsawam, and then a better one that he got from an American NGO through the Ministry of Health in Accra. As a result, Edward has regained some of his mobility – he doesn’t need to rely on his family for washing and meals, and he’s still employed, now in a supervisory role overseeing other workers. He’s even able to maintain some farm land at his cottage.

While his prosthetic leg has been crucial to his recovery, it has also come with its own difficulties, especially financial ones. Edward’s leg requires occasional repairs and adjustments, some of which cost as much as 600 cedis. And it is that sort of financial burden that leads Edward to reflect on the difficulties faced by disabled people in Ghana more generally. For, as he points out, similar situations are encountered by a large number of disabled people, many of whom are in a more dire financial position than his own.


Living with a disability

Edward offers an instructive perspective on the difficulties that he and others face. In one area of concern, he explains ways in which the government could do a better job responding to the needs of people with disabilities, such as through a better insurance program. Edward notes that the cost of equipment (such as wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs), medication, and hospital and clinic visits puts a great strain on disabled people, and those expenses should be better covered by the government. In addition, he explains that he and others need more government support when a disability prevents education or employment, or makes it difficult to pay children’s school fees. Edward also explains the wider importance of such a system – it should be in place universally, because major accidents can happen to anyone.

There are also a number of social situations that pose problems to disabled people. The lack of assistance when boarding a bus or queueing at the bank, for instance, puts extra strains on the daily lives of disabled people. There is also inconsistent treatment from the wider community, whether at church or in public. Edward notes cases of charity – food and money provided to disabled people and their families – but also a significant amount of stigma. Often, charity is given without care or concern, with condescension, or not at all. Disabled people in need are often ignored in the streets. And negative terms, such as the Twi word obubuafoɔɔ, are often directed at Edward and others. Edward himself isn’t too concerned with such language, at least when it’s is aimed at him – to him, his accident is simply something that happened in the past. He does admit, though, that his disability has become the primary way that many people define him.

In the years since his accident, then, Edward has noticed no positive change in how disabled people are treated in Ghana, whether by the government or by fellow citizens. To illustrate this further, Edward points out that the financial burden has actually increased – when his accident occurred, prosthetic limbs were covered by the government; but now there are significant costs that come with getting and maintaining a prosthesis. Moreover, disability legislation is still largely unknown and poorly understood by Ghanaian population, Edward included.

One cultural change that Edward does mention is how in his youth or earlier, infant exposure was purportedly practiced in some cases where babies were born with mental or physical disabilities. However, as the understanding of the causes of disability has changed, such practices have disappeared.


Family and friends

While some friends and family were crucial to Edward’s recovery, others have offered much less support or contact. The core of his support has come from his immediate family, his wife and children. It was them who provided physical and emotional support in the first days and weeks, when Edward was least able to move independently and when he feared his life was over. And they have continued to provide help in the years since. He has also received help of various sorts from many friends. Some have provided financial support, to cover medical costs and school fees. Others have provided support in more discreet ways, whether by making sure to visit Edward, or by walking at a slower pace to ensure that he isn’t left behind.

On the other hand, there are many people in Edward’s life who have been less helpful. His brothers and sisters, sometimes because of their own financial problems, have offered little help, so much so that it seemed at times to Edward like they had forgotten about him. Many friends, too, have stopped contacting him since the accident. And at work, some people showed little concern for Edward after his accident, and perhaps even conspired to get him fired. Others, however, helped him to transition into his new supervisory role.


Kofi standing out front of his houseWhat Edward’s story reveals is a situation in Ghana where there is wide recognition of many disabilities, along with institutional support through hospitals and clinics, but where profound social and structural problems persist and where better government support is sorely needed. As Edward readily admits, it is his family and personal relationships that allowed him to make it through the accident and recovery period, to obtain an adequate prosthesis, and to reestablish a livelihood. That reality means that others, those who cannot rely on the same personal networks, can and do face much more dire outlooks.


In his own words

“In the year 2008 I had an accident through a motorbike on my way […] from Akim Tafo to Bunso. [I was] sent to the Hospital […] for a surgical [procedure]. I lost my left leg below the knee about four inches down.[…] I worked at Bunso Cocoa College, but because I’m one of the amputees I’m no more to work like a carpenter again. So they have just stationed me at one point to supervise the workers; when they just come back from work I ask them what they have done at the field. And then I just put in a report.

“Especially my wife and my children [have] treated me very very well. They take good care of me. Because it was a time that I couldn’t go to the washroom. They had to help me to bathe, so on and so forth. […] And I have some of the friends who come to me and visit, […but] there are other friends who doesn’t come to see me at all. I don’t know the reason why. And my entire family, like my brothers and my sisters, they sometimes forget me.[…] Sometimes I feel very bad, especially about my brothers and sisters […] but we are not at loggerheads. When I see them I greet them. But it’s ok now.

“[When I was first in the hostpital] I felt very bad because I knew I could not get up again. [I thought] ‘That’s the end of my life; I’ll be in a position in which I cannot move’. But I have the advice from [a friend abroad] that there’s some special amputee legs which he arranged for me. And was able to get me one. And since then I’m happy. But at the beginning I was very worried.

“First I got the leg from the orthopedic centre at Nsawam, but that one was not all that good. Then [through and American NGO and] the head office of the Ministry of Health at Accra […I got] another one which is very good to me. So I keep going for changes when there’s a problem with it.[…] First it was free; this time it takes some money. […] It depends on the type of repairs you are going to do. The last time I was there, about three or four months ago, the foot busts so I have to change it. And then the clothes that I have to use for my leg. That takes me about 600 cedis plus. […] Some [repairs] are less and some are high. Even the brace at the leg is very costly.[…] I attended [the clinic at the Cocoa Research Institute in Tafo] for the dressing [on my leg]. After that, normally I don’t [visit the clinic] frequently. Sometimes once in a while then I visit the hospital.

Kofi walking down the street smiling

“Now because of my leg I can move to the bathroom, I can wash my clothes, and if I need food I can even go outside and take food. At my cottage I have some small land which I farm. So in the beginning I have it difficult and I need a lot of help for physical challenges. But right now I can move as the leg is fixed to me.

“The government organizations treat [disabled people] very bad. Because when there’s a fund to help, they don’t give them according to what they need. […] Some of them have wheelchairs that are broken and they find it difficult to push it. And sometimes too the crutches. […] Those things I think it should be free, but we pay for it. […And] most of us have children before this happens […and] they say there’s free education, but you have to purchase a lot of books and it’s difficult. So I think that if the government can help [us] to have free education for [our] children. […And many of us] don’t attend school at all and we don’t have any work to do. So those people too need a help. At least every month the little that they can afford, for them too. […T]here’s no insurance for disabilities, and that’s what is very needed. Because anything can happen that you just fall down or something can hurt you. So it’s good that all the disabilities should be insured by the government.

“The person who is [physically disabled] we call that in Twi obubuafoɔ, who use the crutches or use the wheelchair. […] Sometimes […] in case somebody’s looking for me, they somebody would just say: ‘Kofi, who is one of the amputees…’. [But] for me I don’t feel bad because it has already happened, and sometimes if somebody just were to describe you as it’s like the person doesn’t know you. Sometimes […what we] need, is like when you are in the bus the disabled should be first to take before [the others]. But a lot of people doesn’t buy it. And then at the same time when you’re in a queue, they should serve you before everybody but they don’t buy this.[…] So it’s difficult, isn’t it. People don’t just give [charity] out […and] it’s just like nobody cares about [disabled people in their community].”

But while not much has improved in the time since his accident, there have been some changes since his childhood and earlier:

“[There were few disabled people] from my childhood […b]ecause sometimes when somebody gave birth to such a baby they just said it’s a taboo. So they’ll just tell the mother your baby is from the water or tree or forest, they have to pass him away. They have to send the child to the big forest and tell the mother not to look back. But now we know that it’s never a taboo.”


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David Akpo was born in Akim Oda in the village of Kwanten. At the age of ten he lost the ability to use his legs and was given crutches and calipers to help him walk afterwards. Akpo joined the Disability Scouts in 1975 and worked at a primary school in the Ako Adjei area before joining the GSPD in 1983. Akpo helped organize the disability sports in Accra for more than eleven years with the organization.

I joined [the GSPD] in 1983…I came to know about them and join at my training school because that was where they held meetings… I went there and asked them how I could join. They showed me and encouraged me to join since I had started school at the training center. Truly when I joined, I was happy, I forgot all my problems at home and felt comfortable in the midst of other disabled people… when I joined the meeting it was good, if you request for anything they provide it and if you are sick, they even pay you a visit to check up on you… our chairman was called Quaison and other elders included Owusu, Torto.

Whenever I went anywhere and met my friends with disabilities, I talked to them about the group, so I brought more people to the group… nowadays that we are performing sports activities, three of us brought the sports to the group. In 1984, we went for a congress in Kumasi, I was first in the wheel chair racing and Greater Accra won the first, second and third positions since 1984… it [the disability sports] started here in Accra… when it started here in Greater Accra… we were three… Adjetey Sowah and David Nii Okine [David Akpor]… and Odoi who is dead… when it started in Accra, a certain man called Adjevon who used to host bicycle racing every year hosted one in Accra. Nii Okine took the first position, I was second, and Odoi was third… So when [Adjevon] hosted the race in greater Accra and we won the trophy, then he said in 1984, he will host it in Kumasi so that whoever is capable can also win. He also said he will send it to all the ten regions and in 1984 when he hosted it in Kumasi, we won it again for Greater Accra region…. Sowah, Nii Okine, Odoi and I [organized the race in Accra].

Most of the leaders who used to manage us are dead, so nowadays we are being managed by most of the young people and they cannot handle us very well, they are also not sociable that’s why things have changed in the meeting. Most of the elderly are dead, now there are even no elderly leaders in the meeting… nowadays, the current leaders don’t allow us to express ourselves like how we used to express ourselves in the past. I wouldn’t like to be disrespected by someone younger than me because of something I said, so nowadays, I don’t like going to the meeting.

The problem [the GSPD] are facing now is that, there is no honesty in the group. We are not faithful to each other nowadays. At first, each person liked to share what they had but now, they don’t. So if I don’t see any improvement I will just concentrate on my job with my children.

The [GSPD] will get back its former glory and joy if all the members who have stopped come back. Again, if we organize meetings and people are absent, there are ways to visit them and find out why they have been not been present. The person might tell you what’s bothering him/her and the leaders can in turn, convince them to be regular at meetings by pampering them.

Now that our [Disabilities Act] has been passed, it means everything that is being done is in accordance with the law. This means that, due to the existence of the law, once you take up issues that bother you as a disabled person, the law will be used to address the problem… before the law we were happy among ourselves. Now that the law is here, our problems can be addressed using the law.

The [disability] scout was formed in 1975. We went to join in 1975… The scout has been in existence for a very long time [before the GSPD]… when we joined the disabled scout, I must admit there was a lot of joy there. When we joined, there were no females in the scout. My wife [Maame Veronica Quaye] was the first woman to join when we started the disabled scout… At the time we joined, our leader was known as ‘Aluta’… on Fridays we went on camping… When we went for camping, we were taught a lot of things. We were taught scout laws and ways, first aid – what to do when you are ill before you visit the hospital… ours was the disabled scout. Among us, we had craft, sewing, shoemaking, etc. When Trade Fair was organized for instance, we wrote letters and were given stands where we displayed a whole lot of craftwork products. People came to the Trade Fair and bought the things we displayed… we had the skills already. Our leader only supervised us… the use of money, unfaithfulness within our ranks and greed among many other things [caused its collapse]. The Scout too is not the same. Again, we are growing and cannot use the crutches effectively like before. All these are reasons why we stopped.

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Agor Ablor was born in 1934. At the age of three he developed polio and was taken to the hospital. There he was given an injection for measles, and afterwards became paralysed in both legs. Ablor worked for civil service in 1961, before joining the GSPD as the Vice President of the Accra area. After resigning from this position, he became the National Vice President in 1981. He shared stories with us about the founding of GSPD and his work with the organization.

So one Mr Wereko from Kumasi came to see me that they wanted to form a disability society so I should also be involved I said oh fine. So we had some meetings both in Accra, and in my office… [In Accra] It was then made up of Myself, Wreko, Wofa Yaw, Kumi, Quayson [J.J. B Arthur, Emmanuel Anang, Adjetey Sowah part]

So we started in Accra, Mr Qwayson was the President and I was the Vice of the Accra meeting and Adjety Sowah was the secretary. At the time oh we were doing very well we were mobilizing people and getting a lot of people to join but something happened and I resigned… I was a signatory to our bank account so one day for Accra and one day I realised somebody told me that they have withdrawn some money from the bank without my knowledge I made enquiries and realised that it was Qwayson and Adjetey Sowah who signed for immediately I resigned… [I] didn’t trust them anymore but I was going for the meetings.”

[I was Vice president] more than four years or so. Then in 1981 or so there was a national delegate meeting and I applied for the post of National Vice President and I got the post and I become the vice president. So we were traveling throughout the country to form the society, to inaugurate executive officers and others. So with exception of Wa I know every part of Ghana. But there is one thing too that even with GSPD there was some sort of discrimination… We had people who were using crutches, we had people who were using wheelchairs, we had people whose arms were amputated etc. so they were discriminating against those of us who were using the wheelchairs because we couldn’t go to places… So I think in 1981 there was a general election as I said, I got the post so we’ve been travelling and sensitizing people that they should join the society so that we could raise the image of the disabled people and disabused peoples mind that our disability is not inability. So we mobilize a lot of people. And we also had a lot of help”

Then when the time for the president expired I put in an application for president but you know there were a people were in tricks against us those of us using the wheel chairs so people who even told me will support me, there was another boy who was using crutches he maneuvered he even bribed people not to vote for me in fact so at the congress I lost, I lost. And then I was peeved because most of the people thought I will get the post but the way this boy manoeuvre in connivance with the financial secretary they were using… their own money ensure people didn’t support me in fact I got to know it late otherwise I would have withdrawn because I will not tolerate it even at the congress center… he [Christopher Kisseh] won but unfortunately for him he died about a year later

[Christopher Kisseh] was a treacherous boy he was my close friend when I was the vice president he was my secretary and all the committee we set up I will help him, I was drafting letters for him, but he tricked me so I was peeved so from the congress I stopped going for their meetings because if this small organization you do such a thing I didn’t understand why it should be like that, I don’t the society I was contributing to the society so if you want to take it take it that is fine I am not after post all that bad even to become the vice president one lady called Catherine Tsagli brought the forms to me and asked me to sign it before I signed it I was not interested.”

To draft the disability bill and we met and our chairperson was the late Registrar General which was a woman I have forgotten her name by then was the chairman and one Dr C we were about 19 of us on the committee and one Mr Oye he was social welfare director so he drafted the whole bill, which was sent to parliament and it was passed”

[Challenges forming the GSPD included] Financial problems you know as a new organisation and you were expecting to get financial aid from among ourselves and you know people with disabilities some of them are not working so how do you expect them to pay dues so that is a big challenge. Also we had transportation problems so when I was in Teshie and we were going to meetings when I didn’t have car, how many of our people at that time could afford to take taxi from Teshie to Adabraka and back for meetings, so transport problems impeded the progress of the organization many people were willing to come but you can’t take trotro so you have to take Taxi so these are some of the problems

[The GSPD] have achieved a lot… We have sensitised people a lot that we are not a different person that if you want to do something you can do it don’t think of your disability first think of your ability… almost every year we go to one region to hold our congress there and then sensitize people, advise them and convince them that we can do something

In GBC and GSPD, to rise from the position of deputy director of administration was not an easy thing and with GSPD to rise to the position of Vice President for the whole nation was also not an easy thing and also to be president of Aquinas Old Boys Association was also an achievement.”

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We met Charles on an overcast day in the Eastern Region of Ghana. In the excerpt below he describes the source of his disability and challenges of education for disabled children:

“I am almost fifty-nine years old. My disability started when I was young, according to my mother I was three years old. She said she injected me and it caused polio. When you are a child, you don’t feel that you are (disabled) because you used to play with all, especially kids. But when my friends started to leave for school, that is when I started to realize, oh, no. Something is short in my life. I studied elementary and middle school in my hometown.


My biggest concern was that…I wrote common entrance exams, I think 1976 I passed very well to go to school but because of my disability… When they sent me there all the buildings were storey and I couldn’t climb so that prevented me from going to school at that time.  Also, all my friends I started with, when they finish school they will leave for higher education. So the number of people I was playing with reduced, because they all went and I was left alone. My education was a great concern to me. After I came out of school, in 1977 I learned shoemaking … I started doing it for some money.

Then I had everything to go to teacher training college. I went to training college 1987. When I was looking for admission to enter training college, the principal told me she will not accept me. Why? Because some disables came there, the way they were misbehaving, it wasn’t possible to sack them, it wasn’t possible to punish them (laughing). In fact this made me to stay home for almost a term, so it was some elders who went and spoke with them that she doesn’t know the kind of person I am. The principal is from my hometown and by the grace of God I made her happy, I didn’t do anything bad.”

Despite the barriers Charles describes above, he graduated from teachers’ college in 1991 and his now employed by a primary school in the Eastern Region.


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We interviewed Naomi in her home in a town in Ghana’s Eastern Region.  In the interview she told us about her experience raising a son with severe cerebral palsy, and the lack of support form her husband and his family:

“My son was in born in 2006.  When I was going to labour the nurses were on strike…the midwife [was young]. Around midnight the day of his birth he started to cry … he cried continuously for two weeks and he started to deform. I sent him back to the midwife and she said that his veins has become green and she told me that she has been infected … so she directed me to a man (a herbalist) who treated him for three months. He became very nice but his breathing was like someone who has a cold.

It continued like that so when he was 4-5 months, I took him to saint Joseph’s [hospital] at Koforidua. When I was in Koforidua they gave me a specialist (who) told me he was born with a particular sickness (cerebral palsy). I used a lot of herbal medicine. At the beginning, his father was helping, and later he took me to a prayer camp and we stood there for 6 months. We tried but there was nothing new. So when he was 11/2 years I informed the owner of the camp that I want to send him home.

When he was one year eight months, I had information that people from Salvation Army [hospital] were coming to Presby so they invited me and I went. They told me they will put him on physio because his sickness is only physio that can help. I came to tell his father … but he didn’t agree. I didn’t have any work in that time so I couldn’t send him by my authority. One day I met a certain doctor and he referred us to Korle Bu (hospital in Accra). They gave us a doctor and they divided the care: neuro, physio and others. One of my husband’s friends was a doctor in Korle Bu and for him his child’s problem was autism. So he was the one who advised my husband not to bother himself with caring for the child. Whether good or bad if he will get up he will.

Later (my husband) informed me that his family members are saying all my children will be sick so he should divorce me. He stopped caring for the child. My grandmother brought me up with farming, so I took the machete and told myself if this child should be well, I will farm and whatever I get I will use it to support him. I was doing vegetables only, so I started okro farming little by little…I was doing it by myself. Though his father was not helping, with a little farming I was able to get the money for (medication). Later I added palm oil making. I was doing palm oil.


All the family wish is that we all pray and he dies. Some said he is a river child so ‘yen k) gya no kwan’ let’s go and kill him. My husband said the best thing is that we agree and pray for him to die. As for my family, I don’t get any help from them, I remember last year my brother told me there was one sister abroad, her child had similar condition, they ‘k) gya no kwan’ went and kill the child so I should go to the place she did hers and do same for my child to be free. I told him I can’t.”



Naomi continues to care for her son on her own, without any help from her husband or family. She relies on income from farming activities at her home, including palm oil, vegetables and root crops, chickens, goats and a fish pond.