When she lost her husband 16 years ago, Doris Esi Dugbenu knew life was going to be even tougher - her husband couldn’t support the family even when he was alive. Betty Kankam-Boadu speaks to her for Pulse Women’s Month
The death of Esi’s husband meant things were only going to get more difficult for her and her five children.
So as a single mother she had to take control, because “no family member was there to help with what the children will eat, drink or go to school."
She sells roasted fish at the Adabraka market, one of the biggest fish markets in Accra. She has done this for 14 years to support herself and her five children.
Esi describes herself as a hustler, one who never gives up and like she perfectly puts it “a woman does not do a single job."
In 1993 she owned two shop at the Makola market in Accra - but little did she know she was going to lose her livelihood to fire.
“When my shop got burnt, I diverted my business into fish. It was good at Makola, but I lost a lot of money after the market got burnt. Later the rich people took over the shop. We all lost our shops, so I had to force to get a space at Adabraka market.”
After securing a space at the Adabraka market to sell her fish, Esi had to then travel across the the Volta Region and other places; journeys she describes as perilous just to source fish.
“It is a long road. We get tired by the time we get to our destinations. We get back very tired with bodily pains all over. Our cars are not comfortable. Sometimes we are cramped together so you come back with waist pains.”
Esi gives a smile of disbelief when she recounts a near accident on the mountains at Afram Plains on one of her numerous travels, "we were climbing the mountain, if God had not been graceful things would have been very bad but God was graceful that day. But it was a very heartbreaking moment.”
It's been awhile since she joined her colleagues to embark on such journeys. Now her sister makes the journey to buy the fish and she sits at her space at Adabraka and sells them.
"I had to stop after eight years. The journey was long and dangerous and I was scared of dying one day on one of those travels and leaving my five kids behind."
She giggles " besides I am getting old now."
Three of her five kids have moved out and are fending for themselves now. The youngest two are still with her.
Esi believes market women should be celebrated just like their counterparts with white collar jobs.
" The struggle is real for the market women, more that the women who are in their offices," she says.
"The one in the office after serving is paid at the end of the month. But the up and down jostling for us - it is not easy."