Inside the besieged 138.64 hectare forest reserve, found in the heart of Tamale, the Northern regional capital, desperate old women have taken to smoking Marijuana also known as ‘wee’ to fight depression and deplorable living conditions.
A total of about ten (10) mothers ranging between 37-50 years are currently in the forest reserve smoking ceaselessly daily in order to continue living due to past circumstances they have gone through in life.
More than 500 youth across the region have created a lawless jungle in the abandoned forest reserve located at Kumbihini and Aboabo in the metropolis.
Little children as young as 11 are also residing in the forest smoking wee and abusing other drugs. Many vices, including child prostitution, black marketing and alleged chronic sale of cocaine are freely ongoing.
Several attempts by city authorities to stop any activity in the forest have drawn widespread furious resistance, including a recent joint security operation sanctioned by Mayor of the town, Iddrisu Musah Superior.
Today, as the world celebrates women across the globe, we bring you story of two women from different backgrounds who have spent almost 15 years of their lives addicted to marijuana and visiting the forest daily to smoke.
Laila Abubakari, also known as Mma Leila is a 57-year old resident of Choggu in the Sagnarigu district.
She was 18-years-old when a deadly famine hit Ghana in 1982. She was forced into asylum in the neighboring Burkina Faso capital, Ouagadougou.
Through the help of a friend, she got a low paying restaurant job owned by a Senegalese in a suburb known in those years as Area One.
Two years later, she met a French national, Micont Pascal, working as a veterinary personnel in local farms.
Pascal was a regular customer at Laila’s restaurant and they fell in love.
They became a couple and Laila later returned to Ghana to introduce her husband to her parents.
In 1986 she became pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy who they named Thomas (Thoma in French).
Three years later, Laila had to return to Ghana because her step-father was injured in a car crash and hospitalized in the Ghana’s Eastern regional capital, Koforidua.
Her husband paid for the journey and persuaded her to leave their son behind. Her step-father survived the accident but Laila returned to Area One in Ouagadougou only to meet an empty house.
Her husband had absconded with their son and disconnected all his traces.
Almost 32 years after the incident, Mma Laila is now a chronic wee smoker.
“If I’m sad or thinking, you see say if I smoke am small…the thinking wey I’m thinking, [sic], crying, tearing every day, you see say my mind would come down,” she told Starr News at her base inside the forest.
Mma Laila said her hopes of seeing her son one day turned into nightmares and hunted her day and night.
According to her, she could not concentrate on her job any longer and returned to Ghana empty handed; no son, no money.
According to her, she has been smoking for almost two decades now. Her friend told her it will wipe off her sorrows and she took her first puff, she added.
The 57-year-old said smoking marijuana had made her life more decent than years back when she abused alcohol. She said unlike alcohol, she had become prayerful and hopeful any time she smoked marijuana.
She has grown very emaciated and suffered chest upsets but declares she can’t stop smoking until she sees her son.
“If I see my son I will stop smoking. Me, if you can help me for me to get my boy I will stop everything,” Mma Laila said while smoking.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently reiterated concerns over the increased trend of smoking among females. The international organization said, out of the 5.4million victims that die every year, a staggering 1.5million are girls and women.
The theme for year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Time is Now: Rural and Urban activists transforming women’s lives’, yet poverty and family stigmatization has pushed another woman in an Urban city of Tamale to dwell in a forest abusing wee.
Mma Adamu, 51, also a native of Tamale and a one-time wealthy trader spends seven hours daily in the forest smoking wee.
She has been married twice and has one son. She was trading in cola but her business collapsed in 1995 after she run into debt, she recounted, adding, her son could not go to school because she was poor.
She narrated that she lives on less than Ghc3 a day.
“I traveled and my friends taught me how to smoke this wee. I loved it that time became it wasn’t influencing me to do bad things; I wasn’t sharing my body to men. When I run into debts, more troubles came and the smoking intensified.
“I smoke so that I can stop thinking plenty about my situation,” she said.
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