A group of women have taken to stone breaking as a coping mechanism to their lack of empowerment caused by unemployment or want of skills to compete in the job market. Hence, for this group of women living at Looking Town, around the Sierra Leone Grammar School area on the road to Aberdeen, stone breaking is more than a means to survival.
Chairlady of the group, Isatu Kargbo, said a good number of them are single mothers with the onus of taking care of large families, and that their sole means of survival is breaking large granite stones into smaller particles, proceeds from which they help care for their children.
Kargbo revealed that her husband died in 1993, and has since been taking care of her children's education and welfare from her stone breaking routine. "We will go up to a month without sales," she said, while narrating the uncertainties of the business, which largely depends on those constructing homes or offices to buy their stockpile of stones.
Although she prefers stone breaking to other types of business, she said they are not happy with their current situation as the process involves rigorous physical exercise which makes them susceptible to illnesses after years of hard work under the scorching sun.
Madam Kargbo called on the government and women's groups to help them find more comfortable alternative means of livelihood. She praised the local Member of Parliament, Hon. David Johnson, for assisting them, especially in buying large quantity of stones from them for the construction of a football field at Aberdeen.
"Hon. Johnson was also instrumental in pleading on our behalf when we were given a 10-day notice to quit our current location," she told Concord Times and appealed to the government and stakeholders to allow them to sell their granite stones. "We contribute in our own little way in community development as we donated 10 head pans of stones for the construction of a new market and police post in the community."
Moreover, the women are not alone in this business, as they are complemented by their male counterparts. Foday Jabbie is chairman of the male folks also involved in the stone breaking business. He revealed that though unemployed, they prefer breaking stones to burgling peaceful citizens at night.
He reechoed the pleas of Madam Kargbo in respect of theirs being a tedious job, characterized by back arches, swollen palms and health complications emanating from long periods of exposure to the sun.