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Indian-origin woman restaurateur garnering huge success in Ghana

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Accra: Surinder Kaur Cheema came to Accra four decades ago from her native Baroda in India’s Gujarat state to support her businessman husband. Today, she is a hugely successful entrepreneur in her own right with two popular Indian restaurants, is often called on by the diplomatic community to provide catering services on special occasions and is an active social worker.

“Surinder Kaur Cheema must be saluted for single-handedly building one of the most successful Indian restaurants in Ghana,” Amar Deep S Hari, the Indian-origin CEO of prominent IT firm IPMC, told reporters.

Cheema arrived in Ghana in 1974 to join her award-winning farmer-exporter husband Harcharan Cheema. From a housewife, she later turned to teach at the Ebenezer Secondary School in Accra for a while and has now settled on selling India through her restaurants.

“It was after 13 years that I started my first restaurant, Kohinoor Restaurant at Osu (an Accra suburb). l have now been able to add another one, Delhi Palace at Tema (a port city some 25 km from Accra),” Cheema told reporters.

Her success as a restaurateur has become acclaimed as she not only serves Indian delicacies on her premises but has now become the caterer of choice for most diplomatic receptions and private events.

Cheema, who now employs about 35 people, said she would love to increase the number of restaurants she runs “but it is not easy because of my numerous commitments”.

She divides her time between running her restaurants and ensuring that women affected with breast cancer get treatment, some rural communities get schools and water.

“Through the work of the Indian Women’s Association, we have been able to raise money to get women in the country treated for breast cancer. Among other similar projects, we recently provided a school at Nima in Accra and provided a borehole for water to the people of Abanta near Koforidua in the eastern region,” Cheema said.

Last year, when heavy rains led to the flooding of some parts of Accra killing several people, Cheema led the Indian Women Association to provide food and other essentials to those who had been rendered homeless.

“I did not meet the women but we were told that the food that was supplied to us was brought by the Indian Women Association and their leader is the one who owns the Kohinoor Restaurants,” Ama Konadu, one of the victims who received the support, told reporters.

“We are proud to have Mrs Surinder Kaur Cheema as a role model for the next generation, both to the Indian and Ghanaian communities,” Hari said. (Francis Kokutse, IANS)

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Ghanaian ‘Superhero’ Awarded for Work to End ‘Spirit Child’ Killings

"The local belief is that if you survive, it's proof you are not a spirit, but if you die, it's confirmation that you are a spirit,"


When Angela was born without lower legs, her father believed she was an evil spirit and should be taken to a “concoction man” — a traditional herbalist who would kill the baby and bury her.

But Angela survived after a midwife put her mother in touch with charity worker Joseph Asakibeem, who has devoted his life to saving Ghana’s “spirit children.”

Spirit Child
Angela, who was born in northern Ghana without lower legs, is pictured here as a baby with her mother and grandfather in northern Ghana, Oct. 2011. VOA

In parts of northern Ghana, babies born with disabilities are traditionally seen as bringers of bad luck, said Asakibeem, who on Monday won the Bond Humanitarian Award that recognizes hidden “superheroes” for his work with the charity AfriKids. Until recently, many spirit children were taken to a concoction man who would lock them in a room after administering a poisonous potion.

“The local belief is that if you survive, it’s proof you are not a spirit, but if you die, it’s confirmation that you are a spirit,” said Asakibeem, a project manager at AfriKids.

“Unfortunately, most times the child dies. They then bury the child in an isolated place away from the village.”

Babies whose mothers die in childbirth, or who are born after something bad has happened to the family, also risk being labeled spirit children.

Smart girl

Angela, now a bright seven-year-old, is one of 110 children rescued by Asakibeem and his team at AfriKids.

She has learned to walk with prosthetic limbs, helps her mother with chores, and is thriving at school. Angela’s parents separated after her birth but her father has begged for a reconciliation after seeing her progress, AfriKids said.

spirit child
Angela, 5, who was born in northern Ghana without lower legs, is seen with prosthetic limbs at the AfriKids Child Rights Center, Sirigu, northern Ghana, Jan. 2015. VOA

“She’s a very strong girl, she’s smart and a fast learner,” Asakibeem told Reuters by Skype. “My hope is one day she will become a nurse or teacher and serve as a role model to the community.”

Asakibeem, 41, grew up in the Kassena Nankana region in northern Ghana, where the belief in kinkirigo, or spirit children, was deeply embedded.

In 2005, up to 15 percent of babies who died were thought to have been killed as spirit children, according to AfriKids.

Asakibeem began talking to parents, village elders and concoction men to change mindsets and dispel superstitions by informing them about the medical reasons for disabilities and promoting health care.

Asakibeem said many disabilities in the region were linked to poor nutrition and health care during pregnancy and a lack of access to medical help during labor complications.

spirit child
Joseph Asakibeem, project manager with charity AfriKids, Oct. 2012. VOA

AfriKids has set up a center in Asakibeem’s home village, Sirigu, and another in nearby Bongo district, providing help for disabled children, a support group for their mothers and antenatal care for pregnant women.

It gives small loans for businesses like basketry, pottery and poultry farming to help mothers support their families.

Reaching concoction men

One challenge was persuading the concoction men to stop.

AfriKids provided livestock and loans to kickstart businesses.

It also takes them to areas where children with disabilities flourish and some of those who once made a living from killing children have become advocates to protect them, Asakibeem said.

No child killings have been reported in Kassena Nankana for 10 years, but Asakibeem said they continue elsewhere.

“We’re now expanding our work to the whole of northern Ghana. My dream is that in 15 years I can stop this practice.” (VOA)