Child labour is a serious problem in Ghana, where about one-third of children between the ages of seven and 14 work full-time. In the Lake Volta region, children as young as four are sent to live with relatives in hope of learning a trade. This cultural tradition has become distorted by many Ghanaian...

Fighting Modern-Day Slavery

Child labour is a serious problem in Ghana, where about one-third of children between the ages of seven and 14 work full-time. In the Lake Volta region, children as young as four are sent to live with relatives in hope of learning a trade. This cultural tradition has become distorted by many Ghanaian fishermen who pay parents US$ 50 per child, ostensibly to teach these children their trade.

The Initiative’s approach addressed the child labour problem around Lake Volta from several perspectives. Because the most effective way to counter human trafficking, including child labour, is to stop it before it starts, this three-year initiative focussed on prevention efforts among parents, children, traffickers and law enforcement officials to keep children from being trapped in the fishing industry. The approach also addressed the underlying poverty that fuels child labour practices by training parents in alternative income generation activities to boost their household income and reduce their dependence on child labour.


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Strategic Initiative

SECTOR

Human Liberty

TOTAL INVESTMENT

US$ 1,362,689

LOCATION

Ghana

LIVES CHANGED

94,538

SOCIAL IMPACT INDEX

66.1 (out of 100)

AVERAGE COST PER LIFE

US$ 14.41

Expand All

SI Breakdown:

Key Achievements

  • Source and destination communities educated – Eight Ghanaian organisations educated 127,161 residents in the region about human and children’s rights and Ghana’s anti-human trafficking laws.
  • Children rescued from forced labour and enslavement – 617 children were freed from enslavement and forced labour and enrolled in school or vocational training facilities. 388 fishermen (masters) agreed to release children. Two transit shelters were established that enabled the rescuing organisations to provide a safe haven for the victims in preparation for reintegration into their communities.
  • School children educated each other on risks of trafficking – 328 peer educators were trained to sensitise their peers on child trafficking and labour.
  • Promulgation of the Community Rules and Regulation Act into a nationally recognised law – These laws build on efforts made by others in the sector who have persistently sought recognition of the need to prosecute traffickers, parents, and employers profiting from the exploitation of children in Ghana.

The Problem

Child labour is a serious problem in Ghana, where about one-third of children between the ages of seven and 14 work full-time. In the Lake Volta region, children as young as four are sent to live with relatives in hope of learning a trade. This cultural tradition has become twisted by many Ghanaian fishermen who pay parents US$ 50 per child, ostensibly to teach these children their trade. Few parents realise that their children spend their days jumping into frigid, parasite-infested waters at dawn seven days a week to catch fish and untangle nets for 10 to 12 hour stretches. Young girls are tasked with cleaning, smoking and selling the fish and are also employed as domestic servants. It is common for children to work at cocoa farms and in the commercial sex industry. Many of these children die or suffer from ill health, malnutrition and deplorable living conditions with no access to basic medical care. Traffickers, including relatives and parents, often understand the illegality of child labour, but traditional cultural practices, combined with poverty, a lack of viable economic activities and human selfishness drive the growth, supply and demand of child labour and human trafficking in Ghana.

Solution

In 2007, the Ghana Child Labour Strategic Initiative was established to focus on child labour and trafficking in the fishing communities of Lake Volta. The Initiative’s approach addressed the child labour problem around Lake Volta from several perspectives. Because the most effective way to counter human trafficking, including child labour, is to stop it before it starts, this three-year Initiative focussed on prevention efforts among parents, children, traffickers and law enforcement officials to keep children from being trapped in the fishing industry. The approach also addressed the underlying poverty that fuels child labour practices by training parents in alternative income generation activities to boost their household income and reduce their dependence on child labour. Additionally, the fishermen and other traffickers were sensitised to the impact of child labour and the applicable laws and sentences they would face if prosecuted. They also received training on alternative income generating activities, and some received microcredit loans to improve their fishing enterprises without the use of child labour. Finally, the Initiative’s strategy included a rescue and rehabilitation component, addressed in part by the establishment of transit shelters to make it easier for the rescued children to receive medical care and counselling before reunification with their families. With a total investment of US$ 1,362,689, the initiative's goal was to impact over 40,000 people.

Critical Analysis

The efforts of this Initiative’s eight Ghanaian implementing organisations resulted in a number of important achievements including community education, rescue of children from forced labour and their rehabilitation, the promulgation of by-laws, training of police officers, the creation of community surveillance units to protect more children from exploitative labour and trafficking, and the establishment of two transit shelters for rescued children. The Initiative’s education and awareness campaigns, in particular, have impacted communities in a positive way, leading to parents withdrawing their children from labour in both the fishing and cocoa industries. Additionally, prevention education related to keeping vulnerable children in school or enrolling them in vocational training schools deterred some parents from sending their children to relatives as labourers.

Despite these overall successes, some expectations were not adequately met in the implementation of the Initiative. For example, we expected the eight implementing organisations to actively involve national governmental agencies, especially the Child Labour Unit (CLU). However, the independent evaluation indicated that national governmental bodies were not aware of the Initiative during its three years of work. While authorities at the district level were successfully involved, the lack of an intentional strategy to engage with and include Ghana’s governmental representatives at the national level represented a missed opportunity.

Financial sustainability also remains a concern for most of the organisations in this initiative. For those involved in the rescue and reintegration of children, alternative sources of funding are limited. Creative responses to economically empower and motivate fishermen (masters), parents and guardians of trafficked children were explored, and FYSSO’s village savings and loan programme proved to be the only effective and promising solution in this regard.

Lessons Learned

Successes:

Paradigm shift – As a result of continuous education and sensitisation on child labour and children’s rights, compliance with Ghana’s anti-human trafficking laws has improved drastically in the Lake Volta region, as confirmed by the independent evaluation. The voluntary return of children and their withdrawal by their parents from the fishing and cocoa sectors is testament to the impact of this knowledge. Training police officers – The involvement and training of police officers by two of our partners, Rescue Foundation (RF) and Assemblies of God Relief and Development Services (AGREDS), reinforced prevention education efforts. The officers’ authority will lead to the prosecution of traffickers, which has been very weak in Ghana.

Use of media – The media plays a key role in fighting child trafficking. Fact for the Youth in the Southern Sector Organisation (FYSSO), Rescue Foundation (RF), Partners in Community Development (PACODEP) and AGREDS made good use of print and electronic media. FYSSO collaborated with Free the Slaves to have its documentary aired on national television, with a viewing audience of over 40 million people in Ghana and millions more via satellite across parts of Africa. Rescue Foundation worked with Radio Peace, which has a reach of over 600,000 people and aired RF’s programmes three times a week.

Education and training for rescued children – Supporting formal education or vocational skills training was one of the major strengths of the Initiative. All rescued children received physical and emotional support, which enabled them to stay in school. Support included school uniforms and other school items, as well as income generating initiatives for their parents.

Challenges:

Re-trafficking – Up to 40 percent of the children in some communities could not be traced one or two years after having been rescued. There were suspicions of the children being sent away, and without the parents’ cooperation it was difficult to determine the children’s location. The lack of an effective monitoring system contributes to children being re-trafficked.

Lack of proper training and skills – An independent evaluation of the eight organisations revealed that some of the organisations lacked trained personnel, such as social workers and counsellors, critical for helping rescued children deal with the trauma they faced as a result of years of abuse and labour, as well as preparing them for reunification with their parents. When compared to the organisations with qualified staff, the lack of experienced personnel impacted the programme’s implementation.

Identification of trafficked children – During the independent evaluator’s visit to FYSSO, the organisation that receives and reintegrates children rescued by PACODEP, it was realised that PACODEP’s process of identifying trafficked children and differentiating them from those whose parents had migrated to the fishing communities was unclear. Some of the children had migrated there with their families and were being exploited by their own parents or relatives. It is important for rescuing organisations to have a clear understanding of each child’s unique circumstances.

Ghana Child Labour: Featured Projects

SII ScoreProject NameGrantLives ChangedCost Per LifeSector
92.00 Assemblies of God Relief and Devel. (AGREDS)$199,4188,450$23.60
80.00 Rescue Foundation$176,01861,140$2.88
68.40 International Needs$121,2823,794$31.97
64.60 Fact for the Youth in the Southern Sector Org.$185,4502,971$62.42
61.20 PROLINK–Ghana$167,1628,212$20.36
57.60 Partners in Community Development (PACODEP)$171,3801,776$96.50
54.00 Friends for Human Development (FHD)$197,7731,280$154.51
51.00 Association of People for Practical Life Education$115,4046,915$16.69
Note: The Social Impact Index Score reflects the relative social impact of a given development project. The lowest possible score is 20; the highest possible score is 100.

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