Ghana, as a country, represents an epicenter for a vicious cycle where many men, women and children are victims of trafficking. This topic is a huge challenge for the country. Countless of Ghana’s children are taken from their homes and brought to work in poor conditions, mostly in the fishing industry. These young children are then forced to work long hours and live in squalor.
It is more common for boys to be forced into hard labor that includes things as diving into the water to untangle the fishing nets, while girls are sent to the Middle East where they become domestic workers in households or prostitutes being obligated to sell their bodies. According to the Head of the Counter-Trafficking Department of the International Organization for Migration child trafficking in Ghana is actually a distortion of the old cultural practice of placement with relatives or townspeople.
Statistics of Child Trafficking
Three thousand children are victims of child trafficking each day worldwide. It is estimated that child trafficking is an industry that earns $10 million yearly, but what are the factors that can cause a child to be trafficked? One prominent factor is lack of education and this certainly is one of the causes of child trafficking in Ghana as 623,500 children in Ghana are not even enrolled in school.
Extreme poverty also plays an issue in child trafficking as families sometimes leave their children behind or give their children to the traffickers. There is a large number of street kids who are easy prey to the traffickers who offer them the allure of a better life. Over 40 million babies are born every year and fail to be identified. Invisible children or the absence of birth registration happens when a child is born and is never registered with the local government or council. These children are perfect victims for child traffickers.
Challenging Heights’ Work
One organization that is currently working as an advocate for the right to a safe and protected home for every child in Ghana is Challenging Heights. James Kofi Annan founded the organization in 2003 and advocates for children rights. Annan was a fishing slave himself and was forced to work for seven years before he escaped, got an education and became a bank manager.
Challenging Heights is an organization committed to ending child trafficking in Ghana, reducing child slavery and promoting children’s rights in the country. They are currently focused on child labor, especially in the fishing and cocoa industry. As many as 24,000 children are victims of worst forms of child labor annually in Ghana. Challenging Heights’ works on improving child rights through three types of agendas: rescuing, preventing and advocating.
Challenging Heights also works to economically empower the women of Ghana. One plan that this organization has implemented is opening a smokehouse where the women can preserve the fish caught by the fisherman. The women can use the smokehouses free of charge and then they are able to sell their fish within the community, helping them make an income for their families. Challenging Heights also offers youth empowerment Programs. These programs teach children a certain career skill and offer training programs to hopefully set the youth up on the right track towards obtaining an education or a job.
Lake Volta Actions
Many of Challenging Heights rescue missions take place at Lake Volta. The Lake was built in the 1960s and is one of the world’s largest man-made lakes. Lake Volta is a way of life for most fisherman and people in the country where about 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Children are most often exploited by fishermen desperate to feed their families and eke out a living along the banks of Lake Volta. With help from locals in the community, Challenging Heights makes several recuses a year. The liberated children are taken back to Challenging Heights rehabilitation house and offered care. This care can vary from medical, psychological or emotional. Each child stays with the organization for almost a year while their families are interviewed and assessed in hopes that this will deter them from falling back into child trafficking.
Thanks to Challenging Heights, more than 1,500 children have been rescued and 400 children have been given proper care in the organization’s rehabilitation center. The overall goal for this organization is to end child trafficking in Ghana by 2022. Currently, 103,300 people in Ghana are trapped in modern-day slavery. Challenging Heights hopes to combat this number by advocating for the victims, partnering with the government and nongovernmental organizations all while having the goal of ending child trafficking in Ghana in mind.
– Jennifer O’Brien