Government Must Lead Fight Against Child Labour

Sat, 23 Apr 2016 Source: Hinneh, Samuel

Government Must Lead Fight Against Child Labour And Trafficking In Fisheries Sector

By Samuel Hinneh

Child labour and trafficking has gained prominence ever since fishing became an economic activity along the coastal belt of Ghana. According to the United States Department of Labor (USDL) in 2010, it is estimated that there are over 2.7 million child labourers in Ghana, or about 43% of all children aged 5-14. Agriculture, fisheries and small-scale mining are major employers of child labour in Ghana.

Child Labour and Trafficking is therefore an international problem affecting millions of people and many countries around the world. In Ghana, the internal trafficking of children is one of the biggest developmental challenges.

The nation has also come up with its national legal responses to issues of child labour, its worst forms as well as child trafficking in the context of child rights. Section 28 of Ghana’s 1992 constitution states that, ‘every child has the right to be protected from work that constitutes a threat to his health, education or development. The Parliament of Ghana has also passed the Children’s Act (Act 560 of 1998), which is the current law for child rights and protection in the country.

Beyond these, the nation’s parliament also passed Act 694, Human Trafficking Act 2005, which among others prohibits child trafficking.

The problem persists in spite of efforts of government, non-governmental organisations to minimise or get rid of the practice. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Ghana Sustainable Fisheries Management Project (SFMP) which seeks to rebuild key marine fisheries stocks through responsible fishing practices undertakes various initiatives to tackle the situation. This is done by working with consortium of international and local partners, including SNV Netherlands Development Organization, SSG Advisors, Hen Mpoano, Friends of the Nation, the Central & Western Fish Mongers Improvement Association in Ghana, Daasgift Quality Foundation, Development Action Association, and Spatial Solutions.

One of the local partners, Development Action Association (DAA), a women’s farmer based organisation, held a sensitisation and educational programme on child labour and trafficking at Peace Child School in Esuakyir, Winneba, in the central region to address the situation.

Francis Adams, the Assemblyman for Esuakyir in Winneba, says child labour is alarming in the electoral area.

"A lot children of children between the ages of 10-15 years have dropped out from school to help their parents in fishing,” the assemblyman stated.

Poverty is the main driver for child labour in the area, Adams noted.

"What we intend to do is that we have put in place a committee to monitor children so whenever a child from 9-15 years is not in school we usually confront the parents.

"During meetings I always talk about putting in place measures to help mothers to address the problem. The Assembly has some loan facility for the women to sustain their lives but urges the government to help them financially to take care of their children,” he stressed.

Crosby Asmah, the chairman of parent-teacher association of Peace Child School said parents in the area have allowed children to freely engage in fishing activities which prevent them from attending school.

"It is a worrying trend in the area and needs drastic measures to contain the situation. Parents cite reasons of being single parent thereby show no concern about children enrolment and attendance in school.

"We have consistently engaged parents during meetings, but fathers fail to show up, only mothers attend. We have therefore informed the fathers to be present to combat child labour.

"Government holds more power to correct parents who allow their children to engage in fishing activities, NGOs have done their bit but adherence to rules and regulations government will work properly, when the government takes the lead,” he emphasised.

The Department of Social Welfare, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAG), and Ministry of Women and Children are national institutions responsible for facilitating the actualization of child rights including those associated with their economic, social, economic, and cultural development. It needs however to be admitted that public institutions in Ghana, generally lack the requisite levels of resources as well as the skills of working with people especially at community level, where their services are most crucially needed.

But it is important to mention that the efforts can provide effective solution once they are well coordinated. Partnership with Non-Governmental Organizations that are strong in community work could therefore proves valuable. This involves bringing all the stakeholders engaged in the practice to solve the menace. Parents, especially fathers need to be a priority. This is because, fathers mostly use these children to undertake various activities on the sea.

The children are exposed to extreme weather conditions, sometimes children do not even wear clothes which creates health problems for them. The sad aspect of this problem is that even when children complain about their inability to continue their assigned activities they end up being mistreated by their paymasters.

As a consequence, children lose out on education, something that their personal development depends on. It is time that fathers who most of the time boycott meetings such as community meetings and gatherings on the issue to find solution to the problem is addressed. It therefore becomes very difficult to correct a problem when the culprits consistently do not get involved.

It is time innovative approaches are employed to make sure fathers part take in meetings which seeks to solve the menace in the fisheries sector. It is not also enough for government to put up school buildings and assume that children in the fishing communities will automatically enrol in school. It needs strategic and well-coordinated measures to ensure children do not find themselves being used as labour at fishing sites.

The founder of Peace Child School, Samuel Bonney says basically the school was formed to provide education for children who had no education but found themselves engaged in fishing and those who had experienced child trafficking before.

"Gradually, we have managed to put in place the basic needs and next year some of them will be writing the bardic education certificate examination. Even some of the children come to school but at the same time they have to fend for themselves by going to pull nets at the beach during weekends to get some money for personal upkeep,” he said.

Mr Bonney says that the school is currently providing sponsorship 30 children in the school.

"Currently we have some few people we are trying to recruit into the school, we have some children at the sea who are not schooling and they have their own challenges.

According to him the government should consider providing some support to private schools located in remote areas where the government could not establish public schools.

"Government should also extend electricity to the area so that the children can get access to information communication technology,” he stated.

The Communications Specialist for the USAID/Ghana SFMP, Patricia Aba Mensah says the project child labour and trafficking component employs behaviour change communications approach to help reduce the situation in targeted communities in the Central Region.

SFMP has already conducted a household survey to document the worst forms of child labour and trafficking which guided the design of a behaviour change communications strategy, she noted.

"Peer to peer learning has proved to be an ideal way of awareness creation and sensitization. After training anti-child labour and trafficking advocates in the communities, the project has started recording significant milestones as some parents who were formerly involved in child labour and trafficking activities have now enrolled their children into school and are now convincing neighbours to do same.

"SFMP is working closely with the Social Welfare Department and the Fisheries Commission, as well as other CSOs to draw synergies and effectively coordinate interventions to avoid duplications and maximize gains achieved under these interventions,” she stated.

Columnist: Hinneh, Samuel