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Opinions Fri, 4 Sep 2015

Let’s eliminate child trafficking in Ghana

Challenging Heights, a child rights non-governmental organisation (NGO) that envisions “a world where every child goes to school and lives in a loving and caring family”, has established that child trafficking persists in parts of the country. For this reason, the organisation is committed to working with governmental agencies and other non-governmental organisations, to address the issue.

Through research and over 10 years of operations, the organisation has discovered that child trafficking in Ghana is caused by poverty, ignorance, poor parental care and lack of support for children.

Furthermore, weak political commitment reflected in inadequate allocation of resources to combat human trafficking and weak enforcement of laws and implementation of national policies and plans, also contribute to the problem.

Human Trafficking Act

The Human Trafficking Act, 2005 (Act 694) of Ghana, defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, trading or receipt of persons within and across national borders by the use of threats, force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, the abuse of power or exploitation of vulnerability, or giving or receiving payments and benefits to achieve consent”.

Child trafficking, therefore, refers to the recruitment, transport and transfer of any person below the age of 18, with or without their consent for the purpose of exploitation or abuse of position of vulnerability. Exploitation includes but is not limited to forced labour and sexual exploitation.

The Act strongly prohibits all forms of human trafficking and makes human trafficking a criminal offence liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than five years.

As a country, we cannot downplay the existence and pernicious impact of child trafficking on our children and the nation’s development. It actually undermines our respect for human rights and human dignity as a country, as well as erodes the nation’s human capital.

Population of children

The sixth Ghana Living Standard Survey (GLSS 6) estimates that there are over 8.6 million children between the ages of 5-17 in Ghana. Sadly, over 1.8 million (21.8%) of them are engaged in child labour and over 1.2 million (14.2%) are engaged in hazardous child labour.

An International Labour Organisation/Government of Ghana study in 2013, estimates that there are 49,000 children working in the fishing industry on the Lake Volta. Out of this number, over 21,000 of them are engaged in hazardous child labour. The Global Slavery Index (GSI) estimates that over 190,000 Ghanaians are living in conditions of “modern slavery.”

Strategic approach

Given the above national context the NGO has adopted what it describes as a three-tier theory of change to drive individual, societal and systemic level of change. With reference to this framework, the organisation has adopted a four-prong strategy in the context of identifying the root causes of child trafficking in Ghana. These strategies are protection, education, livelihood and advocacy.

The child protection strategy entails a preventative tactic of raising awareness of behavioural change and a curative tactic of rescue, rehabilitation, reintegration and monitoring of victims of child trafficking. The education strategy involves providing affordable education for children from deprived families and general educational supports to children.

Also, the livelihood strategy focuses on sustainable economic empowerment for deprived families as a way of reducing poverty levels, which has been identified as an underlying factor for child trafficking in Ghana. And finally, the advocacy strategy focuses on influencing national and international policies, laws and programmes that protect children and also push for law enforcement.

Programmes

Since 2003, the organisation has supported thousands of children and youths in Ghana, and it is estimated that, over 40,000 children and youth have directly benefited from its programmes. The organisation has also rescued over 1,000 trafficked children from forced labour, and also provided not less than $100,000 seed capital to over 560 deprived families to improve their living standards.

The NGO has also sensitised or educated an estimated 100,000 children, men and women on child protection and child trafficking in Ghana. Challenging Heights and the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) of the Ghana Police Service on June 5, this year, launched a national Turn Back Human Trafficking campaign, to focus on securing citizen and police vigilance such as systematically screening of vehicles for trafficked persons.

Action plans

The organisation, has also made significant input into policy development, review and reforms in Ghana. For instance, it has played key roles in developing action plans for the implementation of policies such as National Plan of Action (NPA) to eliminate worst forms of child labour, Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), the post-2015 Development Agenda and the Education Strategic Plan (2010-2020).

Challenging Heights envisages a child trafficking-free country, and hereby, calls on the government and related organisations and agencies to eliminate it completely.

The writer is the Advocacy

Manager, Challenging Heights

advocacychghana@gmail.com

Columnist: David Kofi Awusi