Women’s economic empowerment fights child trafficking

Challenging Heights —  November 16, 2016

_dsc0861-2In a survey of coastal community residents 71.2 percent of respondents said that extreme poverty would be a reason why a family would traffic their child. When the parents are unable to provide for their children, sending them to live with a relative, as is a cultural norm in Ghana, is an attractive solution. Unfortunately, in far too many cases those relatives then use these children to work for them fishing on Lake Volta or doing domestic work, interfering with their education and depriving them of their rights.

Seeing that financial hardship is frequently at the root of a family’s decision to send their child away, we knew that we needed to address it. Studies show that when women are economically empowered, they reinvest their money in their families, such as buying food and clothes or paying for school fees, at a much higher rate than men. That is why we focus our economic empowerment programme on the women of the coastal areas.

In a survey of women in Winneba, we found that many women saw fish mongering as the most economically lucrative and an area that we were able to target support.

_dsc0874-2One of the issues that the women face is that their smoke ovens are often made of mud and clay and are out in the open. When it rains, the women are not able to smoke fish and the ovens would disintegrate. Both of those things would cut into the profits. So we decided to build a 58-oven covered smokehouse with the ovens made from blocks and concrete instead of mud. We also built more than 90 ovens at the homes of established fish mongers. The smokehouse is free for women in the community to use, through small cooperatives.

Additionally, we built and opened a cold store, which allows the women to have easy access to fish year round. Even though Winneba is a coastal community, the fishing season is surprisingly short, with big catches happening only from August to September. Low catch volume has forced the women to find their fish supply elsewhere, usually travelling four hours one way to the Tema port to buy fish. By operating a cold store in Winneba, we are able to provide fish to the women year-round and they are able to spend the time that would be done travelling working and care for their children.

Since the completion of these two projects earlier this year, the women who use the smokehouse and come to the cold store report that they are able to afford the fees associated with school for their children and that it many financial difficulties have eased. That is how we are working to prevent trafficking.