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Last year was an important year for us at Challenging Heights. We took a hard look at what services we provide, what services we want to provide and what goals we aim to achieve through those services. That assessment resulted in our new strategic plan and goal, to end trafficking in Ghana’s fishing industry in five years and slavery in 10.

However, throughout that assessment we continued to rescue children, provide care at our rehabilitation shelter, reintegrate children with their families, champion children’s rights, facilitate education and support the livelihoods of women and youth in the source communities.

We proud of the work that we have done and we invite you to read more about it in our 2016 Annual Report. We’re looking forward to what the rest of 2017 brings and we hope that you’ll join our efforts with a donation.

We at Challenging Heights spent much of last year assessing the state of trafficking in Ghana and thinking big. This lead to our new strategic plan, launched at the beginning of the year, with the goal of ending trafficking in Ghana’s fishing industry in five years and slavery in 10. We’re excited to see that the government is joining us in this ambitious goal with their new National Plan of Action for the Elimination of Human Trafficking.

A few weeks ago, our President and Director joined more than 50 other stakeholders, including ministers, members of parliament, non-governmental organisations and others to contribute to this new NPA.

This new plan addresses four main themes: prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership. These focus areas largely overlap with the three focus areas that we have outlined, prevention, rescue & recovery and advocacy, as well as address some of the calls to action that we have made to the government.

Some of the aspects where we expect to work in tandem with others, that address both our own strategic plan as well as actions listed in the NPA, include raising awareness among the public, addressing the root cause poverty, reintegration support for children and families, and partnering with other agencies and organisations in order to effectively work together.

We’re particularly pleased to see that the government is prioritising actions that fall under their domain and focusing them on how they can address trafficking. For example, by increasing efforts to register births and foster children, expanding the Livelihoods Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme into source communities, ensuring a budget for the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit and ensuring that the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) has adequate and required resources.

We’re looking forward to the official launch of this National Plan of Action for the Elimination of Human Trafficking and subsequently finding how we can best partner with other stakeholders to achieve the mutual goals of our strategic plan and the NPA.

Challenging Heights, in partnership with Abolish Slavery Now, an Abolitionist organization based out of Ventura, California, rescued 17 more trafficked children from the Lake Volta. The 4 girls and 13 boys, ages 4 to 17 years-old, tops off the total 1,600 children the organization has rescued since inception. The rescue was accomplished in partnership with Abolish Slavery Now, an abolitionist organization based out of Ventura, California. Many of the 17 recently-rescued children had worked for nearly twelve years in servitude under incredibly deplorable conditions.

In an interview with the media, the President of Challenging Heights, James Kofi Annan, called for urgent government action to address the situation. He praised the Ministry of Gender for working towards the establishment of the Human Trafficking National Action Plan, but expressed disappointment that the government is failing to resource the various institutions such as the Ghana Police Service, and the Human Trafficking Secretariat, both of which are key if the country is to see an end to the problem.

Child trafficking in the fishing industry has been a problem for the Ghanaian government for several decades. It is estimated that there are over 21,000 working children on Lake Volta alone, and there are several thousands more going through various forms of abuse.

Last year the American government gave a warning to the Government of Ghana that if steps are not taken to address this issue of child trafficking, Ghana risk losing a lot of the aid money that comes from the American people.

Challenging Heights works in several communities across Ghana, to rescue, rehabilitate and reintegrate children who have been affected by worst forms of child labor, including trafficking. The organization recently launched its aggressive 5-year strategic plan to end child trafficking in this industry by 2022.

Akua Boatemaa Dua
(Advocacy Officer)
0204 020392
0244 515761

We at Challenging Heights have reached a crucial point in our history. For the past 12 years we have spread our efforts among a variety of programmes, all with the goal of making an impact on child trafficking in Ghana. Today, Friends International Academy, formerly Challenging Heights School, is a community institution and example for all schools in Winneba with its anti-corporal punishment policy and sustained 100% graduation rate. The opening of the CH Cold Store last year had brought new financial opportunities and security to the women of Winneba and the surrounding communities. With a sense of accomplishment in those areas were are setting our sights on an ambitious new goal.

We plan to end child trafficking in Ghana’s fishing industry in five years, and child slavery in 10.

We have identified nine objectives that fall under three programming areas that will help us to achieve this goal.

Rescue and Recovery

This is an area that we know that we excel at currently. We have rescued more than 1,500 children and more than 400 children have received rehabilitation care at the Challenging Height Hovde House shelter. However we want and need to do more to achieve our goal.

Our main objectives for our Rescue and Recovery programme are a reduction in the number of trafficked children on Lake Volta, all rescued children receive high-quality rehabilitation before reintegration with a loving family, and that family life is good for all reintegrated children, their caregivers and siblings.

We have plans to steadily increase the number of children that we rescue over the coming years. We will continue to run our shelter at the high standards of care that resulted in it being rated the number one shelter in Ghana by the US State Department. In fact, with the increase in the number of children that we plan to rescue we will need to expand our facilities there. Finally, to ensure that family life is good for all reintegrated children, we will continue our current programme of advising and supporting the children we reintegrate and will be folding our previous livelihoods programme into the reintegration support more seamlessly.

We know that it is not possible for us to reach all of the children who have been trafficked to Lake Volta alone, which is why we are partnering with other non-governmental organisations in Ghana to support their rescue and recovery efforts. Our shelter has rarely reached capacity based on our rescues alone, and so we are providing our rehabilitation services to other NGOs as well.

By the end of the next five years, we plan to have rescued a total of 700 children from Lake Volta, have rehabilitated 1,000 children in our shelter, and support 4,900 children, their caregivers and families.

Prevention

In order to end trafficking, we will need to do more than just bring back children from Lake Volta. We will need to actively pursue prevention of trafficking by tackling the root causes that leads a family to traffic their child and to work with the government so that criminal consequences are a deterrent.

Our main objectives for our Prevention programme are to tackle the root causes of trafficking with a prevention programme in and around Winneba, and to work with the government to ensure prosecution of traffickers.

Eliminating all of the root causes of trafficking would be an impossible task for any organisation, which is why we are focusing our attention on some of the main causes that we have identified, such as poverty, naivety and family separation. We are actively seeking partnerships with other organisations to effectively address the causes that we don’t have the capacity to commit to.

Additionally, the current number of trafficking investigations and convictions has made trafficking a low-risk and high-reward activity. We want to work with the government to focus their attention and efforts on enforcing the laws that are already on the books, so that traffickers and slave masters know that there are consequences for their actions.

We will count our success with a measurable reduction in the root causes of trafficking in the communities where we work, and knowing that Ghana’s government does all that it can to prevent trafficking, reduce slavery, and prosecute traffickers and slave masters.

Advocacy

In the past much of our advocacy efforts have focused on influencing national policy and to a lesser extent on changing attitudes. Ghana largely has the legal infrastructure to address trafficking and modern slavery from a national level, and we need to focus more of our attention on the social norms around trafficking.

Our objectives for our Advocacy programmes are that the Ghana public is actively opposed to child trafficking and supportive of child rights, that anti-trafficking NGOs work together, global best practices are developed and used in Ghana, and there is a deeper understanding among stakeholders of the nature, prevalence and solutions to trafficking in Ghana’s fishing industry.

We are already quite skilled with our communications, but will need to step up our efforts and target and plan our messaging more effectively. We’re reaching out to both NGOs in Ghana and abroad to built support and plan actions to reaching the goal of ending trafficking. Research both using the data and files that we have as well as out in the community are being planned and in the works for the coming years for all interested and involved to better understand modern slavery in Ghana’s fishing industry.

In five years’ time, we plan that 80 percent of Ghana will oppose trafficking, 80 percent of anti-trafficking NGOs in Ghana agree that we are good partners, that we have established a global network of 120 anti-trafficking NGOs, and that one piece of research has been published each year.

 

All of at Challenging Heights are excited and energised by this new goal and focus. We know we are setting an ambitious goal, but we believe it is achievable. However, we can only do it with the help and support of our friends. If ending child trafficking in Ghana is something that you would like to be a part of, we would encourage you to become a monthly sponsor or get in touch to find out other ways you can help.

Each year, December 2 marks the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. This year, James Kofi Annan, the president and founder of Challenging Heights was invited to participate in a panel hosted by the U.N. Voluntary Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery titled, “Revealing the Child Faces of Modern Slavery.”

James spoke about his life story, having been trafficked at age 6 and escaping seven years later to then pursue his education. His story is one that truly does put a face on the problem of modern slavery.

James Kofi Annan, president and founder of Challenging Heights, addressing the U.N. Voluntary Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery on 2 Dec to mark the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.

James Kofi Annan, president and founder of Challenging Heights, addressing the U.N. Voluntary Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery on 2 Dec to mark the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. credit: ILO

“Each time I made a mistake as a child fisherman, I was tortured,” he told the room. “I escaped, but there are so many children still stuck in slavery. This is why I created Challenging Heights, rescuing one child at a time.”

So far this year, Challenging Heights has rescued nearly 30 children from modern slavery on Lake Volta and our team is set to go on another rescue mission at the end of this week. Between the children we have rescued and partnerships with other anti-trafficking organisations, nearly 100 children have passed through our rehabilitation shelter this year.

However, in spite of the encouraging work that NGOs like Challenging Heights are doing to end slavery in Ghana, the government’s response and actions to end trafficking have been abysmal. The 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report from the US State Department placed Ghana on the Tier 2 Watchlist for the second year in a row, because of the low number of trafficking investigations and the lack of convictions. Though there are laws in place ensuring the criminality of trafficking, enforcement simply is not happening on the government’s part.

“The time to act is now. Everyone in this room has a part to play,” James said at the panel in Geneva. We couldn’t agree more.

James Kofi Annan, the President of Challenging Heights, displaying the AGI overall Social Enterprise award

James Kofi Annan, the President of Challenging Heights, displaying the AGI overall Social Enterprise award

Challenging Heights has received the Best Social Enterprise award at the 5th edition of the Association of Ghana Industry (AGI) awards. This is in recognition of the organisation’s innovative and sustainable approach to addressing the issue of child trafficking in Ghana, and how the organisation has developed a number of livelihoods and income generating ventures to support its operations.

The newly introduced award category, sponsored by the British Council, is aimed at encouraging social entrepreneurs whose businesses focus on grassroots development through sustainable investments that create employment opportunities.

The President of the AGI, Mr James Asare-Adjei in his keynote address said Ghana’s prospects for job creation will improve if local industries experience sustainable growth to alleviate the graduate unemployment situation.

Mr Asare-Adjei urged the government to provide special fiscal and financial incentives to give local industries some edge over the prevailing competition.

The British Council, in its solidarity statement said that start-up social enterprises in Ghana are increasingly becoming vital parts of local economic growth and employment as well as active change agents in communities around the country.

The statement said early stage social enterprises face a stifling range of interconnected challenges such as harsh regulations, non-existent early stage investment opportunities and a lack of relevant market insight.

“Inclusive growth remains at the heart of the British Council’s support to the local social enterprise ecosystem,” the statement said.

James Kofi Annan receiving the Social Enterprise Award on behalf of Challenging Heights from the Country Director of British Council

James Kofi Annan receiving the Social Enterprise Award on behalf of Challenging Heights from the Country Director of British Council

The British Council said it supports the social enterprise award due to its efforts to recognise business that has society at its core.

The President for Challenging Heights, Dr James Kofi Annan, in an interview, said Challenging Heights would continue to be driven by its passion of delivering social justice interventions to children, women and underserved communities in the coastal and farming communities of Ghana.

He said through the establishment of sister companies, namely, Run-Off restaurant, CH Cold Store, Nyce Media and the Friends International Academy, Challenging Heights has created sustainable means to support the organisation’s goal of ending child trafficking on Lake Volta, while at the same time generating income for its own operations.

“Challenging Heights is currently the highest private employer in Winneba. The establishment of these enterprises has created jobs which are aimed at empowering communities and breaking the cycle of poverty; a main cause of trafficking,” he added.

Dr Annan urged the Government to create conducive environments for local businesses to operate and create more job opportunities to deal with the country’s high unemployment rates.

Earlier this year, the students of Castle View High School in Castle View, Colorado choose Challenging Heights as the recipient of their annual Make a Difference Week fundraising campaign. In just a short week, these committed student were able to raise more than $30,000 for Challenging Heights.

We were able to use those funds to build three new classrooms at what is now Friends International Academy, the school that Challenging Heights founded 10 years ago. As the reputation of the school and the high levels of the students’ performance has spread throughout Winneba, enrolment has steadily increased. The growing student body has triggered a need for more classrooms, which we were able to make a reality with the help of Castle View High School.

This strong connection between Castle View High School and Challenging Heights prompted some of the teachers at CVHS to consider a fundraising and service learning trip to Ghana with Challenging Heights. Once again, the generosity of the students was great, and 16 students were able to raise more than $8,000 for Challenging Heights to combat child trafficking and modern slavery.

During their week spent with us, they tackled a new paint job for the Hovde House shelter, reading with the students at Friends International Academy, helping out at the Hand in Hand for Literacy Library and assisting with the distribution of TOMS shoes to children in need in Winneba. They also spent time at the beach, visiting tourist sites and walking in the canopy of Kakum National Park.

The students and chaperones came away with a greater understanding of the problem of modern slavery in Ghana and globally and a sense of commitment to wanting to continue a partnership with CH in the years to come. We at CH are delighted to have gained more than 20 new advocates and ambassadors for our mission and look forward to a lasting friendship.

As a part of the launch of the Children’s Reintegration Guidelines from Family for Every Child, Challenging Heights called together policy makers and influencers from across various sectors to present the guidelines and collaborate on how to implement the guidelines.

Jonny Whitehead, Director of Challenging Heights, giving opening remarks for the workshop.

Jonny Whitehead, Director of Challenging Heights, giving opening remarks for the workshop.

“What we want to do is improve the effectiveness of getting children back into their families,” Jonny Whitehead, Director of Challenging Heights, said.

The attendants of the workshop included representatives from UNICEF, Mercy Project, Free the Slaves, Ghana’s Department of Social Welfare (DSW), Ghana’s Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU), Ghana’s Criminal Investigation Department for the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit, the International Organisation for Migration and the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives who all have a connection to reintegrating children with their families and communities after being separated because of both emergency and non-emergency situations. There was a desire among the participants to create a standard to be used by all agencies that do reintegration, ensuring that all children receive a high standard of care, and these guidelines aim to inform that standard.

Pomaa Arthur, Recovery Manager, explains the main points of the Children's Reintegration Guidelines.

Pomaa Arthur, Recovery Manager, explains the main points of the Children’s Reintegration Guidelines.

“These guidelines were developed because there are millions of children separated from their families, and as families break down, so does society,” Pomaa Arthur, Recovery Manager at Challenging Heights said.

The Children’s Reintegration Guidelines were developed by Family For Every Child, an international coalition of civil society organisations that aim to improve the lives of vulnerable children, using research, pooled knowledge and consultations with 158 children, 127 service providers and 66 agencies. The guidelines have been endorsed by UNICEF and 30 other organisations that address the well-being of children around the world.

These new international guidelines are broadly in line with forthcoming policy regarding children’s reintegration from the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, according to Idduh Abdallah from UNICEF. Representatives from DSW concurred and stressed the importance of adapting the guidelines to a local cultural context and to support the new policy.

The participants ended the workshop with a greater understanding of the guidelines and a desire to ensure that the policy is inline with these new international standards, wanting to create a set of tools to ensure that the guidelines are easy to follow on the ground and suggestions on how to strengthen partnerships across sectors.

Challenging Heights is a non-governmental organisation based in Winneba that is dedicated to ending child trafficking and forced labour through social justice interventions and protecting children’s rights since 2007.

The recent release of the U.S. State Department’s 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report has shown that Ghana’s government’s response to and efforts to end human trafficking do not go far enough.

According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, there are an estimated 103,300 people in modern slavery in Ghana, and 21,000 of them are children on Lake Volta. But the picture is even bleaker for children across the country. Nearly 1.9 million children are engaged in child labour, with 1.2 million of them engaged in hazardous labour according
to the Ghana Living Standards Survey Round 6.

That is an unacceptable number of children who are deprived of their education and put in harm’s way, and indeed the only acceptable number is zero. And what has been the government’s response to these issues?

For the last four years, the Human Trafficking Fund has gone unfunded. For five years, no training had been provided to police or prosecutors to combat trafficking. This last year saw reports and complaints of corruption and bribery in the judicial system rise, but there have been no investigations into public officials related to trafficking.
Last year, while there were 238 investigations regarding trafficking, there was only 21 prosecutions. None of them resulted in a conviction.

This is shameful and Ghana deserves better. That is why we are calling on all the candidates this election season to #StopSlaveryGhana.

We’d like to see them pledge to rescue 10,000 people from modern slavery over the next four years; that’s less than 10 percent of those engaged in modern slavery. We want them to fulfill the law of having a shelter for victims of trafficking in every region of Ghana. We want them to double the number of investigations into trafficking cases, and that if the ones that are prosecuted we want a 20% conviction rate. By doing these things, the government will be able to save over $600 million in aid and move Ghana off the Tier 2 Watch List.

You can help us each reach these goals. Share this message with your friends. Tweet at your candidates asking them what they are going to do to #StopSlaveryGhana. Post on Facebook to share the knowledge that slavery still exists and that we can end it together.

Five child slaves in Fantekope, an island community along the Lake Volta in the Kpando District have been rescued from slavery by Anti-Human Trafficking NGO, Challenging Heights.

The rescue mission, conducted in collaboration with the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) of the Ghana Police Service and the Ghana Navy, saw the liberation of five boys between 9 and 19 years who had slaved close to five years on the Lake.

Four out of the five children were allegedly sold into slavery by their 56 year old father; Bright Agyepong, who is claimed to have been receiving the wages of his children’s labour regularly from the slave masters.

Communication Manager of Challenging Heights, Pomaa Arthur, commenting after the rescue, explained that her organisation first heard the news on Peace FM last Thursday and decided to support the AHTU with expertise and logistics since they didn’t have the needed resources.

“We followed up on this issue and supported the police because we are very passionate about the issue of trafficking and rescuing children from slavery is a priority for us. We have been doing this since 2005 and have rescued over 1,500 children from slavery,” she said.

Ms Arthur said following a lead on the exact location of the children, Challenging Heights together with a few armed law enforcement officers went to the island community to save the children.

“The plan was to rescue the four boys who had been sold by their father but upon arrival, a nine year old boy who saw what was going on boldly came out to tell us that he’s also a slave who needs to be rescued because he wants to go to school,” she added.

Ms Arthur explained that children sold into slavery are abused and basically have no rights, adding that, these children are treated like properties.

She said the children are made to work long hours on the lake and are most of the time fed once a day.

“We are excited to have played a very key role in this rescue. This brings the number of children rescued by Challenging Heights this year to 21. These children will undergo rehabilitation at our shelter for a period of 6-9 months before they are reintegrated with their families,” she said.

Ms Arthur urged the government to prioritise the issue of trafficking by allocating more resources to law enforcement agencies responsible for combating trafficking in Ghana.

“We are likely to be downgraded to Tier 3 on the Trafficking in Persons Report if we do not make significant efforts to bring an end to trafficking. When this happens not only will the U.S cut off their aid but we would have failed the thousands of children, women and men who have been forced into slavery,” she said.