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So far in 2017, we have cared for 128 children at the Challenging Heights Hovde House. That means that 128 children are no longer in modern slavery. Every child received psychological care, emotional support and educational opportunities.

Our recovery shelter has been filled to capacity throughout the year. Therefore, we postponed rescues until we had the space available to bring children to the shelter.

We started this year with the new goal of ending child trafficking in Ghana’s fishing industry within the next five years. In order to do that, we must expand our shelter. Here’s our plan.

Phase 1: new classrooms

Right now, the shelter has four classrooms on the ground floor and a shared space that acts as the library, therapy room and recreation room. These spaces and the current dormitories are all a part of one building.

We are starting construction on a new building consisting of six classrooms and a dedicated library. The classrooms will be detached from the main building in the backyard, which will allow the boys and girls the experience of leaving where they live to go to school. One thing that we strive to do at the shelter is to give the children an experience that will be similar to what life will be like once they return home. This will help us to do that.

As the number of children being cared for at the shelter increases, six new classrooms will allow us to keep class sizes small. Small class sizes allow the children to receive individualised instruction and attention.

Finally, having a dedicated library will provide a specialised space for the boys and girls to explore new worlds through print. Access to books and engaging reading materials is such an important part of any child’s education and provides a strong foundation for success.

We estimate that the cost of this first phase of construction will cost about $120,000. Thanks to our amazing supporters, we have about half of the necessary funding and have broken ground on the foundation.

Phase 2: new dormitories

Once the new classrooms are built, the current classrooms will be converted into dormitories. The second story of the building will be extended above the current classrooms to create new dormitories as well. In total, the new dorms will be able to accommodate up to 100 survivors of modern slavery.

Right now, we have one dorm for girls and three dorms for boys, all on the second floor. We plan to have the coverted classrooms become the girls’ dormitories, giving them their own space on the ground floor. The boys will remain upstairs, and the new rooms will allow them to share space with other boys their own age.

With the anticipated increase in the number of children at the shelter, we’ve also planned for more shelter assistants. These are the staff members that spend all day and night at the shelter, acting as surrogate parents for the children. Rooms and living quarters for the new staff members are a part of the plan.

We estimate the cost of the addition on the second floor and converting the current classrooms will be about $70,000.

You can make the end of child trafficking a reality

By increasing the capacity of the Challenging Heights Hovde House, you’ll be the catalyst for ending child trafficking in Ghana’s fishing industry.

You can make a contribution to the construction, or you can create your own fundraiser. We’d love to have you on board!

Challenging Heights, in collaboration with the Ghana Police Service, the Ghana Navy, and Department of Social Welfare, rescued 15 more victims of slavery from Lake Volta over the weekend. The 15 rescued children are comprised of three girls and 12 boys between the ages of five and 17. All the children have been sent to the rehabilitation centre of Challenging Heights for the purposes of recovery and care.

Over the years Challenging Heights has been in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP) with respect to rescues, policies and national advocacy aimed at putting an end to child trafficking in Ghana.

Challenging Heights works in several communities across Ghana, to rescue, rehabilitate and reintegrate children who have been affected by worst forms of child labour, including trafficking.  The organisation, which launched its 5-year strategic plan to end child trafficking in the fishing industry at the beginning of this year, is also involved with the provision of livelihoods training and support for several hundred women.

The organization has so far rescued over 1,600 children from the Lake Volta since it was established 12 years ago.
Akua Boatemaa Duah
Advocacy Officer
(0244515761/0204020392)

Challenging Heights is campaigning against violence against children in school with the launch of research into the harmful effects of corporal punishment and how to end it. The organisation, which is mostly known for its actions towards the rescuing of trafficked children from Lake Volta, also works to protect and promote the rights guaranteed to all children.

Challenging Heights spent two years collecting and analysing data from children, teachers and parents at schools that both use and prohibit the use of corporal punishment.  Members from each group were interviewed about the experiences of corporal punishment and how it impacted them and their peers. The report, Better Discipline for Ghana’s Children, not only identified the trends of attitudes towards corporal punishment but also identifies a way to move forward in changing these beliefs and attitudes.

James Kofi Annan, the president of Challenging Heights, explained that as much as his organisation is focused on rescuing trafficked children, abusing children in schools is against the rights of children. “The mission of our organization is, after all, not just ending child trafficking and reducing slavery but also promoting children’s rights,” he said.

A lot of schools have the wrong impression that without corporal punishment it is impossible to discipline students and have good results. Friends International Academy, Challenging Heights’ basic school which was recently donated to the community, has been running without the use of Corporal Punishment since its incorporation in 2007 and has attained 100% in their BECE results for every graduating class, he concluded.

The report, Better Discipline for Ghana’s Children, will be digitally launched on the 28th August, 2017 and will be made available to Ghana Education Service and any other educational institute which has any interest in possessing them. Included in the digital package will be infographics. Hard copies of the report and supporting materials will be available upon request. Please contact Akua Boatemaa Duah at media@challengingheights.org with any requests.

Akua Boatemaa Duah
Advocacy Officer
(0244515761/0204020392)

Challenging Heights, along with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, commemorated World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on July 30 with a community sensitisation event in Senya Bereku. Thousands of people from the community attended the festivities, which included a route march and speeches by several dignitaries and leaders in Ghana.

The day started out with a route march through Senya Bereku. Schoolchildren danced through the streets while holding signs with slogans, such as “It could be me or you. Be vigilant” and “Allow me to enjoy my childhood,” with a brass band following along. The main programming included several performances by a cultural group, several dances and a short musical drama depicting child slavery on Lake Volta, as well as speeches by the District Chief Executive (DCE), Honourable George Andah, the Queen Mother, the Paramount Chief, James Kofi-Annan, Dr. Emma Hamenoo and Honourable Otiko Afisah Djaba, the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection. The topics included the role of parliament in fighting human trafficking, engaging families on issues of child protection, the role of traditional leaders in combating human trafficking, the role of shelters in victim protection, kin fostering and the purpose of the commemoration.

The DCE started the program by commemorating World Day Against Trafficking in Persons and acknowledging Challenging Heights and our work for the children of Ghana. The Honourable George Andah, a member of parliament, recognized the symbolism of holding this event at the Fort of Good Hope, where 600 years ago, people were taken away and trafficked. Mr. Andah referred to today’s trafficking in Ghana as the “silent slave trade”. Mr. Andah noted the role of the parliamentarian in combating and highlighted the provision of free SHS in September, which was met with thunderous applause by the crowd. Mr. Andah urged the community, local religious leaders, businesses and students to all take part in the fight against human and child trafficking.

The Queen Mother reminded the government of its promise to provide employment to the people of Ghana, as most people are trafficked because of the lack of employment prospects. The crowd applauded at her reminder to the government of its promise.

The Paramount Chief reminded the community that modern slavery is an illegal practice and that as custodians of tradition and culture, traditional leaders play a large role in shaping the way of life. Traditional leaders have the responsibility to respect values more than rituals, to promote education, which is the bedrock of social change, to ensure all benefits and opportunities are channelled for economic development, as poverty is a root cause of trafficking, and to lead traditional laws and ensure their strict adherence. He concluded by highlighting poverty, saying “poverty is the biggest enemy in the battle against child and human trafficking” and urged the government to provide the infrastructure to root out poverty from communities in Ghana.

James Kofi-Annan, the founder and president of Challenging Heights, told the crowd of his story being trafficked and enslaved on Lake Volta as a child. He congratulated the government on giving 1.2 million cedi to human trafficking, but remained disappointed by that number as Challenging Heights has given $4 million.

Dr. Emma Hamenoo, from the Department of Social Work at the University of Ghana, discussed kin fostering and child trafficking. The tradition of well to do family members taking care of family members in need is now a source of abuse. She declared that academia’s duty was to create a discourse to begin national discussion on these issues. She also mentioned the problem with imprisonment and fines: if we imprison a parent, then who will take care of any other children that parent has and if a parent could afford the fine associated with trafficking, they would not have had to sell their child into slavery.

The Honourable Otiko Afisah Djaba, the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection closed the program by highlighting the seriousness of the offense of human and child trafficking: “It is a crime against the children, parents, family and Ghana”. She noted the Global Plan of Action to combat trafficking in place since 2010, but also reported that Ghana remained on the Tier 2 Watch List this year, which paints a dark picture for the future of the country as child trafficking robs “children of their joy, education and a bright future”. Her announcement of a new program in Senya to teach income generating activities met with applause from the crowd.

With thousands of community members attending this event and community sensitisation, Challenging Heights is proud to have sponsored this commemoration of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons and to play a role in the fight against child trafficking.

 

This post was written by intern Juli King. Photographs were taken by intern Millie Kidd.

Challenging Heights is pleased to note that Ghana has maintained, against all odds, Tier 2 Watch List standing on the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report from the US State Department.

This is an unexpected amnesty which might have been as a result of the recent emergency effort to draft a National Plan of Action to Fight Human Trafficking.

Ghana has been on the Tier 2 Watch List for two consecutive years, and the law that established the annual TIP Report mandates that any country ranked on the Tier 2 Watch List for two consecutive years must be downgraded to Tier 3 in the third year, unless it shows sufficient progress to warrant a Tier 2 or Tier 1 ranking. However, because of the work on the National Plan of Action, Ghana was granted a waiver and remains on the Tier 2 Watch List.

Having narrowly escaped a downgrade to Tier 3, we owe it to ourselves to take the necessary actions, in the coming months, to return the country to Tier 2.

We will have to admit that at the moment, Ghana’s government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons and is not making significant efforts to do so.

To achieve significant effort, Challenging Heights is calling on government of Ghana to invest a minimum of 20 million GHS each year towards addressing the issue of human trafficking.

Either we invest 20 million GHS per year to save victims of trafficking in Ghana, or we fail to invest anything, and we will face the withdrawal of over $600 million in aid and other benefits as a result of a downgrade.

All the systems and structures put in place to fight against human trafficking have failed to deliver on their mandates. The Human Trafficking Secretariat has been starved of resources for several years. The Human Trafficking Fund has not been resourced for several years, making the Human Trafficking Board a mere workshop group.

The Child Labour unit of the Ministry of Employment is engaged in a turf war with the Human Trafficking Secretariat of the Ministry of Gender.

Challenging Heights is therefore calling on the government to merge the two units, the Child Labour Unit of the Ministry of Employment, and the Human Trafficking Secretariat of the Ministry of Gender, into a commission to be known as Ghana Human Trafficking Commission (GHTC), chaired by the President himself, with the same status as the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC), and under the direct supervision of the president.

The GHTC will have a stronger mandate, and it will ensure a more effective, coordinated and efficient fight against all forms of child labour and human trafficking in Ghana. This will also avoid the current unnecessary turf wars between the Ministry of Gender, and the Ministry of Employment.

Challenging Heights will continue to support government efforts, as we deliver our own five years strategic plan, which is aimed at seeing an end to child trafficking in the next five years.

In the last 12 years, Challenging Heights has rescued and rehabilitated over 1,600 children from slavery on Lake Volta.

Human Trafficking is a $150 billion business worldwide. That is why it has become a global threat, and various governments across the world, including big corporations, faith groups, and the UN System, are all rallying resources to protect victims, and to punish offenders.

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.