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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 rescues children trapped in forced hazardous labour on Lake Volta.

Challenging Heights rescues children trapped in forced hazardous labour on Lake Volta.

Challenging Heights has just rescued another 24 children trapped in child trafficking in fishing on Lake Volta. This brings the total children rescued by the organization since January to 40.

All these children, aged 6 to 16 years old, are supposed to be in school – but that is not the case. Instead they were enslaved in forced labour, spending an average of 17 hours a day working in hazardous conditions on Lake Volta.

Shamefully, while these children are forced to work and denied an education, their masters often use the income from their sweat to fund their own children’s education; some of them have become university graduates!

It is this social injustice against children that Challenging Heights is committed to addressing. Challenging Heights believes that it is the right of every school-aged child in Ghana to have access to quality and affordable education

Undoubtedly, child trafficking is still rife in Ghana. The good news is that as a country we have long known how to eliminate it, with clear directives captured in the 2011-2015 National Plan of Action (NPA) towards the Elimination of Worst Forms of Child Labour (WFCL).

With the NPA due to expire in less than two months time, 75% of what was planned has not been achieved.

Challenging Heights hereby calls on the Government of Ghana through the various ministries, units and department to render account to Ghanaians of what they have achieved so far in the face of the NPA and what their plans are until December when the NPA expires.

Following each rescue, Challenging Heights provides temporary rehabilitation support to all the children at the Challenging Heights Hovde House. Once they complete the rehabilitation process we reintegrate them back to their families and follow them up through planned monitoring for two years, providing educational support to children and livelihoods support to carers to ensure they remain safe.

We believe every child should be allowed to realize their rights to education and a family life, so that they can pursue their dreams and future aspirations.

For  interviews contact:
David Kofi Awusi, Advocacy Manager
+233 240 577480
advocacyCHghana@gmail.com
challengingheights.org

Challenging Heights is happy to acknowledge that the Motor Transport and Traffic Directive (MTTD) of Ghana Police Service in Senya Beraku in the Central Region has complied with the directives of Ghana’s Inspector General of Police (IGP) to screen vehicles for child trafficking. Challenging Heights is therefore calling on all police officers, especially at various police checkpoints, to comply with the IGP’s directive as well.

The IGP issued directives to police on the 5th of June 2015 at the launch of the TURN BACK Human Trafficking campaign in Accra. Challenging Heights has continued to engage with various MTTDs to ensure that the directives are implemented.

The result was that on 14 August 2015, the MTTD and Ghana Police Service in Senya Beraku in the Central of Ghana, in collaboration with Challenging Heights, screened vehicles and distributed hundreds of anti-child trafficking campaign stickers to drivers while educating them on the dangers of child trafficking and their role in addressing it.

Challenging Heights supports this compliance and joins the public to ask all other public officers especially at police checkpoints to check all vehicles and screen them for child trafficking.

Screening vehicles for child trafficking is most urgent in this period of the year, during school vacation; it is when hundreds of children are trafficked especially to Lake Volta, for forced labour. We call on the general public to report suspect passengers at police checkpoints for action.

Currently, 49, 000 children are working on Lake Volta. Of this number, 21,000 are engaged in hazardous child labour – work that is dangerous to the lives of the children. This is the time no child should be allowed to add to the number of children working on Lake Volta at the cost of their lives and future.

Challenging Heights is a child rights organization and our vision is “a world where every child is in school and lives in a loving and caring family.

For interviews contact:

David Kofi Awusi, Advocacy Manager

Cell: 0240577480 or advocacychghana@gmail.com

PRESS RELEASE 1700 24-07-2014

Dear Sir,
You offered to give GHS20, 000 to get information about James Kofi Annan, the President of Challenging Heights. Well, as a team, we are happy to give you all such information and accept the money to support the work of Challenging Heights.

We would like to respond to the text messages you have been sending to staff:

Please we know you have been with Challenging Heights. We are giving you an offer of GHs10, 000.00 for the start, if only you will be prepared to meet us for information needed concerning your former boss Kofi Annan, and after the deal we will offer you another GHs10, 000. You can communicate to us through this e-mail: jukadia1234@ymail.com.

We are glad to provide you with facts about James Kofi Annan, and look forward to receiving the first installment of GHS10, 000. We would be happy to meet with you in our office should you need more information, and for us to collect the remaining balance of GHS10, 000. As a team we wish to donate the full GHS20,000 to support our work of Challenging Heights to promote youth and family empowerment and the children’s rights to education and freedom from forced labour.

We understand you are searching for information which will enable you to scandalize the President of Challenging Heights. Well, we have hundreds of information, facts and figures to give you – although we think you will be disappointed to discover that James has nothing to hide. So, for your first donation of GHS10,000 to Challenging Heights, we would like to tell you about James’s personal history, his business and charity work:

Text message sent to Challenging Heights staff

Malicious text message sent to Challenging Heights staff

James’ full name is James Kofi Annan. All of us call him Senior James. He worked with Barclays Bank of Ghana for several years, rising through the ranks to become a Manager at the bank.

James started Challenging Heights while still working with Barclays Bank, informally in the year 2003, and registered it in 2005, using his own money for the project until the first ever international donor came in June 2007.

While in the bank he took several loans part of which he used to build his houses, one in Winneba, and the other in Kasoa. He also used part of the loans he took to start a printing press called Challenging Steps Ltd in Accra. This printing press had several big clients such as Barclays Bank, Millennium Development Authority, Stratcom Africa, STB McCan, Amadeus, KEK Insurance, and hundreds of others.

Later after he resigned from the bank, he took further loans from the same Barclays Bank to inject more capital into his printing press business.

In December 2008, James Kofi Annan registered another business called Run-Off Ltd, also in Accra, to offer consultancy services to businesses. Currently among the other strings of businesses James run are Go Ventures, Go Entertainment, Winneba United, and Wishes Ltd.

In September 2008, James was awarded his third international award, the Frederick Douglass award, which came with at least $10,000 for his personal use, and $20,000 for the use of his organization Challenging Heights.

He saved his personal part of the award money, which was $10,000 for his businesses. Later he used this money to buy some parcels of land in Winneba, which he currently uses for his ventures.

In October 2011, James again won an international award, the Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize, which came with $100,000, $50,000 of which was for him personally. He again saved this money for his business.

In January 2012, James established a restaurant with one of his companies, Run-Off restaurant in Winneba.

The capital for Run-Off restaurant, which is the second biggest business James has ever done, were as follows:
1. The $50,000 of the Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize that he won.
2. A $72,000 loan from HFC Bank.
3. A GHC17, 000 loan from HFC Bank.
4. Credits from Wormeco Company (Winneba), Emmalect Ltd (Accra Central), Omega Compu Systems Engineering (Adabraka), Bentum Cement (Winneba), Premium Services (Winneba), and Sabadan Company Ltd (Winneba).

In 2013, James won another award from Tigo Reach for Change which brought him $25,000 per year for three years.

Please kindly note that James has won other international awards and monies such as the World Children’s Prize, which brought $50,000. But we have not made mention of it because that money was not for his personal use. It was for the use of the organization.

James drives a Toyota Fortuner which cost more than $35,000. Please note that James did not buy this car himself. This vehicle was a gift from two individuals, Rick and Jason, who donated it through the Hovde Foundation, USA.

James has been an International Visiting Fellow at Grinnell College in America, teaching First Degree students. He has also had several tens of speaking engagements abroad. Majority of these earns him income.

James takes only half of his salary with Challenging Heights. He reserves the other half for the payment of fees of secondary school and university students, which is outside of the support of Challenging Heights. Currently he is paying for the school fees for a number of secondary school students in T. I. Ahammadiyya Muslim Secondary School in Potsin, Swedru Secondary School, Uncle Rich Secondary School in Winneba, Winneba School of Business, Anyan Denkyira Secondary School, Ideal College Secondary School in Accra, Apam Secondary School, some of who have just completed school. He is also paying for the school fees of six university students; namely a Medical student and a Social Science student in the University of Cape Coast, a Social Science student in the University of Education, Winneba, a Business student in Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), a Computer Engineering student at IPMC, and a Development Studies Masters student at the University of Ghana.

In addition, he is providing feeding and other support at cost of GHC800 each month for eight needy children.

A number of us have benefitted personally from the benevolence of James, and we know several of our staff who have personally benefitted from him too. There are several individuals who are employed today because of James’ personal generosity. And here we’re not talking about what Challenging Heights as an organization does. We’re talking here about what James Kofi Annan as an individual uses his personal money for, for the benefit of others. If you will like to know what the achievements of Challenging Heights are, please kindly review our annual reports.

But just a gist of what Challenging Heights has achieved over the years, since 2003, Challenging Heights has provided educational support to nearly 10,000 vulnerable children across 40 communities in Ghana. In addition, the organization has rescued a little over 1,200 children from slavery on Lake Volta, provided them with rehabilitation, and supported them to go to school. Again over 1,100 women have been supported through our livelihood projects, and nearly 600 young persons who have completed JHS/SHS have been supported to access ICT skills, leadership and entrepreneurship training. Challenging Heights is one of only a very few organizations in Ghana to build and run their own rehabilitation shelter.

I guess you know James very well? Have you observed the way he dresses? As staff, a lot of times we have pleaded with him to change his worn out shoes. We have pleaded with him to stop wearing worn out dresses. A very dynamic businessman who has sacrificed everything he ever achieves and owns for the benefit of society.

And please note that James Kofi Annan is first and foremost a businessman. He has registered several companies, some of which he has donated to Challenging Heights. For instance, CH school used to be called Challenging Heights International School Ltd. It was his personal school which he donated to Challenging Heights. In effect, he is known more for Challenging Heights because of the media, but he does more businesses that the general public does not know him for.

We are yet to meet any man who has suffered so much for his sacrifice, like James. It is too much, sometimes even for us to bear, to see him go through all manner of attacks, death threats, insults, and smear campaigns. This is someone who could have led a flamboyant lifestyle. This is someone who could own fleet of cars if he had not chosen to give all that he owns. Yet, this is the same person whose house does not have a kitchen cabinet. The living furniture he purchased in 2001 when he graduated from the University of Ghana is what he still uses in the house.

Please kindly check the records, in 2000/2001, James religiously donated 10% of his monthly National Service Allowances to the Ghana Heart Foundation, in Korle Bu Cardio Thoracic Center, and he did this through the New Town Ghana Commercial Bank branch. This was somebody who was still poor and struggling to survive life in Accra at the time. So James’ generosity did not start from today.

The worst thing that James has done to anybody is to stop fishermen from buying and selling children who they enslave. The worst offence he has committed has been to stop the torture fishermen visit on the children they buy and sell. He may not be a perfect person, but what else do you think he has done wrong?

We know that James is not bothered by any of the scheming to smear him, because he does not pay attention to those. But we would like you to know that if James does not defend himself, we will use all legally appropriate means to defend him. It is obvious that you are in a network, working hard at what you are trying to do. Remember that the laws of Ghana work, and one day it will work for James.

In the meantime, we are excitedly awaiting your donation to Challenging Heights (Ghana Registered Charity G.14, 807) so that we can continue protecting the children of Ghana from human trafficking and give them the educational opportunities they deserve. Please call us now on 0244515761 to arrange the meeting you requested. Thank you!

On behalf of Challenging Heights Managers and staff:
David Kofi Awusi, Advocacy Manager
Stephen Addo, Field Operations Manager
Linda Osabutey, Rehabilitation Manager
David Dawson, Administration and Finance Manager
Dr. Kate Danvers, Vice President
Dr. David Schley, Vice President

Send No Child

Challenging Heights —  June 16, 2014

Every year thousands of children in Ghana are sent to Lake Volta, to a life of modern Send-No-Child (photo - Compassion International)slavery in the fishing industry.  Some are callously sold by their families, other sent in ignorance by parents who believe traffickers’ promises of an education and secure career for their children.

The reality is very different, with long days of hazardous labour, violent abuse, little food and no school. With little chance of escape many children die on the lakes. Traffickers deliberately target poor communities during the long school vacations, paying the family for the labour of a child they may never see again.

Many enslaved children that are rescued have been shown to come from church communities [1]. If faith leaders tell parents not to send children to Lake Volta, and teach them about the reality of conditions for children there then we can stop the flow of child slaves.

Please call on the Rt. Rev Prof. Emmanuel Martey, Chair of the Christian Council of Ghana, to prohibit all their congregations from sending any child to Lake Volta.

This year, we must make sure that no child is sent to Lake Volta.  Reaching out to families in vulnerable communities on the coast is possible, but we need local faith leaders to speak out.

We need every pastor and minister to take just three minutes from their sermon to speak out against child trafficking – that’s only one second for every thousand Ghanaians who live in modern slavery today [2].

In Ghana over 2.4million children between the ages of 5 and 17 are “economically active” [3], nearly half of whom are excluded from school as a result [4]. Many are victims of hazardous child labour [4], with an estimated 21,000 suffering in the fishing industry right now [5]. Challenging Heights works hard to rescue children from Lake Volta and bring them home, but no child should be sent in the first place.

The Christian Council of Ghana have the power to help end this modern slavery.  Please call on their chairman to act now.

We really believe that faith leaders can help end this form of modern slavery if they speak out, but they have to hear from us. Once you have taken action, will you share this message with three of your friends? Why not send them the link tinyurl.com/voltaslaves/  on WhatsApp, Facebook or Twitter?

[1] Challenging Heights Hovde House Rehabilitation Shelter survey (May 2014)

[2] http://www.globalslaveryindex.org/  (2013)

[3] 2010 Ghana Population and Housing Census

[4] International Labour Organisation/Ghana Social Services 2003 Child Labour Survey

[5] International Labour Organisation/International Programme on Elimination of Child Labour (ILO/IPEC) Analytical Study on Child Labour In Lake Volta Fishing in Ghana

James Kofi Annan at XYZ Radio

James Kofi Annan at XYZ Radio

“Right now we are dealing with a boy who has made a girl pregnant and the boy [16] and the girl [14] are now living together because the parents are saying once you have found yourself in an adult way you need to get married.”

James Kofi Annan and Dr. James Dakyi sit down with XYZ radio discussing modern day slavery pertaining to child marriage. Boys and girls are being forced into marriage by parents and traffickers, denying the child’s chance to an education, for reasons you may not have realized. James Annan urges people to recognize this atrocity is happening in Ghana and stop neglecting the responsibility we have towards our children.

Listen to the interview here!

 

CH 2012 Annual Report coverDownload the Challenging Heights Annual Report 2012 to read about our accomplishments over the last year! Please note, this version is optimized for viewing as a PDF on your computer, not for printing. If you have any questions or need a version to print, please contact us at infoCHghana@gmail.com.

Click on the links above under Support Our Work>Sponsor a Child to learn more about our unique program for child sponsorship!

James and Kwesi

Challenging Heights’ own Senior James is one of three nominees for this year’s World’s Children’s Prize! Read profiled stories of children Challenging Heights has freed from slavery and watch the short feature video!