Archive for June, 2012
Posted on May 27, 2012 by Sarah Joy:
A teenage boy wants to know if you are going to church. “I want to go with you. I have not been to church in a long time.”
Get sick. Grandmother Mary takes down all your laundry and delivers it to your door because “the rain is coming.”
The drain in the outdoor shower is clogged so you have to use a broom to sweep out all the water. The girls are incensed and forcibly remove the broom from your hand. “Madam Sarah, no! You have to let us do!” “You should not be doing. Any time that you bath, leave it for us.” “We are not just at Challenging Heights for learning – we are here for training.”
Walk home from market with a backpack and a heavy bag. A total stranger on his way with some friends to a party stops you to take the bag from you and “escort you small” even though it is out of his way.
Stand at roadside in a tiny village waiting, waiting for a taxi to come by. A guy you have a passing acquaintance with stops and waits with you – “I have to make sure you get taxi” – even though he is on his way somewhere else. Then he turns to you and says, “Can I offer you a chair?”
You come home after a long day of tro-tro rides, working with kids, and walking long distances. The Artist greets you with, “Sarah, you are looking so beautiful!”
Watching X-Men with the kids when the rain comes. Ema jumps up and dashes outside (and doesn’t even ask you to pause the movie and wait for him). About 3 minutes later, you remember that you have laundry hanging outside and jump up and dash out, too – only to find that he took down all your laundry for you and put it in his room before it got wet.
You wear a new dress. Multiple boys a) recognize that it is a new piece of clothing and b) compliment you on it.
You walk to market and back on a rainy day with three of the girls and get mud all over yourself. Mary (The Nurse) takes your handkerchief and stands at the side of the road cleaning you off. “I am going to keep it so I can wash it when we get back. Then I will give it to you.” “Mary, no! It’s my handkerchief and I’m the one who got dirty. I can do.” “Madam Sarah. Who used the handkerchief?” “You did, but – “ “That’s right. So I have to wash it well for you.” And she does.
Get sick. Ema comes to check on you. “What did you eat?” Just fruit. “It is okay? If it is not okay, I will make for you any food that your stomach wants.”
You have three pots (that the kids often borrow). King George scratches the this thing – your name – on the each of them so they will be “very nice and they will not get missing.”
You buy the ingredients. The kids cook the food, serve the food, wash the dishes, sweep your floor, fetch buckets of water, and then thank you.
Posted on February 8, 2012 by Sarah Joy:
On Friday, January 27 the first group of children from Challenging Heights Hovde House was re-integrated. Which means that we took 13 boys home to their families after 3 months at the shelter and months/years of slavery.
Each of them was given a brand-new duffle bag for holding their clothes, the photos Jessica took of them, the watercolors they painted with me, their school books, and any other belongings that might have.
The image of the 13 of them standing together behind a heap of too-big-for-their-possessions, navy-blue duffel bags is forever imprinted in my mind. It struck me all over again what a beautiful thing it is that Challenging Heights does – rescuing these children from slavery, helping them start to heal, then taking them home.
Even though there were plenty of seats on the bus, five of the boys crowded into the same row that I sat in, leaving empty seats in front and behind. Even now, two weeks later, my heart still squeezes at the thought of it.
I sat between Kwame, who wouldn’t stand out in a group of men, and Ekow, who has one dimple, two missing teeth, and four baby-fat creases in his neck.
I’m going to miss those creases.
The kids inside the bus, going home, and the kids outside the bus, staying at the shelter, called out encouraging good-bye messages to each other, reaching through open windows for a final high-five or handshake. What had begun as a group of fighting, beating, crying, insulting children had morphed into a family in 3 months’ time.
Kweku, his jeans cuffed a good 4 inches at the ankles and accordion-folded under his belt at the waist, stood up and cried brokenly, his eyes fixed on the shelter staff and children standing outside the bus waving goodbye. (Slavery is horrible. Even a good thing – like reuniting a child with his family – causes pain, because it must be accompanied by another separation.)
The rest of the boys sat, and as we drove away from the shelter, stared straight ahead (if they were tall enough to see over the seats) or out the side windows. The villages we passed through were within a few kilometers of the shelter, but they probably hadn’t seen these places since the day they were brought here three months ago and they were mesmerized.
Some of the boys were silent, some talked with each other, some sang quietly to themselves. Kweku stood and cried.
30 minutes out and Ekow was swaying back and forth in his seat. I reached out to steady him and he immediately turned and snuggled himself down into my lap, sound asleep within seconds. The motion of the bus sent his right arm swinging out from where it had been tucked under his head, and for the first time I noticed the puckered, inch long scar on the inside of his little round wrist.
When I remember supremely happy moments in my life, this will be one of them: Cuddling a sleeping boy in a bus on a road somewhere in Ghana, the warmth of his breath mingling with the chill of the air conditioning, the scratchiness of his recently barbered head rashing my arm.
And looking at his baby-fat neck creases (almost) to my heart’s content.
Dear friends and supporters,
It is with great pleasure that I present to you the summaries of our performance in the year 2011.
In the year 2011, Challenging Heights provided support to a total of 1,420 children and youth made up of 872 girls, and 588 boys across its programs in 40 communities across 6 districts. An additional 260 women received a total of GHC75,000 ($47,000) in microloans to undertake various businesses in order to support their children.
One remarkable thing about our programs for 2011 was that, we sought for compensation for 20 ex-child slaves, and these compensation went toward the skills training and the education of those survivors, and pursued the prosecution of two other traffickers who proved recalcitrant.
The year 2011 was a milestone. We constructed a modern 65-capacity child trafficking survivors support shelter, and won 2 international awards, bringing our total stock of international awards to six in six years!
Out of the total number of children and youth supported, 37 of them were rescued from slavery, while the rest were children either at risk of being trafficked, or vulnerable to other forms of exploitation.
Challenging Heights embarked on massive community awareness on the menace of child labour, and the need for parents to send their children to school. Over 30,000 people were directly reached with our message, resulting in greater awareness which is estimated to have contributed to the increased reporting of incidence of child labour exploitation.
Challenging Heights since 2003 has advocated for the rights of children and youth in Ghana, especially children at risk of labour exploitation, and promoted education in several communities across the country. We pride ourselves to be the leading organization in Ghana that does not just speak on behalf of children and youth, but also take practical steps in supporting vulnerable children and youth to regain their freedom, gain access to education, and empower communities and families to resist child labour in all its forms.
So far Challenging Heights has established over 40 children’s right clubs across its programs to ensure that children participated in their own development. It has also established a total of 32 Community Child Protection Committees to ensure that communities have the needed structures to safeguard the interests of vulnerable children.
Unfortunately, the year 2011 saw the resurgence of death threats on our people, especially myself and family. My brother who helps with child rescues is currently unable to return to his duty base for fear for his life. My nephew who helped us to rescue a couple of boys is still missing after several months of search.
We however remain strong and with high morale because you support us. We therefore remain grateful to you for your support and continuous believe in our mission, and trust that 2012 will even be better.
As we move into 2012 projects, we respectfully count on your believe in us. You may visit our website at www.challengingheights.org for more information on how to help, or email me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org.
…and I will remain grateful if you could please forward this letter to members of your networks – facebook, emails and other communication networks.
Dr. Margaret Sacked
Article by James:
June 12, 2012 is World Day Against Child Labor. The theme for this year is “Human Rights and Social Justice, let’s end child labor”. Challenging Heights joins in celebrating the successes achieved so far, and in recounting the challenges faced.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) defines child labor as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potentials and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. Such work usually deprives children of the opportunity to attend school. According to the ILO, “extreme forms of child labor involves children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses and/or left to fend for themselves on the streets of large cities – often at a very early age”.
The ILO estimates 215 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 are involved in child labor globally, with over 60% in agriculture. There are no reliable data on how many children are affected in Ghana. In 2003, the Statistical Service estimated over 1.3million children are caught up in child labor in Ghana, this figure representing almost 20% of the children population.
In 2010 the ILO and its global partners adopted a roadmap for achieving the elimination of the worst forms of child labor by 2016.This was to build a new momentum in order to attain the goal of eliminating child labor. The following year, Ghana, a member of ILO, also launched the National Plan of Action (NPA) with similar commitments, and followed it up with the ratification of ILO Convention 138, which sets out the minimum age for admission to employment.
Previously the government of Ghana had shown commitment to solving the problem of child labour by taking some actions. In 1990, Ghana ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The country subsequently included some prohibitive clauses in the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, and enacted the Children’s Act, 1998 (Act 560). The Human Trafficking Act, (Act 694) was passed in 2005 to set the framework for the fight against child trafficking. There are also child protection provisions in the Domestic Violence Act, 2007 (732), some provisions in the Criminal Code, 1960 (Act 29), and the Whistle Blowers Act, 2006 (720).
All these instruments empowered government to establish the Child Labor Unit of the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare to coordinate child labor interventions, the Department of Social Welfare to help with rehabilitation of survivors, the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs to oversea the implementation of the Human Trafficking Act, and the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of Ghana Police Service to enforce the relevant laws.
In 2000, the international community threatened to withdraw patronage of Ghana’s cocoa. This followed reports that the cocoa production process was tainted with child labor. To address this, the global chocolate and cocoa industry representatives signed an agreement, developed in partnership with United States Senator Harkin and Representative Engel (Harkin-Engel protocol), working towards the elimination of the worst forms of child labor from the cocoa production process. Consequently, Ghana established the National Plan of Action for the Elimination of Worst Forms of Child Labor (NPECLC), with funding from UNICEF, COCOBOD, DANIDA and other partners. Two researches were done, a hazardous activity framework was established, and interventions aimed at rooting out child labor in cocoa were carried out in 47 districts.
Challenging Heights was selected to undertake remediation activities in Asikuma-Odoben-Brakwa and Agona West districts. Under the project, Challenging Heights, in partnership with the two District Assemblies, formed and trained 20 Community Child Protection Committees (CCPCs), including two District Child Protection Committees (DCPCs). These committees were empowered to lead in remediation efforts, and to serve as lead community structures in protecting the rights of children.
Through this work, Challenging Heights withdrew over 200 child laborers and placed them in schools and skills training centers. Under the same project, 16 community sensitization programs were carried out, including stakeholder conferences which brought together nearly 70 key partners such as District Directors of Education, Chiefs, Assembly persons, the media, and other leaders of the districts, all aimed at building district level capacity to end child labor. It was estimated that over 40 other districts were going to benefit from similar interventions by 2012.
Unfortunately, this project has suffered a setback. The then Minister of Employment and Social Welfare, Honorable E. T. Mensah, accused some of the projects managers of corruption and conflict of interest, while himself was accused of victimization and politicization of the project. The result is that, we have eroded the gains made through the project. Not a single child has been supported through the project since 2010.
Meanwhile the fishing industry which has been bastardized for forced child labor, continue to be least supported. A number of organizations including ILO, Challenging Heights, the police, and PACODEP, have variously rescued hundreds of children from the fishing industry in the last decade. Across the country, the biggest challenge facing activists has been the availability of rehabilitation shelters for rescued victims. The Human Trafficking Act (2005) mandates the government of Ghana to establish such shelters. Apparent lack of resources has made it impossible for such shelters to be established.
Last year, Challenging Heights commissioned a 65-capacity modern rehabilitation center for rescued children. This is to augment government’s effort at addressing the problem of the worst forms of child labor. Unfortunately, these efforts do not count toward improving Ghana’s ratings in the international community, especially since these are private initiatives.
Children in mining, street child labor, and domestic servitude also continue to deprive our children of the needed education for their future. At the full glare of police officers, public and government officials, journalists, pastors, all of us break the law on children with impunity. We buy from child hawkers on the street, we employ them to take care of our house chores, we buy expensive Jewels which has been mined by enslaved children, we consume with glee our delicious “koobi” which has been fished by enslaved fishing boys and girls.
Recently the Christian Council of Ghana launched a project to combat child trafficking. I recall that the Council undertook similar child trafficking advocacy and remediation programs a couple of years ago. I will like to put it to the Christian Council that it is their members who are employing children in nearly all the sectors – fishing, mining, quarries, domestic servitude, everywhere. Some of the monies these adults accrue from the sweats of child laborers are given in offertory and tithes!
It is estimated that over 16million (70%) of Ghana’s 24million people are Christians. If each congregation would devote just 5 minutes in each month during preaching to talk about child labor, over 960million cumulative persons would be reached each year, and within 5 years, we will be able to end child labor. So our Christian Council is the easiest platform for ending child labor. All it takes is courage, sincere attitude, and honest faith in God.
Of course government has a role to play. It is not enough to pass laws. It is not enough to enact policies. It is not enough to create institutions. These initiatives ought to be followed with concrete actions. Government must demonstrate sincerity and political will to resource the institutions it has created, so that those institutions can do their work well. I’m grossly disappointed that almost every single policy or project undertaken by Ghana Government with regard to child labor, has been donor funded! The creation of the NPA, the NPECLC, the training of the Judiciary, the police, including the resourcing of the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of Ghana Police Service, all of them have happened because UNICEF or ILO or IOM funded it.
Definitely we are grateful to our international partners. Local NGOs have played a key role in sustaining this fight against child labour. But as a nation, what is our government doing to protect its own children?
The 1992 constitution of Ghana guarantees every child the right to basic education. Article 25 (1)(a) states that “basic education shall be free, compulsory and available to all”. It has been noted that education and the elimination of forced child labor are inextricably linked. Education is a basic human right that promotes equality and freedom, and every child is entitled to that freedom. This means that in order for communities to sustainably reject child labor, it must address the educational needs of the poorest populations. This need, for the provision of universal basic education, is not negotiable. Education is the right way to go, let’s end child labor now!
Kelley Students Give Back
The first of these events was a Black History Month Dinner which took place on Friday, February 3rd at the Indiana Memorial Union and was put on by the Black MBA Association. The event was a celebration of Black History that reflected on the history of slavery in American and brought to light the worldwide existence of slavery today. GLOBASE Ghana partner and former child slave, James Kofi Annan was the keynote speaker. At the event James shared his story of survival, a story that depicts his knowledge of both what it feels like to be enslaved and what it feels like to be free. It was these contrasting aspects of his experience that led him come to the realization that “To whom much is given, much is expected.” With this motto, James founded Challenging Heights, a NGO in Ghana whose mission is “to ensure a secured, protected, and dignified future and life for children and youth by promoting their rights, education, and health.” Over $800 was raised for Challenging Heightsat this event. $800 will cover the average costs of rescuing two children from slavery or cover the education costs for over 3 children for a full year.
GLOBASE Ghana participants look forward to giving back further when they visit Challenging Heights in Ghana over spring break where they will be able to see first hand the children and great work ofChallenging Heights, work that the Kelley MBA Students’ donations will help fund.