Urgent action by faith leaders in Ghana needed to stop the flow of children trafficked into hazardous labour in the fishing industry on Lake Volta

Challenging Heights —  June 16, 2014

PRESS RELEASE 0930 16-06-2014

Today, the Day of the African Child, there are an estimated 21,000 children trapped in hazardous labour in the fishing industry on Lake Volta1. And every year more of Ghana’s children are trafficked to a life of modern slavery.

Challenging Heights in partnership with Walk Free is calling on faith leaders in every church and mosque to speak out on the issue.  Hundreds of people have signed a petition calling on the Rt Rev Prof Emmanuel Martey, Chair of the Christian Council, to instruct its members to act2.

Traffickers deliberately target poor communities during the long school vacations, paying the family for the labour of a child they may never see again.  It is therefore imperative that vulnerable communities are warned of the risks now, so they can protect their children when schools break up next month.

Many enslaved children that are rescued have been shown to come from church communities3.  Faith leaders are therefore best placed to reach out to vulnerable families, who are often illiterate and uneducated, and teach them about the reality of conditions for children on Lake Volta.

We need every faith leader to take just three minutes from their sermon to speak out against child trafficking – that’s less than one second for every thousand Ghanaians who live in conditions of modern slavery today4 – in order to:

1. forbid all members of their congregation from sending any child to Lake Volta;

2. instruct followers to report absent children suspected of being trafficked to the police or social welfare;

3. teach their congregation about the reality of conditions for children on Lake Volta.

Every day Ghana’s laws continue to be flouted, with children callously sold or naively sent away by parents who believe traffickers’ promises of an education and secure career5.  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 lake.

Only with the support of the Christian Council, the Catholic Bishops Conference and other faith and community leaders can Ghana stop the flow of children being trafficked into hazardous labour in the fishing industry. We ask each of them to mark 16th June, the International Day of the African Child8, with a firm commitment to reach out to all their followers on this issue and so help end the suffering of thousands of children in our country today.

1. The International Labour Organisation/International Programme on Elimination of Child Labour (ILO/IPEC) Analytical Study on Child Labour In Lake Volta Fishing in Ghana (August 2013) estimates that there 49,000 Children working on in the fishing industry on Lake Volta, with 21,000 forced to undertake hazardous child labour

2. Online petition via http://tinyurl.com/voltaslaves 

3. In a recent Challenging Heights Hovde House Rehabilitation Shelter survey (May 2014) over 66% of children said their families went to church, while less than 14% expressed no faith/religious practice at all.

4. An estimated 181,038 (170,000, 190,000) Ghanaians live in conditions of modern slavery, as calculated in the 2013 Global Slavery Index.  The GSI ranks countries according to prevalence of modern slavery by population, child marriage, human trafficking, and places Ghana as the 18th worst country in the world for slavery (out of a total of 162 reviewed).

5. In March a woman was sentenced to 5 years for selling her grandson for GHS80 – a re-trafficking offence successfully prevented by the work of Challenging Heights.

6. According to the 2010 Ghana Population and Housing Census, there are over 2.4million “economically active” children (between the ages of 5 and 17) in Ghana.

7. The International Labour Organisation/Ghana Social Services 2003 Child Labour Survey estimated that over a million children in Ghana are denied education because of the need to work instead of attending school, and that an estimated 240,0000 are victims of hazardous child labour.

8. 16th June (today) is International Day of the African Child; 12th June  (last week) was World Day Against Child Labour.

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