fishing village in the Central region of Ghana is one of the worst child trafficking hobs in Ghana where most children are trafficked from to the Volta late (Yeji) and other neighbouring countries for fishing activities. Additionally, there are several other children who work as child labourers in the same community.
Research conducted by the Cheerful Hearts Foundation in the Senya village revealed that major factors contributing to children being trafficked or working as child labourer’s in this community includes; limited knowledge on the long-term importance of education, little knowledge on children’s rights, lack of alternative livelihood, teenage pregnancy (early motherhood), weak law enforcement and poverty.
Since 2013, Cheerful Hearts Foundation and other anti-child trafficking institutions have been tirelessly working hard to help end the menace in this community through several interventions.
My Right My Future Project
The My Right My Future project is a partnership project between the Cheerful Hearts Foundation and Child Rights Ambassadors Denmark which is aimed at increasing awareness and advocacy on the dangers of child labour & trafficking, importance of education and children’s rights. The goal of the 2 year project funded by the Danish Youth Council (DUF) is that 400 more children would be enrolled in school through increased educational campaigns and awareness and various interventions.
Volunteer Recruitment and Training
The project would select and train 60 community volunteers as peer educators from the Senya fishing community on the key issues the project seeks to address. The volunteers after receiving training would go house –to-house to engage community members one-on-one and in small groups, educating them on the need to give education to a child and respect for children’s rights. The volunteers would also educate the community on the use of contraceptives and abstinence to help reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy which often leads to children being traffic by young mothers due to poverty.
Reintegration of returned trafficked children is another challenge that needs to be addressed. Several other children especially former child labourer’s complaint of receiving canes or abuse by teachers due slow learning or certain learning disabilities faced by these children due to the trauma they go through after being trafficked. Additionally, school dropout among young females (teenagers) is becoming rampant in the Senya community due to teenage pregnancies and sexual harassment by students and some teachers.
Fourty (40) teachers from 20 selected schools being 50% females and 50% males from the Senya community would be selected and trained on management of learning disabilities, sexual & reproductive health rights and the inclusion rights of children. This training would help to deepen teachers knowledge on the various approaches used in addressing the different learning disabilities and how to create conducive learning environment for such children (especially returned trafficked children). The teachers would also serve as health promoters and coordinators who would to deepen student’s knowledge on sexual and reproductive health rights to help address sexual harassments and teenage pregnancies to help increase school attendance and reduction in dropout.
Child and Youth Conference
Including several other advocacies and campaigning events throughout the project, a 2 day children and youths conference would be organized to climax the project. This would give opportunity for children and youth to receive outcomes of the project, evaluate the project, make recommendations for future projects and to take over the structures laid by the My Right My Future Project to ensure that their rights are being honoured by all community stakeholders.
Children parade and float Sessions and community durbar
Prior to the commencement of today’s community durbar, 200 children from various schools within the Senya fishing community paraded at the community entrance, with their placards and messages, walked through all principals streets of the community to the durbar grounds advocating for their rights.
The community durbar was attended by several stakeholders including 8 representatives from the Department of Social Welfare, Ghana Education Service, Awutu Senya West District Assembly, Challenging Heights, Fishermen council, Traditional rulers and 27 heads and teachers of various schools, 220 students as well as the general community members.
The Executive Director of Cheerful Hearts Foundation, Mr. Eric Opoku Agyemang explained details of the project and what it seeks to achieve to the entire community. He also stressed that, the foundation does not condone fishing a bad activity but rather disapprove children who work between the ages of 5 and 15, most especially preventing these kids from having an education. He further explained that children have the right to an education; therefore, parents have the obligation to ensure that their wards are being enrolled in school. He encouraged parents especially mothers to overlook “poverty” and see education as an investment into their children who are going to be the future leaders of the community, the nation and hence a big asset to their families.
Key Messages from Invited Guests
The Chief Fisherman Neenyi Kwabena Motey VI who chaired the event congratulated the efforts of Cheerful Hearts Foundation for the past years supporting returned trafficked children and educating the community against the dangers of child trafficking. He added that, the foundations efforts and messages have really challenged him. Therefore, he vows to set up a task force to ensure that all children are not allowed to work or play at the seas shore especially during school hours.
The Director of Education Awutu Senya West District represented by Mrs. Rose Eva Akyeampong added that Child labour and trafficking is a very serious challenge facing the Awutu Senya District. Each year the district had to grapple with this problem of young, innocent, brilliant and would be future leaders, who are whisk away to Yeji and other fishing communities. Additionally, poor attendance of students in Senya is a big challenge due to trafficking. Being excited about the project name and goal, she urged all parents to understand why the need to let the children go to school. Explaining from an African proverb which literally means “your child should go beyond where you could not reach” she also urged the leaders of the community present at the event to also take up the responsibility and work together to ensure that these children are given the opportunity to have an education. Citing an example from one of the non-school going children at the durbar, she added that no one knows the future of this child; he may even become the District Chief Executive when given an educational opportunity. In her closing message, she thanked the Cheerful Hearts Foundation for organizing the durbar at Senya. However, she appealed to the foundation to consider providing some support for the many other children working with the fishermen but genuinely from very poor homes or orphaned. The Ghana Education is also working hard in this regard and happy to partner with the foundation to support a lot more child labourer’s to have an education.
Hon. Rockson Appiah, from the Awutu Senya West District Assembly mentioned that Child trafficking is a big problem which really affects the children and their future. He recommended that the Government should provide funds to intensify awareness on the dangers of this problem through the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) and other government institutions. He believes that this would help to make the work of the traffickers who engage in this illegal act unattractive to the parents of the community. He also promised that the Assembly would also support the work of all the volunteers who would be recruited on this project to ensure that the challenges they may faced through the house-to-house education would be addressed. He added that this project is not only for Cheerful Hearts Foundation but for every one of us. If these children are not given a better education and stopped from labour & trafficking, this often lead to children engaging in social vices like armed robbery, scams and many others which affects our society.
Social Welfare officer Miss. Kebeh Teta Zubah defined a child according to the United Nations CRC, ILO and the 1992 Constitution of Ghana as anybody below 18years. Child trafficking is a serious issue that the Department of Social Welfare is still battling with. Several children especially from rural communities are moved from their homes of abode to other fishing communities and neighbouring countries, denying them education, health etc. She added that child rights protection is the core mandate of the Department of Social Welfare and therefore would continually work with the Cheerful Hearts Foundation, Opinion and Community leaders in the fight against child trafficking.
Challenging Height’s Representative Kofi Quansah popularly known as “Akofem”, a very committed opinion leader of the community who embarks on several rescue missions in Yeji in his message said, “I have never been to school but today I am happy to be part of the efforts in ending labour & trafficking to help children in this community to have an education”. The children are our assets, just like a cocoa farm to the farmer; the farms need some weeding to help the crops, just as education for a child. Therefore, education should be a prime to helping build a better future for the children. He further encouraged the community to bring him names of all children who are trafficked to Yeji and he would relocate them and bring them back to the Senya community.
Emmanuel Tetteh popularly known as “English man” shared his personal story of why he is now an advocate for trafficked children. He said, I have never been to school because I was trafficked to Yeji in 1980, the pain and trauma that I went through as while a child is sometimes hard to talk about. Parents should understand that taking children to Yeji is not the solution to our problems; making analysis from daily feeding and how much traffickers offer to parents. The best is that we all come together to fights against trafficking and allow the children to go to school.
Questions from Community members:
To end the community durbar, community members especially mothers were given opportunity to ask questions and received answers from the invited Guests and the Cheerful Hearts Foundation team. Some typical questions include the following:
- How do potential volunteers handle parents who insist on trafficking their children and do not open their homes to volunteers?
- I am a mother with 4 children, I have the love to send my kids to school but due to poverty I am sending to 2 of them to school while 2 are sold to traffickers to work and help me support the education of the other 2 in school. Is this child trafficking or a bad act?
- The focus has mostly been on the trafficked children, what are stakeholders and community leaders doing about children who are working with fisherman in the community and are unable to attend school?
- Can one consider children who help their children to work after school as child labour?
The Chief fisherman Neenyi Kwabena Motey VI in his closing remarks as Chairman of the event thanked Cheerful Hearts Foundation for the continuous commitment for the past 5 years in helping end child labour and trafficking in the Senya and neighbouring fishing communities. He added that, his task force would visit schools to check attendance registers to ensure that children are not only enrolled but are attending school regularly.
Let’s work together to secure the future of Ghana by preventing child labour and trafficking and providing a better future for our children through education.
Eric Opoku Agyemang
28th January, 2016
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Pictures from event below: