Volta Lake: “Home” of Cruel Child Labor in Ghana

James Kofi Annan left his village at Winneba in the Central Region, as a trafficked child, for a village near Yeji in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana at so early in life he could only estimate his age at time of trafficking. With the help of Providence, he escaped, got lucky and was able to go to school and ended up with a graduate degree in Communication and Media. After graduating, Mr. Annan never forgot those he left behind on the Volta Lake and elsewhere and the attendant labor-intensive experience. He established Challenging Heights, a non-profit organization in 2005 to fight the menace and abuse of poor, innocent, and vulnerable children on the largest manmade lake in the world.

In a telephone interview with this writer, Mr. Annan said the creation of the Volta Lake in 1965 brought abundant fish and migration of fisher-folk to the banks of the lake. As time went on, and with more hands needed, the fisherman went into child trafficking from poor villages. They bought children at an average price of about $30.00 in addition to remittances every other year to the parents of the child. Boxed in shanty homes along the river, the children are not paid. He names places in or near Winneba, Senyah, Kpando, Ada, Ningo, Prampram, Krachi, Dambai, and Buipe where trafficking is intense. Mr. Annan estimates that there are about 21,000 children with an average age of nine, laboring in the fishing industry on the Volta Lake in Ghana. The boys start their day at 3:00 a.m. to cast their nets and work until about 8:00 p.m. The girls, on the other hand cook, peddle fish and serve as sex objects to their fisher folk masters later in the evening. His non-profit organization with a volunteer staff of about 87, has thus far freed and rehabilitated 1600 back into mainstream communities.

He pointed out that child labor is an international issue that is well documented in the United Nations Optional Protocol on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking. Mr. Annan praised Ghana’s former President John Kuffour for getting the Human Trafficking law passed in 2005 and for creating the Ministry of Gender, Women, and Social Protection. He is however, not happy about the relaxed enforcement of the law. He added that he is cau- tiously optimistic about the current government’s resolve to fight the canker, because the previous government also started the fight on a sound note only to lose bite along the way. Notwithstanding, Mr. Annan is enthusiastic about the collaboration with current government and hope it would facilitate efforts to free and assimilate more children at their Winneba facility. Asked about the dangers the children face, Mr. Annan said “the dangers do not lie in a capsized canoe, because they all learn to swim, but rather in an entangled fishing net, where the boy “fisherman” is ordered to dive to untangle. Some don’t come back,” he noted with sadness. He added that some rescue missions of the boys are not smooth going and have had to employ the services of the police and social welfare staff.

Mr. Annan appealed for financial and other support and urged individuals and philanthropic organizations to help. A documentary film, The Rescue List, about the plight of children on the lake and the work of Challenging Heights will debut next year.

For more information visit www.challengingheights.org

 

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Posted by on Jul 12 2017. Filed under top stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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