Child Labour and Trafficking
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Discussions with key coastal fishing communities in the Central Region (regarded as the fourth poorest region in Ghana), the Fisheries Commission and the Department of Social development have highlighted the problem of illegal child labour and trafficking in fishing in the region as a rather precarious issue that needs to be addressed to safeguard the development potentials of children, Ghana’s fisheries, promote good governance and socio-economic advancement of inhabitants within the coastal belt of Ghana, especially in the Central Region.
A comprehensive survey carried out within thirty-five (35) selected coastal fishing communities in the region showed that children are sent to the Volta Lake region, Benin and the Ivory Coast to engage in fishing activities very dangerous for their age, and are hardly enrolled in school. These children (under age 18) are engaged in hazardous fisheries work that was found out to be inimical to the welfare of the children, and the development aspirations of the communities and the nation as a whole.
Single-parent female-headed households with many children are especially vulnerable. They give away their children at ridiculously low amounts with a dire potential of maybe never ever going to ever see that child alive again as death amongst child laborers is high. Migrant fishers often leave women to fend for themselves and their children, without money for school fees or food. Agents come offering relief in the form of payments and promises to care for the children; but then force them into hard physical labor in the lake fisheries. The issue of CLaT in the coastal fishing communities is an identified challenge within Ghana’s fisheries sector and is linked to cultural beliefs and practices, dwindling fortunes in fishing as a result of depleting stock in the sea, and hardcore poverty.
As there is no universally accepted definition of “child labor”, FoN mooted an operational definition for CLaT which reads as ‘’Illegal involvement, or clandestine migration of a child for the purpose of engaging him/her in exploitative work that deprives that child of his/her childhood, jeopardizing his/her future prospects as a socio-economically productive citizen’’.
Varying definitions of the term are used by international organizations, non-governmental organizations, trade unions and other interest groups. Writers and speakers don’t always specify what definition they are using, and that often leads to confusion. However, the International Labour Organization (ILO) defines child labour “as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity”. It is also to the benefit of another person (an adult) but not the child.It is therefore exploitative. It refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and interferes with their schooling/training. Human Trafficking is the illegal trade in human beings for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation, or forced labor, a modern-day form of slavery.
Earlier discussions with stakeholders, visits to various fishing related agencies, personalities and informal conversations in the run-up and designing stage corroborated the findings.
A behavior change communications initiative is being developed and implemented in the Central Region on the issue in an effort to make such practices socially unacceptable. Livelihood activities will be targeted at vulnerable households most likely to engage in such practices, under the premise that economic hardship is the root cause of the problem.
The project also targets the Department of Social Welfare, the Department of Labor and District Assemblies to bring social services more forcefully to bear, such as reproductive health education and access to family planning services and commodities. We will engage the National Steering Committee on Child Labour in the design and roll out of any communications campaign.