Human trafficking is an international problem affecting millions of people and many countries around the world. For instance, here in Ghana, the internal trafficking of children is one of the biggest challenges.
Many Ghanaian children are trafficked from their home villages to work in the fishing industry. Living in meagre conditions and working long hours every day, these kids are exploited by fishermen desperate to feed their families and eke out a living along the banks of Lake Volta.
Created by the construction of the Akosombo Dam in the early 1960s, Lake Volta is one of the world’s largest artificial lakes. A number of fishermen who have depended on the bounties of the lake for many years report that fish stocks are decreasing, making it difficult to survive off fishing alone.
The depletion of stocks is one of the key reasons why children are needed as workers in the fishing industry. In addition to being cheap labour, their small, nimble fingers are useful in releasing the fish from the ever smaller nets.
And this why I think the government should ban the use of nets with tiny holes because in doing that it will allow fish stocks to improve and discourage the use of kids because there will be no need for such small hands. Another task that trafficked children frequently is diving to disentangle the fish nets from the numerous tree stumps that are scattered throughout the lake. As nets are often dragged along the bottom of the lake, they tend to get stuck. Diving is a dangerous job that can have dire consequences for the children, from catching water-based diseases such as bilharzia and guinea worm to death from drowning.
What we should also know is that driving forces behind child trafficking extend beyond fish scarcity. Deep-rooted traditions can also help explain the prevalence of this crime. For example, it is common in Ghana for children to participate in apprentice work with a relative or family friend.
Many kids, and their parents, believe that going away to work is a route to a better life.
Child trafficking is actually a distortion of the old cultural practice of placement with relatives or townspeople. Many parents don’t know the value of education; for them, it’s more immediately valuable for their children to learn how to trade.
Child labour and even trafficking is deeply ingrained in the fishing industry in Ghana. Through conversations with child traffickers, it becomes clear that many of them simply do not realise that it is wrong for children to be away from their parents, not attending school and performing hard physical work for long hours.
For example, my encounter some time ago with Benjamin Tornye, a fisherman for 15 years, he told me that he used to visit parents and ask them if their children could help him with his work and promised them that he would teach them how to use the boat, swim and dive, and believed he was doing the right thing.
However, he said a few years ago, he and other traffickers realised that children should not be made to work like adults. “We have understood that it is wrong, and that kids should be with their parents and in school,” Tornye told me. Now, he is working as a community coordinator for APPLE, taking great pride in his work to stop child trafficking in Ghana.
Source: Today Gender …with Thelma Asantewaa
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