Children should be allowed to be children. They should play with dolls or balls. Or participate in games like freeze tag, hide and seek, or kickball. They should spend most of their days learning and laughing, without a care in the world.
One of the great tragedies is a childhood unlived due to circumstances outside the child’s control. Too often this is the case for children in Ghana, where it is estimated that 1.27 million children are engaged in child labor as defined by age and hazardous working conditions - http://vimeo.com/48093167.
Ghana is a country of origin, transit, and destination for women and children subjected to trafficking. Ghanaian boys and girls are subjected to conditions of forced labor within the country, where children as young as seven work as domestic laborers, porters, hawkers, miners, quarry workers, fare collectors, and in agriculture. As if that’s not horrific enough, many Ghanaian girls, and to a lesser extent boys, are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation.
Trafficked children face difficult circumstances including working extremely long hours, exploitation, beatings, deformities due to lack of medical care, and dire working and living conditions. Victims are often psychologically scarred and hundreds die each year. Young boys are forced to fish for long days without food and water, supplies, or safety precautions. Many boys lose their fingers when their hands become tangled in the fishing nets. Ultimately, children can face as many as 12 to 15 years of slavery before being rescued or assuming the role of masters, which only perpetuates the cycle.
Unfortunately, much of the recruitment of children is done with the consent of parents, who sometimes receive an advance payment or are promised regular stipends from a recruiter. Parents are assured their children will receive food, shelter, and often some sort of training or education. It’s easy to look down on these parents for such decisions. However, given the desperate living conditions in which they are raising their children, child labor with hopes of education or training, and food to eat, seems like a better alternative. For this reason, it is crucial that developing countries around the world look to create or solidify family preservation services.
By developing a culture that is committed to keeping families together, child trafficking will decrease substantially. To paraphrase, our world is only as strong as its weakest nation.
To make this dream a reality in Ghana, we must work together to support families in crisis so they do not even need to consider child trafficking as an alternative. To that end, in hopes of eliminating child trafficking in Ghana, Bethany Christian Services has started the Safe Not Sold campaign. Through this campaign, we hope to make a difference in the lives of children and families.
If you’d like more information on how you can participate in the Safe Not Sold campaign, visit www.safenotsold.org.