Second Lady Mrs. Samira Bawumia has called on law enforcement agencies to prosecute perpetrators of child trafficking and forced labour in Ghana.
According to her, it is not enough to sensitize people about the issue when perpetrators of child trafficking are not prosecuted for their crimes.
Mrs. Bawumia made the call in Accra while addressing the launch of a baseline study on child trafficking and forced labour on the Volta Lake by International Justice Mission (IJM) on Thursday.
She emphasized that, “when people are prosecuted, it will serve as a deterrent to others.”
Mrs. Bawumia indicated that the issue of child trafficking and forced labour is a major problem in Ghana with a prolonged history, adding that, the lives and futures of many children have been cut short because of this injustice meted out to them.
The Second Lady said the problem is especially horrifying on the Volta Lake where children are sold out to boat masters for as little as GH¢200.00 to assist in fishing.
“Some of the children are as young as four years old. Most of them are denied their basic human rights such as right to education, medical care, adequate nutrition and freedom from servitude,” she revealed.
She explained that, because every Ghanaian child matters, she is committed to working closely with the relevant agencies to bring an end to child trafficking and forced labour.
Mrs. Bawumia indicated the need to distinguish between a parent or guardian trying to teach a child the ropes about a job or a trade, noting that, “in the case where the freedom of the children are taken away from them, that is an element of slavery because you ought to be free to make that decision”.
“The law provides that every child should be allowed to go to school; it is compulsory for every child. So any activity that impedes that is wrong”, she emphasized.
In her address, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Hon. Otiko Afisa Djaba noted that the Volta Lake is a major fishing ground in Ghana with an estimated 22,000 children working in the fishing industry.
She said some of the children who have been trafficked onto the lake are as young as six years and are made to work long hours at the expense of their education, physical development and their general wellbeing.
In a welcome address, the Field Office Director for International Justice Mission, Mr. Kaign Christy noted that child trafficking and forced labour on the lake is vast and brutal.
He further revealed that although the problem is vast, it is more solvable than ever, adding that if criminals are brought to justice, the problem will be solved.
Sharing some findings of the study, Mrs. Ama Dzifa Amankwah, the Senior Attorney of IJM said the study, which was conducted in 2013 and 2015 revealed that 21.3% of the children that were observed were 6 years old or younger.
Touching on the scale of forced labour trafficking on the lake, the study revealed that the 2013 operational assessment found that more than half (57.6%, 444/771) of the children working on the southern part of the lake were trafficked into forced labour.
The study further revealed that, trafficking into the fishing industry impacts upon children, with key informants citing that survivors display signs of trauma and underdeveloped social skills.
It also revealed that, the problem can be solved if there is strict adherence to prosecution, partnership, protection and prevention which are the four “Ps” of the antihuman trafficking movement.