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Opinions of Thursday, 2 June 2011

Columnist: Bonsu, Ama

Ghana's silent shame

Ghana has a lot to be proud of. You only need to look at the country’s track record of political stability, its peacekeeping efforts in neighbouring countries, and the resilience of its economy to recognize that the country is blossoming. Unfortunately, Ghana’s tapestry of accolades is tainted by the fact that it continues to be a hotspot for child trafficking in Africa.

On May 28th 2011, the New York Times published an article that exposed Ghana’s involvement in child trafficking. According to the report, “ the police rescued 116 children who had been forced into labor n Ghana’s Volta Lake area.” The article quoted a police official who stated that parents in the fishing communities sold children as young as 4 years old for as little as $100. This is not the first time that the New York Times and other organizations have outed Ghana for its leading involvement in the exploitation and abuse of children’s’ rights. From UNICEF to the IOM (International Organisation for Migration), the citations against Ghana are as innumerable as they are shameful. In rural areas, many Ghanaian children are cheap labour for fishing and farming communities. In sprawling cities, they are sex trade workers or street vendors. And in the privacy of our high walled homes, they are serve as houseboys or housegirls.

As disturbing as these trends are, there is minimum media coverage about the perpetrators of this heinous crime or the plight of these innocent children. Public outrage is practically nonexistent. It is as if we Ghanaians reserve our empathy and our generosity for our family members. So long as our children are fed, sheltered and educated, there is no desire to fight for the plight of the poor man’s children. How else do you explain the absence of a concerted or consistent effort from Ghanaians to curb child trafficking? Some say it is the trappings of poverty that drives one family to sell their children for pittance. Others chalk it up to the abuse of traditional practices where children are sent to live with a more successful family member to break the cycle of poverty. Many blame the government for not doing enough.

Whatever the reason may be, neither the problem nor its solution should be politicized as both the NDC and NPP governments have done a superficial job in tackling child trafficking. The 2009 National Database on human trafficking in Ghana has revealed that government’s support to combating human trafficking in the country constitutes only .7% of the total capital generated for the operation. In addition, although Ghana has ratified the UN convention against Transnational Organized Crime and passed a comprehensive anti-trafficking bill in 2005, the enforcement of the law is lax and traffickers often get away with only a warning. With such a dismal commitment by the, it is obvious why the perpetrators are motivated to subject thousands of children to long working hours in abject conditions.

Where are church leaders and First ladies when you need them to sensitize the society to the fact that child slavery, child labour and child trafficking are a violation of the fundamental rights of children? Instead of waiting for the government or a prominent figure to take up this cause, we the ordinary Ghanaian should combat the issue by reporting the perpetrators to officials. We can go further and adopt the less fortunate children, or place them in orphanages, support their education and provide them with long-term mentorship.

However, should we continue to turn a blind eye, we stand to fail a viable segment of our society. If Ghana could break away from colonization and a pattern of coup d’etats to become a bench mark for other African countries, than we can certainly lead the pack in freeing our children f and become the true beacon of Africa.

Amma Bonsu is the creator of she can be contacted at