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Opinions of Friday, 24 June 2011

Columnist: Anzagra, Solomon

Will Child Labour Eradication In Ghana Be Possible?

With ‘Kayayei’ In Existence, Will Child Labour Eradication In Ghana Possible?

It is very disheartening that Ghana, a country apparently committed to the fight against child labour, has girls of less than fifteen years in age involved in the grueling task of head portrage popularly known as kayayei in the cities of Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi, etc. When Ghana was threatened that her cocoa will not be bought in the international market because she was alleged to have involved children in her cocoa production a lot was and still done to prevent the situation. Will one therefore be right to say Ghana has being parochial by her oblivion and seemingly insensitivity to the poor children on the streets of Kumasi, Accra and other southern towns—who carry very terrifying loads on their heads for money subject to the discretion of their clients—because that one has nothing to do with the demand for her cocoa in the international market? According to Mr. Emile Short, former Commissioner of CHRAJ, 20 per cent of children in the country are involved in some sort of child labour, which he said during the launch of the recently-marked World Day Against Child Labour in Accra. With confidence one can say more than half of this percentage is attributable to head portrage business or kayayei in the country which is highly despicable and must be stopped!

Increasingly bulk of northern young girls continue to be driven by the desire to escape destitution from regions bedeviled by unemployment and economic deprivation into regions of high economic opportunities at the expense of their education—which has almost become a passage of rite in the north. And what is very much disturbing is the hostile conditions these young girls are exposed to concerning their accommodation, feeding and reproductive health which makes one to wonder if they have rights at all. It has assumed a state of normalcy to find these young girls sleeping in open spaces of the central markets, under sheds and in front of shops in groups of ten or more with babies in the mentioned cities. With these girls exposed to dangers like rape and ritual killing—which is almost normal in their lives, their major concern is always what to eat the next day if at all they wake up. If one does not get a load to carry in a day and with no previous savings, it means no food for them. This therefore leads to desperation to earn a living by all means which sometimes results in exploitation, reproach and even insults from their clients. The deserving question therefore is, is it the making of these innocent girls to find themselves in this horrifying situation? Absolutely no! What has led to the issue has both historical and present day dimensions. History shows there has been a stark dichotomy in the level and rate of development between northern and southern regions of the country obvious in the present striking imbalances in socio-economic development of the regions—which needs to be radically consigned to the past if the issue of the north-south human tsunami can be curbed. In addition, as the influence of population levels can not be undermined in the retention of power by political leaders, regions with high population levels tend to be given more attention in development programmes than those with less population levels which also perpetuates the problem the more. Obscured but worth noting is the psychological dimension of the issue where young girls perceive southern urban centres to be havens of ‘goodies’ for them to enhance their lives but give little consideration to issues of accommodation and health when one finds themselves there.

Though the country seems to be inattentive about the situation, its effects on the country’s development are overwhelmingly numerous. Apart from stifling the country’s efforts towards eradication of illiteracy as most of these girls do not have the opportunity to get educated, it also poses threats to the country’s achievement of the Millennium Development Goals especially goals one, two and three. The continuous congestion of these cities is yet another effect as vehicular and human traffic becomes the order of the day. Yet the canker needs to be eradicated if the country is truly committed to the beautification of her cities because the incessant pollution of these towns with human excreta and other waste caused by overcrowding makes it almost impossible for the exercises of decongestion to meet its targeted aims. Even the bridging of the development gap between the north and the south which informed the institution of programmes such as SADA will be highly inconsequential with this canker persisting on. It is therefore imperative that the governments start to look beyond political interests and put very concrete measures in place to solve the problem if it is genuinely committed to the eradication of child labour. There is also the need for the creation of a positive psychological climate in the minds of young northern girls among other strategies to curb the situation.

The author, Solomon Anzagra is in Department of planning. KNUST – Kumasi [Email:]