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Opinions of Thursday, 1 March 2007

Columnist: Fiagbeto, Yao

Pres. Kufuor-There is No Child Slavery in Ghana

President Kufuor must defend our local economies from international media exploitation to avert future media frenzy depicting the Eweland as a slave market. Oprah show - Child slavery in Ghana.

To those who watch the show and believed it and to our President and all ghana government officials, my name is Yao Fiagbeto born and grew-up in the same region as those fortunate children rescued. But I am very sad and disappointed with the title Lisa chose for the rescue mission without local officials (elders & chiefs) or government views on such unfortunate economic situation which most Africans living here in America were at one time in their life was exposed to directly or indirectly. Such economic situation has become acceptable and revered fabric of our local and urban economies in Ghana.

Therefore if the experiences of these boys are classified as slavery and believes as such for international consumption and appeal for donation towards more such rescue missions is now in progress, then I suggest that our officials should let Oprah, Lisa and her crew and all those organizations preparing on such a trip into the Volta-region of Ghana need not go far to accomplish their mission.

Such noble course is most welcome but first be directed to victims of same such circumstances in the street lights corners of Accra. Here according to Ghanaian interpretation the perpetrators will be identified as merchants or traders who recruits kids of economic deprivation and school dropouts from villages under the good-faith notion.

The consensus of good-faith notion is to teach these kids trading vocation. Therefore parents from this low economic background allows recruiters to accept these kids as sales assistants and sometimes cash advance is demanded for services to be rendered and when they arrive in Accra, their first order of business is to stand in street corners or major traffic lights to vend wares including ice water to anything you can find here in Wal-Mart. Lisa and her crew had first exposure to these kids on their way to the village of Hope in the Volta region right outside the Airport.

So Lisa and her benevolent organizations in my humble opinion can start from Accra the capital with her rescue efforts which in our context of economic sustenance form part of the Ghana Labor pull. There is always unwritten agreement in most cases these kids are brought back to their parents each year or two especially during Christmas or Easter festivities to account for their achievement as traders and this in most villages and towns like my native village is incorporated into the festivities. These kids during these occasions base upon their talents and material achievements becomes roll model for the younger generation of same economic background and I am proud to say they are the pillars of our local economies by our local humble village economic standards.

Having said that, it is equally important to know that Ghana and develop nations like the US are on a very different economic wave length as such it is unfair and humiliating to judge our economic survival as slavery. Slavery is the worst form of description associated with activities of any group of people.

In the Ewe culture, Ghana as a whole or African culture for matter, having ones own children is the epitome of living and African families put a high value on such procreation without consideration whatsoever for western economic standards. The privileged Elites of our societies in Africa may or may not agree with my assertions.

However, Trading, Fishing and Farming within the Ewe or Africa village economic setup are the financial power house of our communities, parents who do not go to school and cannot afford to send their children to school are determined as ever to impact their skills such as trading, farming and fishing into their children. This has become the acceptable norm of the day even among those wealthy community financiers who send their children to schools.

Please note that family fishing has a different meaning and practical experience to both cross-cultural environments (US vs. African fishing village). The first order of business as a fisherman with a male child at the age sometimes as little as four years old is to train that child how to empty water in canoe during fishing expeditions, the child then graduate to paddle of canoe to knitting a fishing net then how to lay a fish trap with the net. The graduating ceremony is then crown with a brand new canoe and fishing net to start his fishing business which sometimes immediately followed by engagement and marriage.

Same form of training exists among farmers and traders as the beacon of our local economic sustenance. It is a proud vocation revered by all. That is why children start their lessons early in life to become the best in their future economic activities, just like the west or much of our affluent African communities reading of books and exposing children to modern technology is their order of the day as the basis of future innovations.

It is equally important for Oprah’s audience and the world to know that approximately 40% or more of our communities fall within such categories which Lisa and her crew described as child slavery but we call it village economic labor pool.

It is an acceptable norm in our societies for parents who can not adequately fence for their love ones to give them to men of economic stature in the communities to be train in their sort of vocations with the hope that some day these kids to will become local economic champions or pillars of our communities which have been a proven facts of cultural heritage in the Ewe land for that matter Ghana.

It is our own economic cultural way of assisting the less fortunate in our villages, a system handed down to us by our great ancestral intelligentsia which is still celebrated at Christmas and Easter occasions and those formally deprived children are given the chance to display their material gains and accomplishment often to the amazement of their own families now fill with tears of joy and all to the credit of their managers. This is currently a booming business transforming communities living in thatch homes to brick homes.

Therefore the more favorable progress report attributed to managers or recruiters the successful their next recruitment campaign which have now open new economic incentives where recruiters gives cash advances to their apprentice who turn around and deposit such cash advances sometimes with their parents or next of kin for their upkeeps or paying school fees for their younger siblings. This in my view is what was witnessed by someone from different cultural background as human beings always in haste coupled with information age decide to expose this Ewe economic culture through the looking glass of American economic and social standard.

These occasions if Oprah and her crew wants to understand this cultural dilemma they found themselves in and really want to help I will like to invite them to see children who could not attend schools in their infancy together with those who are in their teenage years whose parents received cash advances on their behalf, same such circumstances surrounding the kids on Oprah’s show all grown-up coming home to Anlo traditional area with charter buses on Christmas and Easter celebration from fishing villages in Dakar in Senegal, Abidjan in Cote D’Ivoire, Half-Assini, Kpando Torkor and Alavanyo torkor, Kwamekrom Abotoase, Dambai, Ketekrachi , Yeji and Akosombo just to mentioned a few.

These kids from my background now stand the chance obviously to enjoy the life they did not at the time have the mind to dream about a credit to Oprah, Lisa and her crew. But what I think can bring us somehow par with the western economic and social standard is not charitable school systems but real capital investment in our fishing villages, creation of cooperative fishing farms and cold storage facilities with western volunteers on the ground supervising alongside with local counterparts, in short we know how to fish please make available to us loans to modernize our industry and with such capital infusion and physical ground supervision of funds disbursement, resultant consequences will be booming local economy which will inevitably translate into amazing schools with quality graduates of vigor and innovations tailored towards taking the local fishing industry to greater heights which will yield sustainable competitive local fishing economy we shall be proud of.

Thank you, Oprah In conclusion I will like to thank you the Queen of Benevolence Oprah Winfred, you do have a large heart may God give you good health and more years in all your endeavors and provide you with the right and honorable individuals and corporations ready to assist in your expansion in the world stage for equality and opportunity for excellence. My sincere gratitude to Lisa and her Crew for sparking this debate especially the title actually provokes my thought process to pour out my heart in this manner with the hope that my people in the Keta or the Ewe fishing villages will also benefit from your desire for the world family especially their children.

Proposal I therefore would like to bring to your attention that the aforementioned kids in your show mostly likely from the emigrant communities of Ewes from the Anlo traditional area in the Keta district of Ghana southern part of Volta Region. For that matter I will like to bring to your attention that the district has a preliminary feasibility studies that requires 1 million US dollars ( apprx 8 billion cedis ) which will create a gigantic shrimp and tilapia fishing industry for the community that will eventually in ten years by my estimation and involvement will eliminate all economic activities that will prevent education for children (Ghanaweb.com/districtnews/ketaeconomy/investment)

Thank you once again

Yao Fiagbeto
Jonesboro, GA.


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