Over the years, the trafficking of children has become a worrisome cancer across the world. Children are being recruited, sold into slavery and exploited by malevolent people. According to a survey by the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Ghana Police Service, Ghana is a major country of origin for victims of child trafficking. As well as being trafficked across Ghana’s borders, children are trafficked within the country and become trapped in conditions of forced labour in fishing, domestic service, street hawking, begging, herding, mining, and agriculture. They may also be subjected to prostitution.
It is in this light that the Diocese of Accra decided to partner with the United States Embassy to combat this injustice. As part of the Church’s ‘Social Responsibility in the Nation’ activities, and also in line with the ‘Social Impact’ pillar of the Diocesan Vision, the Diocese has been setting up a community shelter called Hope Village in order to facilitate the rehabilitation of rescued children.
It is estimated that about 1.8 million children, representing 21.6 per cent of Ghana’s 8.6 million children aged between 5 and 17, are involved in child labour and child trafficking. Some 14.2 per cent of these children are caught up in hazardous child labour.
Our goals in the Diocese of Accra are to create awareness of the evil practices of child trafficking; rescue children from the clutches of traffickers; rehabilitate and reintegrate the rescued children, and expose all organised networks involved in human trafficking of any sort in Ghana.
It is of foremost importance to shine more light on this wicked practice. A write-up on the USA Department of State website indicates that the government of Ghana does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however it is making significant efforts to do so. The Church is seeking to aid the government in creating more awareness through mass education.
The trafficking and exploitation of children hinder their education and, if this continues, the nation will be short of skilled labour in some matter of years.
Hope Village will ensure that the rescued children are educated, rehabilitated and mentored before being reintegrated into society. This is to open their eyes to the vast opportunities the world has to offer them.
In most cases, in the past, rescued children returned to whatever craft they had been forced into. This was because they did not have the requisite skills or help to follow their dreams and also because they were often brainwashed into believing they were of no use to civil society.
The Church has also focused on exposing all organised networks involved in human trafficking of any sort. The Diocese is of the view that the best approach to solving this menace is to attack it right at the roots. In exposing these shameless criminals, it is hoped that future potential traffickers will desist from the act totally.
Other important goals of the project are to provide training programmes for self-help groups, and to influence policymaking in relation to anti-trafficking by forming alliances with other agencies, such as the five-year partnership with the United States Embassy. The Church is also partnering with civil society and non-governmental organisations to push for stiffer laws and penalties for perpetrators and to be actively involved in the drafting of policies or in other issues of anti-human trafficking.
The Diocese is implementing a well structured plan to combat this menace. The Church has enlightened 60 clergy on the laws of human trafficking and its dangers. This has equipped them to be able to monitor the children in their various parishes and communities.
There are frequent workshops for the laity and Sunday school teachers so they are abreast of the signs to look out for, in case child trafficking is being practised in their communities.
The Church is also about to ‘cut the ribbon’ on the Village of Hope training centre. This residential training facility will house the rescued children, and rehabilitate and empower them before returning them to their families. The project seeks to provide a dignified childhood to these marginalised children.
CONTACT: Reginald Frimpong Ansah-Adjaye, Diocese of Accra, Coordinator, Community of Hope Project, email email@example.com