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Poverty and the Rights of the Child Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Solace Asafo, Ghana Jan 7, 2004
Child & Youth Rights , Labour Rights   Interviews
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Ghana, West Africa - The bargain lasted for a few minutes, a little over $180 was handed over to the mother of a child and the deal was sealed; a child of 3 had just been pawned by his parents to a local fisherman to be used as a diver in the Volta river to arrange fishing nets to facilitate heavy catches.

It is estimated that until the practice came to light and exposed, at least 10 children were sold each day by poor parents to fishermen or anybody who was interested in buying them. These children, including some who were only three years old were sold into virtual slave labour for as much as US $180 and as little as $5 in extreme cases.

These children were given out by their parents to work virtually as slaves for others in order for their parents to earn money. There are more than 1,200 children who have been sold into slavery by poor families on the coast of Ghana to fishermen on Lake Volta says the International Organization of Migration (IOM). Today over a thousand of these have been resettled with their parents by the IOM and the Ministry of Children and women’s affairs, in Ghana.

Ernest Taylor, the project coordinator, said the 1,203 children being reunited with their families represented a small fraction of the Ghanaian children sold by their parents into virtual slavery. Most are boys aged between 3 and 14 who are forced to work long hours casting and drawing nets. They are poorly fed and never paid. Sometimes, they drown in their attempts to retrieve nets caught on tree stumps at the bottom of the lake.

Ghana's Children's Act of 1998 and other legislation, for instance, are supposed to protect children from being subjected to exploitative labour. However, in practice children are being sold into forced daily into forced a situation resulting from dire poverty.

On the coastal plans of the country another group of child slaves can be found. These have not been sold into slavery to be used by other but have been forced by the economic situations at home to make a livelihood along the coast where they help mend nets and pull catches to the shore.

Some are street vendors and brave the scorching sun daily to hawk items such as water, fruits and dog chains to augment scarce resources at home. These children have been denied the basic right to education which would at least have brought them out of the doldrums someday. But more importantly is the daily risk of their lives on the streets or in the waters

The above scenarios paints the picture of the daily abuse of the rights of the child in Ghana and this unfortunately is the plight of most African children whose right to a dignified, protected and loving environment is a great privilege instead of a right.

An AP news report last year reported that some 15,000 Benin children work in Nigerian granite pits cracking stones. 116 have been returned to their homes, some unfortunately have died there.
An analysis into the background of the children show that they come from very poor backgrounds and were sold off when their parents could not afford keeping them around. This crude form of adoption was, perhaps to the parents, the only means by which they-parents and other sibling and the children involved could.

This inhuman treatment of children by the very people who are to protect them raises very important questions. Why would a parent pawn off a child for a stipend? Even though traditionally, it was common practice for poor parents to hand over their children to be cared for by relatives and friends, with the monetization of most economies this age-old custom has been exploited by child traffickers for financial gain.

This trend poses a very big problem for governments in Africa who have ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and who are enjoined to create the enabling environment for its observance. The Charter opens as “RECOGNIZING that the child occupies a unique and privileged position in the African society and that for the full and harmonious development of his personality the child should grow up in a family environment in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding”. Indeed the ratifying of these beautiful and hope inspiring words by most African governments is deemed laudable. But the issue is this; what happens with the lifting of the pens and the drying of the inks. Let us move beyond the beautiful conference rooms of loud speakers, coffee breaks and heavy sumptuous meals, into the homes of the people these leaders oversee and see what the citizens of these states make of them out of necessity and in the struggle to survive.

The realities on the ground in most African societies show that as a result of poverty some African children do not grow up “in a family environment or in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding”. The rights of children are not upheld as the harsh economic realities on the ground push many African parents to blatantly disregard these noble ideals.

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Solace Asafo

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Nice piece
Kevin M | Jan 16th, 2004
Solace, i agree with you in all aspect, your write-up is good, and really talks about the margenalisation of the African child by the "bigwigs". i think its time all these change.

Its so sorry to say that elders are
dhananjaya | Feb 4th, 2004
Its so sorry to here that the children are being victim of the poverty. But the bitter reality has made us bound to face the truth. Its very hot issue you have raised in. and the article is nice in itself.

Its so sorry to say that elders are
dhananjaya | Feb 4th, 2004
Its so sorry to here that the children are being victim of the poverty. But the bitter reality has made us bound to face the truth. Its very hot issue you have raised in. and the article is nice in itself. -Dhanudai

Solace Asafo | Feb 5th, 2004
You are right, this is a very hot issue and needs to be discussed and a solution found. Thanks for reading the article and posting a response

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