Slavery in Ghana
Child Slavery at Mines
Gold mining is one of Ghana’s major industries, and the hope of finding work brings thousands to mining towns. Most turn to unlicensed and informal galamsey mining—small scale operations, carried out with the most basic tools.
Galamsey sites are extremely dangerous for children due to frequent mine collapses, poisonous dust inhalation, and exposure to toxic chemicals used to extract gold from ore. Boys put their health and even survival at risk. For girls, sex slavery in mining regions is a regular and disturbing threat.
Child Slavery in Fishing
Along Lake Volta, Ghanaian children are sold into a life of forced labor, malnutrition, and abuse. Traffickers prey on poor families, who are persuaded to send their children to work in deplorable conditions on rickety fishing boats.
Parents are told their children will attend school in exchange for a few hours of work. In reality, children work 14-hour shifts with one meal a day. There is no education, no reprieve, and no escape. Their dangerous duties include casting nets, diving, and hauling. Children often get tangled underwater in nets, and their families never hear from them again.
Our Solutions in Ghana
Child Rights in Mining
Free the Slaves is building awareness about child rights in source communities that send children to work at mines.
Many parents lack detailed knowledge about their roles and responsibilities in promoting child welfare, and there is a general lack of awareness about government resources to address child abuse.
The Child Rights in Mining Project developed illustrated booklets around the themes of parenting, child labor, and sexual abuse in informal mining communities. These themes were drawn from real narratives uncovered during preliminary research. The booklets were used in weekly or bi-weekly learning groups led by trained facilitators. Participants discussed the illustrated stories and how to protect children in their communities. They developed community-wide action plans to end slavery and meet their most pressing development needs. A pilot project has delivered promising results, and we are currently scaling-up the program in new communities.
Rescue, Rehabilitation, and Reintegration of Fishing Slaves
Free the Slaves has launched the Growing Up Free initiative as part of an innovative agreement between the U.S. and Ghana governments. The program is creating a comprehensive, integrated plan for prevention, rescue, prosecution, rehabilitation, reintegration and education to overcome child fishing slavery.
The project has four key goals:
Building Capacity: build Ghana’s capacity to respond to child trafficking by training and providing technical assistance to civil society organizations, government agencies and individuals that protect children at each stage of abuse or vulnerability in communities.
Educating & Mobilizing: educate and mobilize communities to identify children who have been trafficked, refer them for rescue, train nonprofits and the Ghana Police Service to support rescues.
Meeting Basic Needs: assure that families can provide for the basic needs of their children, including shelter, food, healthcare and education; develop training opportunities for small-scale farming, livestock rearing and other vocations; develop access to community-based savings and loan cooperatives.
Changing Attitudes & Practices: increase public awareness and knowledge to prevent child trafficking from occurring and promote appropriate community action when child trafficking is suspected; establish child rights clubs for children at local schools; train local elected representatives.
Download the Growing Up Free one-page background handout here.
Free the Slaves is working to create acknowledgement of slavery in the informal gold mining sector by government officials, private companies, U.N. agencies and international nonprofits. This can lead to the adoption and enforcement of appropriate regulations and commitments to fulfilling their roles in protecting children and communities. The Ghana government and UNICEF view Free the Slaves as a resource on trafficking and child protection, and they regularly consult with us on developing strategies to address these issues.
Read our Community-Based Model for Fighting Slavery for in-depth details of the Free the Slaves global strategy for freeing slaves and ending the conditions that allow slavery to persist. Or watch our animated video that takes you through the model, step by step.
Our Results in Ghana
Child Rights in Mining
Our pilot program has improved attitudes toward child rights and prompted parents to take action to protect their kids.
- Suitable Work: The percentage of participants who could identify suitable work for children rose from 5 percent to 93 percent.
- Child Impacts: The percentage of participants who could identify how hazardous work harms children rose from 4 percent to 79 percent.
- Child Behavior: The percentage of participants who could recognize behavioral patterns of girls who have suffered sexual abuse rose from 11 percent to 75 percent.
- Government Assistance: The percentage of participants who had knowledge of government agencies to contact in cases of child exploitation rose from 25 percent to 61 percent.
- Child Protection: 71 percent of participating parents took action to protect their children as a result of the project.
Our Partners in Ghana
In Ghana, we currently collaborate with…
- Challenging Heights: Challenging Heights aims to reduce and prevent child trafficking and protect children’s rights by directly rescuing children and offering holistic rehabilitation and reintegration; by working with communities to help survivors and the vulnerable live in freedom; by building resistance to trafficking through education and sensitization; by providing educational support for at-risk children, survivors and the impoverished; and by advocating for human rights.
- International Needs Ghana: INGH was established in 1984 with the aim of improving deprived communities through development and human rights initiatives.
- MIHOSO International Foundation (Mission of Hope): MIHOSO is committed to providing public health services and social and organizational development interventions to communities through evidence-based research, advocacy, training, sharing of resources, and the provision of livelihood empowerment programs that target women, youth and children.
- UNICEF: United Nations Children’s Fund