In Ghana, FTS works with:

Free the Slaves works to end child labor, child slavery and sex slavery in small-scale gold mines, through  partners Participatory Development Associates and Social Support Foundation. Challenging Heights rescues children enslaved in the fishing industry, helps them begin to recover and reunites them with their families. All three partners are strengthening communities to tackle the root causes of slavery.
James Kofi Annan of Challenging Heights, Ghana

Of the estimated 30,000-50,000 galamsey miners, 10,000 are children working in hazardous conditions. Sexual violence has emerged as a regular issue as girls are trafficked into sexual slavery.
In fishing communities along Lake Volta, many children are at risk for being sold into a life of forced labor, malnutrition, abuse and no schooling. Traffickers prey on poor families.

As the global price of gold soars, the 2nd largest gold producer in Africa, Ghana, has felt the rush. The promise of finding work in the gold mines brings thousands of Ghanaians to the mining towns. Because few jobs in the formal mining sector are available for Ghanaians, most turn to galamsey mining – small scale, informal mining, carried out with the most basic tools. Galamsey mining is extremely dangerous due to frequent mine collapses, poisonous dust inhalation and exposure to mercury. Many of the miners also become entrapped in debt bondage: With no money to begin operating, they are often forced to take out high-interest loans, where they sell the gold they extract to the same broker from whom they took the loan. It means that the price they fetch for their gold is much below global market prices and never enough to re-pay their debt. The inability of the galamsey gang masters to pay their debt leaves them in a desperate situation where they use slave labor and exploit women and children. Of the estimated 30,000-50,000 galamsey miners, 10,000 are children working in hazardous conditions that put their health and even survival at risk. Sexual violence has emerged as a regular and disturbing issue as girls are trafficked into sexual slavery.

Read the summary of our 2013 research paper on child slavery and hazardous child labor in Ghana mining communities here.


Read our in-depth 2014 research report, Child Rights in Mining, here. Upload the one-page executive summary here.

Our partners in the mining areas engage with local communities to help groups come together to set priorities for what they want to change and to understand their rights. One of the results of this community empowerment has been that many communities want to stop child labor. FTS, together with SSF, has launched a major program to understand the nature and causes of exploitation and violence against children at these sites and to help communities protect their children.

In fishing communities along Lake Volta, Ghanaian children are being sold into a life of forced labor, malnutrition, abuse and no schooling. Traffickers prey on poor families in source communities along the country’s coast. Typically, the families are told by the trafficker that if they let their children come to the lake, they will live with relatives who will care for them and send them to school in exchange for a few hours work after school. In reality, the children are forced to work long hours on the boats in dangerous conditions. A typical day might begin at 3 am and end at 8pm and include challenging tasks such as casting nets, diving, and hauling, with only one meal served. Children often get stuck in the nets at the bottom of the lake. If a child is caught escaping, the consequences can be brutal. Often the families do not hear from their children again.

Though carrying out rescues of children along the lake is dangerous, James Kofi Annan and his team continue full speed ahead. After rescue, the children are placed in a transitional shelter, where they rebuild their physical strength, gain emotional support and have a first experience of being in a classroom. When they are ready, they are reunited with their families, placed in school, and monitored closely to ensure they are not re-trafficked. Challenging Heights also works with source and destination communities to form Community Child Protection Committees that are actively engaged in preventing child trafficking and addressing root causes of slavery. 12 CCPCs have been formed so far. Several have organized their own house-to-house anti-slavery campaigns, and many have begun to identify and report cases of trafficking to CH.

James Kofi Annan also continues to speak out powerfully both nationally and internationally to pressure the government and society to protect every child’s right to freedom.

James Kofi Annan was a recipient of a Free the Slaves Freedom Award. Find out more here.