June 12 is World Day Against Child Labor, a time to reflect on the fact that millions of children toil in harmful and hazardous jobs. Many are forced to work by their families or by traffickers. Many are beaten and whipped into submission.
That is what happened to Kofi* in Ghana. The photos of the mistreatment he endured are disturbing to see, but we are sharing them with you as vivid reminders that child labor is child abuse.
At six years old, Kofi was sent onto the fishing boats of Lake Volta. His job: bail water from the bottom of leaky canoes. He did not go to school, he was not allowed to play with friends, his childhood had become a dawn-to-dusk ordeal of nonstop work. When he resisted, Kofi was subjected to severe physical and emotional abuse.
“Most of the bruises you see on my head are a result of the paddle used on me most times,” Kofi said. The scars on his back and chest are from being whipped with wire. Sometimes Kofi was tied up inside his house. He was denied food if he refused to work.
Fortunately, Kofi’s situation came to the attention of a Community Child Protection Committee that Free the Slaves and our Ghanaian partner organization helped establish in a nearby village.
These committees educate community members about child rights. They also serve as neighborhood watch groups to identify and report cases of harmful child labor and trafficking.
Kofi was quickly rescued by police. His stepfather was arrested and sentenced to pay a heavy fine or serve a term in jail.
Thanks to your contributions to Free the Slaves, Kofi is now safe. But unfortunately, many more children need help. We hope that on this World Day Against Child Labor, you will continue your support.
Learn more here about our Growing Up Free program to combat child trafficking in Ghana.
*Kofi is a pseudonym used to safeguard the child’s identity
Thanks to FTS Ghana Country Program Manager Bismark Quartey for his field reporting work on Kofi’s story.