One of this year’s Global Policy Projects is underway in Ghana, where MPPGA students Adedoyin Luwaji, Ali Bajwa, John Ede, Simin Yook, and Ros Seibert have been working closely with their client, Free the Slaves (FTS), a global NGO and a pioneer in the modern anti-slavery movement.
The students are researching, assessing, and recommending improvements to a tool to evaluate the long-term impacts of FTS’ work in combating child trafficking and slavery in Ghana’s fishing industry. They are developing an index to measure a community’s progress towards resilience to slavery. This includes a self-reflection tool, called the Community Maturity Tool (CMT), used by community groups, and a Household Survey in individual homes, both administered by FTS’ partner organization, International Needs Ghana (INGH).
The MPPGA team is adding value to the CMT by providing a way to accurately capture how communities face issues related to slavery over the long term – it is essential to measure resiliency so that communities not only reduce incidents of slavery to zero but also remain resistant to slavery over time.
The experience in Ghana began on December 3 with the students meeting Kavi Ramburn, Monitoring, Learning, and Evaluation Manager, and Bismark Quartey, the Country Manager with Free the Slaves. The team gained an overview of their work in Ghana and what to expect from community consultations in the weeks ahead.
The following day, the student team met with nine members of the Community Child Protection Committee (CCPC) along with traditional leaders from a rural farming community in the Adidome region of Ghana to hear about their work related to resisting slavery. In the same village, the team then met a group of eleven community members who belong to the local savings and loan group as well as a learning group.
We learned that some children from their community were trafficked by slave masters and middle men and sent to remote parts of Volta Lake to work all day and night in the brutal fishing industry.
The students asked what motivates the CCPC to be voluntary members and learned that they’re willing to do the work, despite it being unpaid, for the benefit of the children. CCPC members suffered from bonded labour themselves and never attended school, so they want to ensure their children remain free and become educated.
“We want to be a catalyst of change; we suffered the fate of child labour and trafficking. We are not interested in money, we want to make things better.”
This particular CCPC member survived slavery as a child and the master told her rather than sending her to school, he would rather buy a goat. She finds it painful that she never attended school and intimately knows the effects of child trafficking. She is working hard to ensure slavery never returns to her community.
A key factor in child trafficking is poverty. Since this village is a farming community, their crops are impacted by climate change – there was not enough rain last year and too much rain this year and so they didn’t earn enough from their harvest to adequately support their children. Residents are considering an alternative livelihood so that they aren’t solely dependent on farming and “so child trafficking will be a thing of the past.”
“Our first community meeting was to a small farming village in Adidome. The village’s Community Child Protection Committee helped us understand what motivates them and how they constantly work to prevent the conditions that allowed trafficking to occur from being allowed in again. It was really inspiring to hear and see firsthand just how deeply invested and involved the community is in this from a grassroots level.”
On December 5, the MPPGA students visited a remote community along Ghana’s coast in Ada West which is primarily reliant upon fishing & salt harvesting. John, Ali and Ros led focus group members through the Household Survey tool while Simin and Doyin engaged in a similar focus group with other members. The entire group of 21 residents included the local head teacher, an assembly leader, women, and several children.
There were incidents of child trafficking in the community in the past, but since the introduction of the “Growing Up Free” program, through Free the Slaves and INGH, there are now zero incidents. If someone falls vulnerable, the community members say they are ready to support them, thanks to education and sensitization to the issue.
Residents reported that they don’t have enough resources to take care of their families due to living in poverty. Some members don’t have electricity in their homes. As well, there is no tap water in their homes, rather 37 families share seven community taps. It is a half hour drive to access the nearest health clinic and 1.5 hours to access a hospital.
“The first thing that struck me once we began talking with the residents of a village in Ada West is how my initial perception of the problem changed, as well as the perspectives of the solutions I had imagined. I’ve decided that going to a site and meeting the affected people in any problem or policy intervention is an indispensable step. I am glad we came!”
We learned that most children attend school, except during the fishing season and the salt harvest. Children work for their families in this community, not in bonded labour. This stands in stark contrast to the 500 instances of child trafficking documented in 20 communities surveyed in 2016 and 107 cases of child trafficking in 14 additional communities studied in 2017 across Ghana.
The students, MPPGA Graduate Director Shashi Enarth, as well as Bismark from Free the Slaves sought insights from INGH staff on their work with communities on December 6. The discussion revolved around INGH’s critique of the Community Maturity Tool (CMT), the students’ changes to the tool, and how to adapt it to ensure resistance to slavery in communities is accurately and effectively measured over time. The tool has been used in the “Growing Up Free” project, a project that has proven to be an effective response to child trafficking in Ghana. We learned from INGH staff that ideally, the CMT is used twice a year in communities to measure their progress to combat slavery.
“Ghana, like other West African countries, suffered from slavery for over three hundred years, and it is unbelievable how it still continues to exist today in different forms. This is unacceptable. As a human rights advocate, I am proud and glad to be part of this project that aims to eradicate slavery.”
On December 11, the MPPGA students, along with Bismark and Kavi from Free the Slaves, visited two rural communities on the coast near Winneba.
The students first met with three Education Officers from Gomoa District, key stakeholders, to gain their insights on child trafficking and slavery. When the officers see parents sending their children away for work, they attempt to stop them. However, sometimes they don’t have funding to do so. Whenever possible, the officers educate the parents on the risks of these acts and the law – every school aged child belongs in school.
The officers shared how “more financial commitment towards free continuing education, daily breakfast for students and gainful employment for the parents would help resolve some of these problems and prevent parents from sacrificing their children to slavery.”
Following a long drive, we arrived in a remote fishing village along Ghana’s central coast. Doyin, Simin and Ros conducted a focus group in English with five men who are all CCPC members, including the Assembly man. Ali and John, along with Kavi and Bismark, asked questions to individuals in the Household Survey.
The students tested their questions with the community, gaining great insight into how they are combatting slavery. Doyin asked what conditions make life hard for them and we learned unemployment is high: “There’s no work here.” Many residents pursue farming and fishing, which has been negatively impacted by climate change. They shared how sometimes it’s difficult to pay for school uniforms and exam fees for their children. The community reported that they understand how trafficking works and where to report it.
The CCPC members mentioned how every child that is rescued from slavery and brought back is given counselling and protected from future trafficking attempts.
“Engaging with community members in a small village on the outskirts of Winneba and being able to test run the tool we have been working on for the past 4 months has been extremely helpful and informative. We have received invaluable feedback, which will be essential to the success of our project.”
The students gained extensive insight into both the prevalence of modern-day slavery across communities in Ghana and also the active resistance towards it, starting with local community members.
Following their field experience in Ghana, the students will continue consulting with Free the Slaves to refine the evaluation tool, leading up to a presentation and final report in March 2019 at the end of their Global Policy Project.
“The communities are dynamic in the dimensions and patterns of child labour and trafficking experienced. The CCPC needs to be further empowered to effectively carry out their role because their effectiveness is positively correlated with community resilience.”
Hope for an end to slavery can be found in the tireless work of Free the Slaves and their partner organization, International Needs Ghana. There’s a new motto spreading across villages in Ghana: “All children belong in school!” Empowered residents are safeguarding children and ensuring that traffickers put an end to their cruel trade in human lives.