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Type of document: News
Topic: Actions/initiatives/projects
Geographic descriptors: Ghana
Language: English
Source: www.news24.com/News24/Africa/News/0,,2-11-1447_1754625,00.html
Date of publication: 16 August 2005
Long Abstract: Fishermen in the central Ghanaian village of Yeji have a simple remedy when their nets become entangled on the bottom of Lake Volta - they send down a child to free them.

"Children are very obedient. They will do anything you tell them to, that's why we employ young children," said fisherman Raphael Klagbo. But the youngsters, who are given just the minimum amount of food and no education, are not the sons of Yeji's fishing community, but have been "imported" from other villages.

Kwabena Mensah was just seven years old when he was brought from the village of Immune.

Tough times

Now back home, he said, "I was attending school here but my mother did not have enough money to cater for all of us. A man came to take us to Yeji but when I went there, the work was very difficult. I really suffered."

His mother Ama said she had been forced to send Kwabena away with the man from Yeji after her husband died and she was left without enough money to keep all her five children. "They promised to bring him back in two years but they did not," she said.

"I was happy when I heard he had left Yeji because the man did not give me the money he promised." Kwabena spent seven years in Yeji, before being reunited with his family through the efforts of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which is working to end the child trafficking common throughout West Africa.

He was one of a dozen who were recently returned with due ceremony to their relatives in Immune through the IOM.

A better life for children

Each will be given medical care and counselling over the next three months, while the IOM will pay their school fees and provide them with uniforms, satchels, pens and pencils.

In addition, the organisation will give interest-free loans to the parents to fund small revenue-generating projects, provided they send their children to school every day.

"Lack of education is a major cause of the problem," IOM representative Joe Rispoli said. "In a lot of cases, these single, abandoned mothers are illiterate or have very little education," and do not understand the importance of schooling themselves. Rispoli also attacked the irresponsibility of the Lake Volta fishermen, who make their wives or girlfriends pregnant and then abandon them, to do the same elsewhere.

The practice of employing such child labour could be on the way out, however. The Ghanaian government has just passed a bill, three years in the making, outlawing child trafficking, and providing for prison terms of at least five years for those responsible

. "If you look at the bill, there are various aspects included in it, not just the criminal side. It also includes rehabilitation of the victims and sometimes, the perpetrators," said minister for women's and children's affairs Alima Mahama.

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