Hope Education Project Ghana_-5



Human Trafficking In Ghana 

The Ghanaian government acknowledges that human trafficking exists throughout the country. The National Plan of Action for the Elimination of Human Trafficking in Ghana, prepared by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Special Protection is now in its second iteration. The plan follows the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 4Ps protocol: Prevention of trafficking, Protection of victims and survivors, Prosecution of traffickers, and Partnerships for a strengthened response. The three Prevention objectives of the National Plan are aimed at human trafficking education and awareness activities. activities. 

According to the US State Department’s 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report, Ghana is a Tier 2 country, showing some progress since 2018 but still not meeting minimum anti-trafficking standards. Reports from IOM and UNICEF highlight prevalent adult and child sex trafficking issues, with typical adult victims being young women with limited education and children. Young girls aged 14-17 face especially significant risks across the country. ECPAT and UNICEF consider Ghana to be a major destination for sex tourism.

Ghana’s Human Trafficking in the world spotlight

The Tonys Chocolonely logo - Tonys Chocolonely are eliminating child labour and child trafficking from the cocoa supply chain in Ghana

The CNN Freedom Project has extensively reported on the issue of child labour and trafficking on Ghana’s Lake Volta, shedding light on the plight of an estimated 20,000 children forced to work as slaves on fishing boats. Documentaries like “Troubled Waters” have played a pivotal role in shedding light on the harsh realities of human trafficking in Ghana. By bringing survivor stories to the forefront, the investigations by CNN and others have unveiled the harrowing conditions faced by children and underscored the vital work of local groups in their rescue and recovery. 

Ghana is the world’s second-largest producer and exporter of cocoa beans after Ivory Coast, with cocoa being a major contributor to its economy and foreign exchange earnings. Focussed around the south and west of the country in Ashanti, Eastern, Brong-Ahafo, Central, Volta and Western (North and South) Regions, the industry has a significant child labour and trafficking problems. As consumers and regulators demand change organisations like Tony’s Chocolonely and the Cocoa Initiative are actively working to eliminate trafficking and child labour from the supply chain. 

The Forgotten North 

Colonial policies relegated Ghana’s north to a “labour reserve,” emphasizing investment in the resource-rich south and neglecting northern infrastructure and economic development. Post-independence development programs in Ghana have also underperformed or failed to develop the north’s potential. The Government continues to underinvest in critical infrastructure like railways and adequate roads that could transform the region. Despite signs that the Ghanaian economy is stabilizing thanks to  an IMF-supported economic program, the benefits are unlikely to be felt in the north of the country. 

Northern Ghana suffers from the nation’s worst levels of poverty, as high as 85% according to the Government’s 2015 Poverty Map. Widespread unemployment, lack of access to basic social services, poor digital and transport infrastructure leave the north at a competitive disadvantage. This marginalization and lack of economic and educational opportunities make communities vulnerable to exploitation by criminal trafficking networks and armed groups. The combination of economic deprivation and limited state presence creates an environment conducive for traffickers to operate with impunity.

Conflict in Northern Ghana

Areas like Bawku and Cinkassé in the far northeast, and gold mining sites in northern Ghana have become hubs for the illicit trafficking of arms, drugs, and humans by organized criminal networks. These networks have gained control over border zones, facilitating cross-border trafficking. Additionally, the potential expansion of armed jihadist groups linked to GSIM-JNIM from the Sahel region poses a significant risk. To counter this the US and EU among others are actively supporting the Ghanaian government with financial aid, equipment and technical training. These groups exploit trafficking routes, lapse security and marginalized and fractured ethnic populations to engage in activities like kidnapping that enable human trafficking.

Communal conflicts and insecurity

Conflicts over land and natural resources between nomadic pastoralists and sedentary communities and between ethnic groups in northern Ghana have increased insecurity. The relationship between the migratory Fulani community and other indigenous communities in northern Ghana is delicate, with the Fulani community facing stigmatization and marginalization that radical groups could exploit for recruitment. The town of Bawku has become a battleground for a tribal dispute between the Mamprusi and Kusasi over land rights with violence spilling as far south as Walewale. This instability, coupled with the state’s limited capacity to assert control in peripheral areas, creates a permissive environment for trafficking networks and armed groups to thrive by exploiting vulnerable populations.

Migration from the north of Ghana

As with other countries with stark economic disparities, the people of the north have traditionally migrated in search of work. Approximately 90% of all migration is to the more prosperous south, mainly to Accra and Kumasi. This culture of domestic migration is easily exploited by human traffickers, especially as the push factors of migration from the north increase in magnitude and complexity.

The largest at-risk migratory group are kayaye, or head porters, primarily young women and girls. Kayaye have traditionally migrated south to urban centres like Accra and Kumasi, a practice born out of economic necessity and cultural patterns. This migration, which started in the late 1980s as a seasonal move when female labour was not required on the farm, has evolved into a year-round phenomenon, with an alarming increase in the number of minors involved. The UNODC reports that the number of kayaye has increased in recent years driven by simple economics and the effects of climate change with farming communities devastated by droughts and floods. 

A perfect storm for human trafficking 

The human trafficking issues of Northern Ghana remain overshadowed by the more photogenic, financially incentivized and high-profile anti-trafficking efforts in the south. With little international attention and no industrial base to support anti-trafficking initiatives, northern Ghana’s growing trafficking problem is being neglected. With neglect will come a worsening situation for already marginalised women and girls, the radicalisation of young men and general lawlessness.

The role of human trafficking education and awareness 

A group of muslim girls taking part in a human trafficking focus group in Tamale, Northern Region Ghana

The solution to the complex problem of human trafficking in the north of Ghana is multi-faceted and spans economics, education, governance, investment, peacekeeping and stakeholder cooperation. Our mission is to disrupt the flow of vulnerable girls & boys, men & women trafficked for exploitation, both internationally and within Ghana. Our sole purpose is to educate and raise awareness in schools and communities to empower and build resilience against human trafficking. By partnering with CSOs, NGOs, and community groups, we can leverage our unique strengths and work together towards our shared goal.

Human trafficking education and awareness programs have been shown to be crucial in empowering communities with the knowledge to recognize and combat labour and sex trafficking as well as possible child soldiering. These interventions offer vital awareness and preventive education, equipping individuals, families and communities with the tools to safeguard against exploitation. We aim to create resilience by building capacity in regional NGOs, schools and universities to deliver our program.

In summary – the case for Northern Ghana

The urgency to combat human trafficking in Northern Ghana cannot be overstated. Historical and post-colonial neglect and socioeconomic disparities have left the region vulnerable, making it a hotspot for trafficking activities. The region’s highly porous borders with Togo and Burkina Faso, tribal conflicts and the threat from GSIM-JNIM in the Sahel region mean that ethnic radicalisation and jihadist recruitment are already underway.

Whilst there is much work still to be done to eradicate human trafficking and forced labour within the cocoa and fishing industries, there are at least commercial benefits driving these anti-trafficking efforts. The northern region has no such economic rationale for funding comprehensive anti-trafficking programs. Just as it’s predominantly agrarian population is contending with climate change, the people of the north are also bearing the brunt of the human trafficking and child labour crisis in Ghana.

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