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Children work under slavery conditions in Ghana’s cocoa, mining sectors – UN

Child LabourA United Nations (UN) expert has highlighted worst conditions under which children work in both the cocoa and artisanal mining sectors in Ghana.

The expert described these conditions as “hazardous” and constitutes “slavery”.

According to Ms Gulnara Shahinian, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery,  she have seen that child labour, including in its worst forms continues to thrive in some Ghanaian communities.

“Children, some as young as 4 years of age, continue to be sent to work in fishing communities where they do dangerous work, are deprived of an education and are not paid,” Ms Shahinian noted in a statement issued December 3, 2013 by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights after her nine-day mission visit to Ghana to examine the contemporary slavery in the country.

Ms Shahinian, applauded Ghana for significantly reducing child labour in the cocoa areas saying “…though the latter [cocoa sector] has seen significant improvements.

She also hailed the steps taken by some fishing communities to ban child labour in their villages and urged them to extend their child protection work to neighbouring areas.

On the issue of women engaged in prostitution and as ‘kayayes’, Ms Shahinian said “These women and girls, as well as the children who accompany them are vulnerable to become victims of trafficking, sexual exploitation, forced and bonded labour and other forms of slavery. In addition to poverty, some are fleeing from early and forced marriages.”

She highlighted that domestic servitude, often involving young children is another form of contemporary slavery believed to be rampant.

The independent expert urged the Ghana government to consolidate the important steps it has taken with strong and sustainable implementation strategies with measurable impact on groups at risk as well as victims of slavery.

Ghana in recent times has taken the important step of recognizing the existence of slavery, of adopting legislative frameworks, and putting in place a number of institutional mechanisms and programs, such as in the area of child labor, and human trafficking.

The country has adopted the National Plan of Action (NPA) for the Elimination of the Worst forms of Child Labour, which aims to eradicate such practices by 2015.

It has also ratified a number of international agreements, including key human right and ILO Conventions.

“I commend the authorities for these efforts and for establishing these frameworks,” the Special Rapporteur said.

“I now urge the Government, in partnership with other stakeholders, to ensure that these frameworks become genuine tools for change,” she added.

The expert warned that “budgetary allocations from the national budget to relevant ministries, departments and programs are inadequate, as is data collection, which is necessary to inform actions and understand the magnitude of the problem.”

In her view, greater and urgent efforts are necessary to ensure that social protection programs are rationalized, purposeful, and sustainable.

Ms. Shahinian will present the findings of the visit to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2014.

By Ekow Quandzie

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