On Tuesday, January 30, 2018, ABANTU for Development with support from Urgent Action Fund-Africa, organised a training to interact with key stakeholders on strategies to be used to strengthen advocacy against trafficking of women and young girls in Ghana. The workshop took place at TOMREIK Hotel, Lagos Avenue, East Legon at 9am. A total number of forty-eight (48) participants were present for the training.
The program began with the introduction of participants and chairperson (Mr. Kingsley Offei Nkansah, General Agriculture Workers Union of Ghana (GAWU) and A Board Member of ABANTU). The introductions were facilitated by Mrs. Hamida Harrison.
This was followed with a welcome address by Dr. Rose Mensah-Kutin, the Executive Director of ABANTU. She mentioned that, the key area of ABANTU and the Urgent Action Fund is influencing policies and finding out to what extent the specific needs of women and girls are considered. Dr. Mensah-Kutin remarked that nothing done in the society is gender neutral hence whenever policies are implemented the impact on girls, boys, women and men are different. As a country Ghana has been blacklisted as the “Tier 2 Watch List” according to the 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report. If our activism on trafficking is not intensified to eradicate it, then Ghana could miss the funding coming in to support the millennium challenges resources to solve our energy problem. This is a very critical issue and what was needed was a consented action to move Ghana away from the Tier 2 list. ABANTU as an organization interested in women and children rights saw the need to support the MOGCSP to highlight the key issues and therefore appealed to Urgent Action Fund Africa to help support the program financially so that the level of policy action Ghana would be seen to have done something that minimizes our blacklisting Human Trafficking. This meeting was held with Stakeholders on issues of trafficking and the Ministry to deliberate on the issue, an act decisively and link up with the Ministry to help minimize the trafficking of women and girls.
- Chairperson’s Remarks
Mr. Kingsley Offei Nkansah, General Agriculture Workers Union of Ghana (GAWU) and a Board Member of ABANTU was the chairman for the occasion. He stated the fact that human trafficking is a very crucial issue that needs to be curbed if can’t be eliminated from the system. It is therefore necessary to engage with stakeholders to deliberate on how to strengthen advocacy to stop trafficking of women and young girls in Ghana. He also stated that it was necessary to operationalize the legislation of different kinds that the Stakeholders work very consciously as a people so that the things that we deliberate are not far from what happens in reality. On an issue as big as human trafficking there is the need for collective efforts to help support each other and work together to make progress.
3.0 Goodwill Message
The goodwill message was delivered by Mrs. Evelyn Ampomah-Nkansah Mainoo, the Headmistress of St. Maurice R/C JHS, La and a member of the Women’s Manifesto Coalition on behalf of the coalition. The Women’s Manifesto Coalition of Ghana brings a message of solidarity and appreciation to ABANTU for Development for focusing its attention to a very troubling phenomenon that affects the vulnerable, especially women and young people. Trafficking in persons is a crime that takes away ones freedom, dignity and self-esteem, placing you in a situation of forced labor, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the benefit of others.
They further mentioned that ABANTU as an organization have worked tirelessly with commitment to draw attention to, and deepen understanding of the gendered causes of poverty, inequalities and injustices. Working in Ghana for the past 20 years, the name of ABANTU has grown to be associated with helping to build citizens authority to demand for accountability, transparency, protection of the rights of the marginalized especially women ,with the goal of eradicating social injustices. The National Convention has condemned Human Trafficking as a violation of human right because of the restrictions placed on the victim’s right of movement through coercion and commercial exploitation for the monetary benefit of others.
According to the International Labor Organization, as at 2014, forced labor which is part of human trafficking generates an estimated value of $150bn in profit per annum. In Ghana, it is estimated that more than 200,000 people are currently victims of human trafficking. Bearing all this in mind, coupled with recent stories of the maltreatment of young Ghanaian men in the Middle East, this program couldn’t have come at a better time. The pioneering initiatives ABANTU has undertaken in collaboration with various social organizations, duty bearers and with a broad spectrum of other actors in delivering the organisations mandate has helped in no small way to maintain the issue of women’s right on the ladder of national consciousness.
The Women’s Manifesto Coalition commends ABANTU for identifying this theme and joining forces with others on efforts to strengthen the location of women in the socio-economic processes for an equitable society.
4.0 Keynote Address
The keynote message was delivered by Miss Victoria Atsu (Acting Executive Secretary of MOGCSP) who acted on behalf of the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Hon. Otiko Afisa Djaba.
From her message, according to the UN estimates, at any given time, 2.5 million people are trapped in modern-day slavery. Men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers both in and out of their country. Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims. With human trafficking being the second most profitable investment globally worth over 30 billion dollars, perpetrators are doing all in their power to maintain their grip on the trade. Due to the socio cultural practices in our nation, we have lived with the phenomenon of human trafficking especially child trafficking and it is time to shift from those old ways of doing things and say a “NO” to human/child trafficking.
Ghana’s 1992 constitution and the various laws like the Children’s Act and the Human Trafficking Act guarantees the rights of every Ghanaian and we must therefore do all we can to combat human trafficking through intensive and collective effort on all fronts (the family, communities, the media , schools, churches, mosque, police service, immigration and custom officers, government and non-governmental organisations).
4.1 Ghana’s Measures to Curb Human Trafficking
Governments over the years have been working hard to curb this menace. Working in the area of human trafficking, Ghana is working under National and International Laws, Regulations, Protocols, Conventions, Agreements and Frameworks. Based on these, has enacted a number of legislations to ensure that victims of trafficking are protected while perpetrators are punished for the offence of human trafficking and other related criminal conduct. Some of these legislations include the following;
- The Constitution of Ghana, 1992
- Human Trafficking Act, 2005 Act 694
- Criminal Code of Ghana, Act 29
- The Criminal Procedure, Act 30/60
- The Labor Act, 2003
- The Children Act, 1995 (Act 560)
- The Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2008 (Act 749)
- The immigration Act- Migrant Smuggling Act, Act 848, 2012
- Juvenile Justice Act
- Recently passed Human Trafficking LI 2219
- The establishment of Human Trafficking Secretariat and Anti Human Smuggling and Trafficking Unit of the Ghana Immigration Service
- The coordinating role of the MOGCSP (Human Trafficking Secretariat) is to strategize with key stakeholders to plan and implement the Human Trafficking Act. This is because no one institution can fight human trafficking.
- The Ministry of Interior established the Anti-Trafficking Unit of the Ghana Police Service and the Ghana Immigration Service to combat human trafficking.
- The Labor Department under the Ministry of Employment and Labor Relations work to eliminate child labor and all its worst forms.
- The finalization of the Human Trafficking National Plan of Action (HT NPA) has standardized the implementation of combating human trafficking by various implementing partners. The HT NPA has a very elaborate set of activities under the 4 P’s (Prevention, Protection, Prosecution and Partnership) to tackle human/child trafficking.
Although Ghana is making all efforts and showing all the commitment to fight human trafficking, it has been a difficult task due to the negative attitudes of our people. She mentioned that, stakeholders present at their national dissemination meeting last year exhibited commitment to the strategic implementation of the Human Trafficking National Plan of Action and they are already seeing good results of enforcement and prays it continues. She further congratulated the Ghana Police Service, Ghana Immigration Service and the press for their efforts in the last year’s rescue operations carried out and the number of lives saved from bondage.
The Police Service, Ghana Immigration Service and the MOGCSP with logistics and technical support from International Justice Mission successfully undertook five rescue operations on the Volta Lake and Elmina and rescued a total of 225 children who are going through the totality of rehabilitation. Six children were prevented from being trafficked when the perpetrators was apprehended on a bus in Nkwanta North in the Volta Region. From these rescues, forty perpetrators have been arrested and going through investigations for prosecution and six individuals have been convicted.
In the Central region, the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit of the Police Service also recorded 15 child trafficking cases as at June last year. Ghana Immigration Service intercepted 215 young women who were using unapproved routes to travel to the Gulf States when the Minister of Employment and Labor Relations placed a temporary ban on the migration of domestic workers to the Gulf States through Kotoka International Airport.
4.1.1 Factors Fueling Human Trafficking
While poverty and economic difficulties are largely to blame, the attitudes and behavior of parents, families and community cannot be ignored. Low levels of education, lack of job opportunities, lack or little access to available capital for small scale investments, gender related abuses, adventure, ignorance, the phenomenon of get rich quick, the misconception of people so eager to travel before they can make it in life are all factors fueling human trafficking and irregular migration.
Unlicensed recruitment agencies unfortunately have joined the trail and making dirty money out of the sweat of vulnerable and innocent young women and sometimes men.
4.1.2 Effects of Human Trafficking
The consequences of human trafficking on both families of victims and their communities are many. It can be responsible for the victim’s disappearance or death, or can permanently damage his or her mental and physical health. It can also encourage drug dependency, break families apart and deprive victims of their right to freedom from exploitation. In situations where victims are trapped in sexual exploitation, they may suffer violence at the hands of clients, which includes physical and emotional damage of premature sexual activity and exposure to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancies.
4.3 Challenges Faced by the Human Trafficking Secretariat in Combating Human Trafficking
- Inadequate staff to execute HT activities (2 staff instead of 26)
- Lack of operational shelters nationwide to give proper care and trauma informed service to rescued victims and also to assist as witnesses during prosecution.
- Inadequate resources and funding to undertake the necessary rehabilitation and protection issues for victims
- Family tracing and reintegration is not carried out according to best practices due to inadequate logistics and funding( giving victims skills, education and startup capital)
- Inadequate resources to plan and execute rescue operations
- Ignorance and lack of attitudinal change on the part of parents, guardians and sometimes opinion leaders
- The presence of Unlicensed Recruitment Agencies who work in the dark
- Our socio cultural environment does not encourage prosecutions
- Though sensitization is ongoing, some guardians still think it is not an offence to traffic children and to put them in exploitative labor
- Delays in court due to adjournments
- Victims of trafficking most times not willing to testify against their parents and relations
4.2 The Years Outlook for the Ministry
- The ministry is renovating the Children and Adult Shelters in Accra
- Develop and print posters, flyers, pull ups, etc for sensitization at vantage points in sending and receiving communities.
- Develop and mount Billboards on trafficking at vantage points in Accra.
- Liaise with MMDAs to establish task force and Human Trafficking desks to report human/child trafficking cases to the police and others.
- Organize training for transport unions and drivers to help identify victims of trafficking and report.
- Organize training for Board Security Officers at Aflao to better intercept irregular migrants and traffickers.
She concluded by saying that, the ministry is embarking on aggressive awareness raising campaigns and advocacy programmes within the trafficking prone communities to prevent trafficking of persons especially children. The grass is not green at the other side as we were made to believe some time past, and therefore we must all be guided by what is happening to our young women and men in the Gulf States and Libya and be vigilant to ensure that we do not fall prey to the fraud and deception of traffickers.
5.0 Testimonies from Two Victims of Human Trafficking
There were testimonies made by two young women who were trafficked to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Below are some insights gained after their testimonies;
- The contributing factor that influenced them to avail themselves to be trafficked was poverty. The victims were coerced into believing that the grass was greener out there than in Ghana.
- Upon their arrival, their passports and documents were confiscated by the agency and after sometime they were sold to another agency to be exploited as domestic workers. The confiscation of their documents restricted their movements, depriving them of their freedom of movement.
- They were engaged in forced labor and worked almost every time while they had little or no rest.
- They faced challenges when they wanted to come back to Ghana.
6.0 Presentation (Trafficking in Persons as a Violation of Human Rights in Ghana)
The program continued with a presentation by Mr. Adolf Awuku Bekoe, Convenor-Domestic Violence Coalition and a psychologist on the fact that trafficking of persons is a violation of human right. The focus of his presentation was on how Ghana as a country is responding to human trafficking. When it comes to the response by counties on human trafficking, there are three categories, namely, Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3. Countries which are responding so well to human trafficking are categorized into the “Tier 1 Watch list”, while the “Tier 2 Watch list” is for countries who are responding weakly to human trafficking. Countries on the “Tier 3 watch list” have done nothing with respect to Human Trafficking. Ghana is on the “Tier 2 Watch list” with countries like Algeria, Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, Cameroon, Gabon, and The Gambia among others. As a shining star for African countries when it comes to democratic credentials, Ghana is not doing much and shouldn’t be proud being grouped with some of these countries where there has been political instability. Therefore it is necessary to enrich our advocacy so as to bring change into the system.
As a country, Ghana is a member of the International Convention and has acceded to the some conventions and it is the country’s responsibility to make sure they are domesticated and we abide by them. Below are some of the protocols acceded to;
- Organized Crime Convention
- Trafficking In Persons Protocol
- Migrants Protocol
Ghana has made so many reforms in our security agency in response to our obligations in these protocols. People mostly don’t consciously step into human trafficking but also there are deceptive ways that lure people into it. Some people just want to be smuggled out of the country but an opportunity presents itself in the hands of the smugglers and they end up exploiting the victims since they have hold of their passports. Demographic change is among the reasons people want to travel. There are certain jobs that citizens in developing countries will not do and so there are opportunities in the developed countries. In developed countries there are more aged than the youth as compared to developing countries where it is vice versa. For this reason an industry like the care industry is very expensive in developed countries and so citizens from developing countries once they find themselves there are made to do such jobs at a reasonably low wages. Our travel systems are becoming tighter and the more it becomes tighter more citizens will find terrible and horrifying ways of travelling out of the country even across the desert. Capital investment into human trafficking is very low but it is very profitable. The desire to travel becomes so strong that even if they hear horrifying stories, they will counter them with other good stories. The two approaches to dealing with persons being trafficked are;
- Criminalized Approach
- Human Right Perspective (According the victim some level of dignity irrespective of the means used to get there)
The three elements of trafficking (act, means through force or coercion and exploitation) fit some of our practices in our country. For instance, forced marriage meets the criteria of human trafficking. In some communities, when a member of a family commits a crime, a young female of the offended family is made to serve the priest in servitude to repay the offence (Trokosi System). This is a practice that is still in existence and should be carefully considered when dealing with human trafficking because it violates the right of the victim.
Our passion about this issue can be seen where we have cases that other management boards of institutions have been set up but the management board of the human trafficking secretariat has not been set up. This really shows where our priorities are as a country. It is clear that on paper the country is responding but in reality we are not doing much. Reported cases of human trafficking are few as compared to the actual cases that happens and as a team what can we do to increase the number of reported cases so that victims will get the health and rehabilitation they need. Through advocacy and sensitization victims would be confidence enough to report cases, however, measures should be put in place to protect them and resource the institutions so the victims don’t get disappointed when they do the reporting.
The MOGCSP urged ABANTU to study the Human Trafficking National Plan of Action while looking at some of the challenges of the ministry. The ministry has been given the permit by Ghana Education Service to create awareness and sensitization in various schools. The training came to a successful end at approximately 2:30pm with a reminder that Ghana is a free State and the 1992 Constitution of Ghana guarantees the right of free movement, therefore, everyone is free to travel by using the proper channels and right documentations to travel. The Department of Labor, Ghana Immigration Service and the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Ghana Police Service are all institutions that can guide our travel plans when we are older and want to travel out of the country to work.