Child Protection Accountability Series
The Child Protection Accountability Series is an Initiative of Child Rights International to ensure that government institutions, child protection agencies and organisations work together to ensure that children are able to access and enjoy their rights. Each month, Child Rights International will publish reports on the issues that affect the wellbeing of children in Ghana and propose the way forward in addressing these issues. As part of CRIs mandate to ensure that all children are provided their rights in order to grow to develop their full potential, Child rights International has instituted the Child Protection Accountability Series to ensure that child protection issues are addressed quickly and appropriately. The aim is to guarantee a social safety net for children in Ghana.
Previous Issues Addressed
Observational Report on Streetism
Streetism has gradually become one of the most widespread child protection issue (social protection) in cities across the country such as Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi and Tamale. An observation undertaken by Child Rights International at bus stops within the central parts of the Greater Accra region revealed that on average there are 2 to 7 children at every traffic light either begging for alms, assisting the elderly or disabled to beg for alms or engaged in some form of trading or service during school hours.
The phenomenon where children of school going age are found roaming the streets during school hours continues to increase at a steady rate thereby drawing attention to the increasing number of children who are unable to access their rights to education, safety, quality healthcare among others. It quite alarming to watch these children run around with no caution, at the risk of being knocked down by moving vehicles. A night drive through Accra reveals how these children, after a tough day of seeking to make ends meet, sleep on street pavements, in front of stores or anywhere they deem safe, at the mercy of mosquitoes and sexual predators. These children also stand the risk of being recruited into dangerous vices such as armed robbery and prostitution among others. Sadly, this prevalence in streetism is being normalized by communities and parents thus causing more children to troop onto the streets.
In an interview with some of these kids, they disclosed that, they were engaged in such acts due to the need to feed themselves because of their parents’ inability to fulfill this role, to gather funds for their education or just following their parents’ instruction to beg for money. It was also discovered that, most of these children comprise of migrants from rural areas who move to the city with their parents in search of financial sustainability or greener pastures. These children are either found selling, begging for money or assisting physically challenged persons. Despite basic education being free, some these children miss school or dropout because they have no uniforms or can’t affords books or basic learning materials.
It is important for measures to be put in place to ensure that children are not deprived a happy childhood. If children are to develop their potentials to the fullest, then it is important that they are cared for, have good health, access to basic needs and the right to grow up in a safe and protected environment.
With the high rate of streetism in Ghana, it is important for all concerned ministries such as the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, the ministry of Interior and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ministry of education among others put efforts together to address the menace. We recommend that the appropriate ministries take action to return non –Ghanaian children that beg on the streets back to their countries of origin. This can be done by engaging the embassies to facilitate their safe repartition. Ghana may also decide to recognize them under Ghana’s social safety net in order to access rights as any Ghanaian child within our social protection system. With regards to Ghanaian children, the ministry must embark on a social enquiry to identify the location of these children for the purpose of integration and rehabilitation.
We ask that the government, and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to rise to this call and strengthen the social support systems in order to get these children off the streets and reintegrated into families. We request the Ministry of Education to investigate and resolve the additional costs imposed on children in spite of the Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education as this is a major issue that drives children out of the classrooms and into the streets. It is important to note that the large number of children on the streets will undermine the purpose of the free SHS which is meant to get as many children as possible educated up to the senior high school level.
Child Rights International entreats the public to return to the communal system of child raising where caring for children is a communal responsibility and not just the responsibility of the child’s parents. We trust that by this means, some of the problems that push children onto the streets can be addressed and children can be safeguarded from the social problems that hinder their well-being. Child Rights International is alarmed by the increasing number of children on the streets and calls on all concerned institutions to act with urgency in order to curb the rise in streetism.
Child Labour in Galamsey
Ghana became the first country to have its efforts against the worst forms of child labour peer reviewed by ECOWAS. Since 2009 Ghana has made efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour however, children in Ghana continue to engage in the worst forms of child labour in agriculture, including cocoa, ‘galamsey’ and in fishing.The 2013 Tulane report revealed a total of 1,770,577 children from cocoa growing areas engaged in work. This shows an increase in numbers as compared to that of 2009 which was 1,678,782. In 2011, the National Programme for the Elimination of the worst form of child labour in cocoa developed and validated the Ghana Child Labour Monitoring System, a holistic and dynamic process for eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labour.
With the use of the Ghana Child Labour Monitoring System, CRI has undertaken two surveys in its operating areas to help identify the children at risk of child labour. The survey areas are Asunafo South, Ahafo-Ano North, Ahafo-Ano South, Atwima Mponua, Asutifi North, Asutifi South and Bibiani districts. The study was meant to systematically collect, analyse, and report on child labour/protection issues in the communities as well as within the supply chain. The first survey was done in selected communities under 3 districts and the second in 5 districts (with respect to a specific farmer group). In carrying this out, two tools; tool 1 and tool 2 of the GCLMS were adopted in realising this objective. Tool 1 was used in creating a community register, which included information on names of household heads, and their members, date of birth, age, and occupation of every member of each household. In addition, is information as to whether children are in school or not and the type of work children in these households engage in.The use of this tool was to obtain information on all children in the community and to enable the tracking of activities and movements of children in the community. The community register/tool 1 was to ensure that the application of Tool 2 leads to the classification of children at risk in the selected communities.
In the first three districts which included Asunafo South, Ahafo-Ano North and Atwima Mponua, data was collected from 3,971 households with a total of 10,939 members out of which 5,449 were males and 5490 were females. Out of the total members in the 3,971 households, 5,082 children were identified of which 2,816 are males and 2,266 are females. Out of 1,972 children between the ages of 5 to 17 interviewed, 117 were found in child labour and 112 are involved in hazardous work.
The second survey which was done with respect to the households of a particular farmer group was carried out in Ahafo-Ano North, Ahafo-Ano South, Asutifi North, Asutifi South and Bebiani districts. Out of the selected communities under these districts, 806 farmer group households were interviewed. In all, 4,455 members were found in the 806 households out of which 2181 were male and 2,274 were female. A total of 1,547 children were identified under these households. Out of the 987 children between the ages of 5 to 17 interviewed, 765 are involved child labour and 742 are involved in hazardous work.
These type of work children within the ages of5 to 17 are involved in all the above districts include ‘galamsey’, cocoa farming, domestic servitude, street hawking/begging, cattle herding, fishing and carting of heavy loads/head pottering.
Per ILO Recommendation 190, work that possibly falls under the definition of Hazardous Child Labour is: work which exposes children to physical, psychological, or sexual abuse; work underground, under water, at dangerous heights or in confined spaces; work with dangerous machinery, equipment and tools, or which involves the manual handling or transport of heavy loads; work in an unhealthy environment which may, for example, expose children to hazardous substances, agents or processes, or to temperatures, noise levels, or vibrations damaging to their health; work under particularly difficult conditions such as work for long hours or during the night or work where the child is unreasonably confined to the premises of the employer.
In the past weeks, the government has been working intensively to bring ‘galamsey’ to a halt, which we believe is a good cause and we urge government to fight this cause to the end. However, in doing so we have to give attention to Social and Child Protection issues in the mining areas. The study carried out by Child Rights International showed that children are also involved in ‘galamsey’ which is a threat not only to their lives but to the country as well since we stand the risk of losing great leaders and increase in children's vulnerability to diseases due to the pollution of the environment. In each of the households visited in the mining areas, there is a family member who is engaged in illegal mining, 30 children were identified working constantly in ‘galamsey’, other children provide one services or the other with over 2,092 children at high risk of child labour which include ‘galamsey’ in the 8 districts.
In carrying out measures to halt ‘galamsey’ we believe that government must also look at the social protection implication on the people involved including children and put measures in place to draw the affected into our social safety net.
We propose that government takes the appropriate steps to investigate the condition of children and households in the family in order to support their welfare if so affected. At the end of the investigation family and children identified must be put under maintenance and rehabilitation programmes for effective integration into society. The identification of such children can enable the government to withdraw them and develop remediation plans for the families.
In so doing, informal and formal community structures who play a role in child protection such as the traditional system, Child Protection Committees, School Management Committees, Social Welfare, DOVVSU among many must have their capacity built in ensuring that these children live in a safe environment free of anything that infringes on their rights.
Calling on government to make social protection programmes known in the handling and the stoppage of galamsey activities in the country.
We urge on all Ghanaians to support the government in eradicating this menace and creating an environment worthy of living for all.
Child Protection in Conflict and Violence
In the past few weeks, the country has been grief-stricken following the death of Major Maxwell Adam Mahama. His death has brought pain not just to his family, but the entire country. As an organization that advocates for the wellbeing of children, we deem it necessary to discuss mob injustice and its implications on victims especially children. Our investigation points to four major child protection issues during and after this cruel act.
Exposure of children in the media
The excessive exposure of the children of the late Major Maxwell Adam Mahama is an infringement on their dignity and privacy. This act on social media has sentenced the children to perpetual remembrance of what took place in this country on the 29th and 30th of May 2017. Sharing images of the incident as well as images of the children may give opportunities to some amoral persons to keep the footage and try to share with the children at a later time. Exposing these children in relation to the incident may affect their social interaction and access to their rights in future. In accordance with section 2 (2) of the children's act 1998, all actions must be taken in the best interest of the child and therefore we plead that we desist from sharing of the children's images as it may have some repercussions on their future development.
Children as witnesses
Our investigations reveal that some children in Denkyira Obuasi witnessed the lynching Major Maxwell Adam Mahama at the full glare of the community members who carried out the act. this has exposed the children to a high degree of violence which may become traumatic or unforgettable for some children. Secondly, the manner in which investigations were conducted where women and children were camped while investigations took placecould be imbibe fear in some children. It is important to know that this incident occurred at a time when children were preparing to write the Basic Education Certificate Exams and considering the nature of the incident and how the town was thrown into chaos, most children wrote the basic education certificate exams without soundness of mind. The incident and its aftermath makes it necessary to assess the impact of this incident on the emotional or psychological well being of children andmust be taken through rehabilitation program where necessary.
Children as Perpetrators
Our attention is also drawn to the arrest of a 12-year old boy who allegedly partook in the murder of the late Major Maxwell Adam Mahama. In our criminal justice system, a child is responsible for criminal conduct at age 12. the justice system requires that the trial of persons between 12 and 18 be done within the juvenile justice system irrespective of the severity of the crime committed. Therefore we expect to see the trial of the 12-year old boy in the juvenile justice system however, our investigation cannot locate the whereabouts of this particular child although he has been arrested for more than 4 days. In spite of the painful nature of this incident, justice must be served in accordance with the Juvenile Justice System where the rights of the child is respected, services provided and dignity upheld. If the child is found guilty, we expect systems to work for rehabilitation and reintegration.
Children as victims
As a result of this incident, parents have fled the community leaving their children unattended or in the care of guardians. It is important to note that such situations make children more vulnerable and expose them to all forms of abuse. Abandoned children loose access to their rights to education, healthcare, shelter and even protection. What is required in such circumstances is for the district assembly to provide services to ensure the care and protection of these children.
We take this opportunity to appreciate the state and Mr. president, H.E Akufo -Addo for setting up a fund for the care of the family (mother and the children). We also appreciate him for supporting the fund with GHC 50,000. We also commend former president John Dramani Mahama for committing to support the family.
This incident should be a wake up call for us as citizens to desist from mob injustice and to ensure that the privacy and wellbeing of children is a primary consideration in any situation. A cultured society breeds cultured children to advance positive course that will increase the greater good of society.
RECOGNIZING CHILDREN'S RIGHT TO PRIVACY
Ghana has come a long way in putting legislations, policies and programmes in place to ensure the promotion and protection of children. The 1992 Constitution and the Children’s Act 560 (as amended) seeks to protect the interest of children, family cohesion and social interaction. The Children’s Act (as amended) under the welfare principle states the following;
1. The best interest of the child shall be paramount in any matter concerning a child.
2. The best interest of the child shall be the primary consideration by any court, person, institution or other body in any matter concerned with a child.
The right of children to an identity, privacy and dignity is core in the promotion of children’s rights. In view of that, any conduct or attempt that derails the existence of these fundamental human rights affects the wellbeing of children. Article 16 of the UNCRC states;
1. No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation.
2. The child has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
Children’s Act 560 (as amended), under the welfare principle charges institutions to respect the dignity of children. And one institution that has been established by law and dedicated for educational purposes is the school. In recent times, we have observed a trend where institutions such as schools film children for when they are unable to do as expected in the classroom, for instance children’s inability to read or to recite the national anthem/ pledge. Even outside schools, videos have been seen on social media encouraging children to use profane words or worse still engage in sexual activity.
Although for adults, these videos may be funny it can have a lot of negative effects on the child. This filming, for the purposes of mocking children not only affects their confidence but affects their privacy and identity. It also affects their developmental stages which is classified as formative and recognition.
Filming children and mocking them could subject the child to teasing and bullying in the course of their education, it could make the child withdraw and refuse to share his/ her ideas or opinions and even worse, it could lead to loss of self confidence in the child. Ridiculing children’s vulnerability is an affront on their right to privacy.
Beyond the undermining of the rights of children, it is also a criminal act.
We therefore ask the National Communication Authority to limit the extent to which the public has access to such information which mocks children. Better still, software can be designed to track the source and distribution of such videos in order to limit its circulation.
The Ghana Police Service must conduct investigations when such videos are seen in order to bring perpetrators to book on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs and WhatsApp groups.
Teachers, guardians and parents must be mindful of the type of information they share about children. When information is being put out, it must be taken into account who can access the information and the effect that access will have on the child. Parents must also take interest in the kind of information their children access on social media in order to safeguard them from negative influences.
The general public must also desist from filming children with the intention of mocking them and putting it on social media.
In our commitment to promote and protect the inherent dignity of every child, we will not hesitate to sue any individual or organisation that initiates or distributes any images of children intentionally or intentionally in order to mock them.
Children’s wellbeing is in everyone’s best interest so let us all work to make children’s lives better.