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
Launch of SAY IT Campaign
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 well-being is in everyone’s best interest so let us all work to make children’s lives better.
AFFECTED BECE CANDIDATES NOW IN SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL
In June this year, we heard the news of 201 children in the Bunkprugu/Yunyoo District who were unable to write the first two papers of the Basic Education Certificate Exams (BECE) because there was a miscommunication on which centre they were to write the exam.
As an organisation whose interest is to ensure that the rights of all children are upheld, this news got us very worried because we realised that the children’s inability to write their English and RME papers was no fault of theirs. Initial information from WAEC indicated that these children would only get the chance to write the exam in February 2018 which left the possibility that they may not enter Senior High School this year.
The situation got even more worrying when the guardian (brother) of one of these affected children called our office to complain. As a result we were resolute in our decision to take WAEC and Ghana Education Service to court so they could let the children rewrite those two papers ahead of September 2017 or give them placement to SHS. We got in touch with other parents of the children in the respective communities and we got their consent to represent them in court.
So we met with WAEC and GES in court a few times and we were assured that the children would be given placement to senior high school although they would not be given the opportunity to rewrite until February 2018. Indeed when it was time for placements, we checked on these affected students and those who had passed had been given placement to senior secondary schools. Today we are glad to announce that out of the 201 children who were affected 188 have been given schools and are currently enrolled in school. These include about 112 boys and 76 girls. . Some 13 others were not given placement because they failed mathematics or integrated science. Out of those who were given placement, we have about 24 in Walewale Senior High School, Bunkprugu Senior High School we have about 40, in Nalarigu SHS we have about 30 and in Nankpanduri we have about 23 children. Some of the other children were placed in schools such as the Northern School of Business, Tamale SHS, St Charles SHS, Yendi SHS, Damongo SHS, Gambaga Girls among others.
We are grateful to the following for assisting in resolving the case:
· The Chief Justice for issuing a warrant for the case to be heard during the legal vacation.
· The office of the Attorney General for their immense contribution
· The Ghana Education Service, Director General and his Deputy and the Northern Regional Director of Education.
· Our lawyers and the media for being instrumental in resolving this issue
JUSTICE FOR CHILDREN IN ASSIN ADADIENTEM CASE
Last week, we all heard the story of a 4-year old girl who had been defiled in the Assin South District of the Central Region, precisely in Adadientem. There was a lot of outrage especially on social media because according to reports by the press, the chief had declared the said culprit not guilty because that is what the gods had said. As an organisation concerned with the safety and wellbeing of all children, we took a step further to visit the community and find out exactly what the situation is as well as the wellbeing of the little girl who was reportedly defiled.
We visited the community with a police officer from the Assin South District, a social welfare officer and the assemblyman at Assin Adadientem where the incident occurred. When we arrived, we spoke with the child, her parents and other community members who had information on the incident.
Based on the investigations we have conducted, we deemed it necessary to meet with the press today to shed some more light on the incident and to share the way forward in ensuring that justice is served for all children involved in this case.
The Victim And The Alleged Culprit
Our investigations show as follows; the victim is indeed a 4-year old girl, the last of 10 children (Some issues kept confidential). When we spoke with the victim’s mother, she explained that she went for a funeral in a nearby community for one week and left the 4-year old victim and her 7 year-old sister in the care of their father. Their father in turn also left the two children in the care of another neighbour so that he could go to the farm. When the mother of the victim finally returned from the funeral, she decided to give the victim a bath and that was how she discovered that there was a black clot of blood in the child’s private area. When the mother probed, the victim named the current suspect who is also a child; a 15 year-old boy (turns 16 on 21st November), currently in JHS 2, whose father, the chief of the village, was recently deceased. Eventually, the victim was taken to the hospital where she was examined and given some treatment and a medical report issued on her status (Details kept confidential).
There have been some urgent calls for justice for the victim based on a pronouncement allegedly made by the chief that the gods have exonerated the boy however, our investigations point to the fact that it wasn’t the chief but a youth leader popularly referred to as ‘Mmrantie Hene’ in the community. Our position is that justice must be done for the victim and the family. All administrative bodies must ensure maximum protection for the victim. The alleged perpetrator must also be allowed to go through the juvenile justice system without violation of his rights as a juvenile. Both the victim and the culprit are children in the eyes of the law and deserve justice right from the entry point (police) through the social welfare, the hospital and any other body that may come into contact with the case. All must exercise due process in order for the court to determine the case fairly.
Post Event Activities
After this incident has been fully resolved, we recommend that the child is withdrawn from the community and taken through some rehabilitation procedures so as to mitigate the impact of this incident on the child and her family. As a nation, we should adopt a preventive approach through legislation and policies rather than the piece-meal approach in addressing child protection issues. We have events such as these where children were withdrawn, but post event activities were not thorough and this had negative effects on the children.
Defilement Cases in the Central Region
From 1st January 2014 to 31st October 2017, 1,831 defilement cases have been reported in the Central Region in indication that a lot of education and sensitization is needed in the region. One particular case that has been brought to our attention involves a 9-year old girl who was defiled in Komenda. The victim sustained severe injuries to the extent that even after operation, her womb is still gushing out, yet, the culprit has currently been given bail and walks freely on the streets of Komenda while the victim suffers on a hospital bed. This is a case we will follow up on and ensure the justice is done for the victim.
LAUNCH OF SAY IT CAMPAIGN
Child Sexual Abuse has been on the rise. Over the past 6 months, stories on sexual abuse of children have been reported severally in the media with increasing stories of student-teacher relationships and children-relative sexual relationships.
It is alarming to know that most perpetrators of sexual abuse are not strangers but rather people who are often known to the children and live in their immediate environment. Within the space of 4 years 5752 cases relating to sexual abuse against children have been reported, while several others are never brought to the attention of authorities.
A child who is sexually abused may lack confidence, may be withdrawn, harbour a sense of worthlessness and may even become a victim of abuse in future. There have been situations where child sexual abuses have had repercussions on the children even in adulthood and it is alarming to know that boys are just as equally abused as girls. This is not our desire for children and so we deem it relevant to encourage children to ‘SAY IT’. Most children who experience sexual abuse are unable to narrate or share their experience with people in their environments due to the fear of being victimised and so we hereby use this occasion to congratulate the boldness exhibited by the students of Ejisuman Senior High School for boldly sharing their experience in order to save several other students. For this purpose, CRI is introducing the ‘SAY IT’ Campaign to encourage children who have been through or are still going through sexual harassment with family members, teachers or even strangers to report in order to receive assistance.
THE HELPLINE IS 0560 124 001
The purpose of this helpline is to reach out to such children and assist them with medical help and counselling and to ensure that they get the needed attention. This helpline will be active 24/7 to assist children and get them into contact with appropriate institutions that can get them out of the situation. It is time for parents and teachers to change from not discussing sex to educating children on sexual abuse, how to recognize advances as well as how to avoid it if possible.
We call on the media to report ethically on sexual abuse and molestation cases in order not to scare children into silence due to the fear of victimisation or of being identified. The privacy of children must not be abused further in reporting on these atrocities against them. Also, the social safety net for children with regards to punishing persons who perpetrate actions against them must be strengthened to serve as a deterrent to others.
TWO CHILDREN VS ASA SAVINGS AND LOANS
In May 2018, we received a complaint from an aggrieved father concerning his children. He called our office to demand justice for his two children who he believed had been poorly treated by staff of ASA Savings and Loans, Elmina Branch.
According to him, his wife owed the savings and loans company an amount of GHC 700 from a loan she had earlier on received and had been making payment in instalments. He explained that per the terms of engagement with the savings and loans company, his wife was expected to make weekly payments of GHC 190.00, however in the said week, his wife had defaulted payment by GHC 50.00. As a result, staff of ASA Savings and Loans in Elmina visited his home and in the absence of his wife took his two children, aged 7 and 5 years, threatening to report them to the police if they did not disclose the whereabouts of their mother.
The staff further withdrew the two children from the house and walked them along the streets threatening to send them to the police station. The terrified children begun to cry and the younger child defecated on herself, yet the staff of ASA savings and loans kept pulling the children along until a Good Samaritan paid off the balance of GHC 50.00. The children were then released to walk home all by themselves.
The incident was reported to our office by the father of the two children. As an organisation committed to the promotion and protection of the inherent dignity of every child, we engaged the services of two lawyers on behalf of the victims and filed the case with the Cape Coast High Court. This was done to ensure that the interest of children were pursued within the justice system. The reasons for our engagement is for the benefit that will accrue to the children.
Upon the request of the financial institution for out of court settlement, both parties went into negotiation to settle the matter. It is for the outcome of the negotiation that we invited you for today’s conference. At the end, both parties agreed on an out-of-court settlement with the consent of the victims who were represented by their father.
As a result of the negotiation, both the lawyers of the plaintiff and the defendant settled on GHC 50,000 as a compensation for the family, especially the children.
In ensuring that the interests of the children are fully taken into consideration by the family, Child Rights International signed an agreement with the father to invest 40% of the amount into an investment package for the children to access when they turn 18. The rest of the money is for the parents to invest in business to support the upkeep of the children.
CRI appreciates our lawyers at Puozuing Associates for their passionate pursuit in bringing this case to an amicable conclusion. We are grateful to the management of ASA Savings and Loans for taking swift steps to sack the staff that were involved and providing the compensation for the family. We are also grateful to you the media for your continuous follow up on this matter.
It is worthy of note that under no circumstance should the dignity of children be trampled upon to pursue any other interest. Children’s rights are necessary to ensure they receive the necessary care and attention in order to develop to their fullest potential. We are sending a signal to the public that anybody who will engage children for their selfish interest, upon notice to Child Rights International will act, defend and uphold the best interest of children.