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28.10.2008 General News

Annan Receives International Award

Annan Receives International Award

A former victim of child trafficking and child labour, Mr James Kofi Annan, has been presented with the international award he won in September for his efforts at ending child servitude in Ghana.

The Frederick Douglas Award is given to an individual who has survived a form of slavery and is now using his of her life to help others.

 It was presented to Mr Annan on September 15 at the Freedom Awards in Los Angeles, USA, by the South African human rights activist and Nobel laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

A local presentation of the award was held at the National Youth Centre in Accra on Tuesday.

Forced to work in the fishing industry at the age of six, Mr Annan succeeded in escaping and funding himself through school, eventually rising to become a manager at Barclays Bank, Ghana.

 

He has since devoted all his disposable income towards founding and developing a children's charity, Challenging Heights, a non-governmental organisation devoted to fighting the root causes of exploitative child labour and helping children gain access to education and opportunities for development.

Last year, Mr Annan decided to give up his job at Barclays and the lucrative salary it entailed to allow him to focus full-time on working for Challenging Heights.

The Frederick Douglas Award included prize money of $10,000 for the personal use of the recipient, which Mr Annan has said he will also dedicate to the cause.

Mr Emmanuel Otoo, the National Co-ordinator for Free The Slaves, the organisation behind the award, also expressed admiration for Mr Annan's efforts.

He said the key factor was that Mr Annan was not sitting back, after surviving his ordeal, but working to help people suffering in the same way.

Both Mr Otoo and Mr Annan  highlighted the results of a study which indicated that 39 per cent of children in Ghana are economically active, with almost a quarter of a million employed in the worst forms of child labour.

Mr Annan believed those figures did not adequately reflect the problem due to the difficulty involved in accessing some of the areas where the problem was most widespread.

He said the 1998 Children's Act, the 2005 Anti-Human Trafficking Act and government initiatives such as the capitation grant and the school feeding programme were all steps in the right direction but insisted that there was more that needed to be done.

He issued an appeal to all Ghanaians to get involved in the fight against the exploitation of children.

“Directly or indirectly, we have all supported child trafficking and child labour and so we must all do something to stop the act,” he said.

“I believe we should, as a nation, admit the enormity of the situation,” he stated, warning that denying the extent of the problem meant postponing the right to protect vulnerable children.

As a symbolic gesture to emphasise that point, Mr Annan presented his award to his half brother and fellow victim, George Kweku Annan, and formally dedicated his award “to the numerous children who work day and night to feed the good people of this country”.

The Project Co-ordinator for the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Mr Kwame Mensah, praised Mr Annan's work and said the ILO was happy to be part of the campaign against child exploitation.

He warned, however, that it would take more than one person to solve the problem and that a “critical mass” of public awareness was needed before change could be brought about.

Story by Emma Ballantine Dykes

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