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14.10.2003 General News

Restructure government services impacting on children-- doctor

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Accra, Oct 14, GNA - Dr Angela Ofori Atta, Deputy Minister of Manpower Development and Employment on Tuesday said there was the need to restructure departments of Labour, Social Welfare, Community Development, Mobilisation and all government services that impacted on the lives of children.

As government takes on the national institutional renewal programme, there will be the need to establish a special desk, which would address child labour and open phone lines so that people could call in to help free children in servitude.

Dr Ofori Atta said this at the opening of a two-day workshop in Accra between Ghana and Togo on the worst forms of child labour under the theme: " Sustaining the fight against child labour in the West African Sub-region, Collaboratiive Effort." The workshop is being organised by the Ghana NGO Coalition on the Rights of the child and WAO-AFRIQUE, a child rights organisation in Togo.

Forty-three participants are expected to attend the workshop to assess work done in the two countries after a similar workshop in April 2000, at both civil society and government levels. It is also to strategise and plan, based on the assessment of previous workshops on the on-going fight against child abuse in the sub-region.

Dr Ofori Atta said laws that protected children and punished offenders would have to be enforced after all the public education. She said between 1980 and 1999 there was a decimation of law enforcement and civil services in Ghana, which caused a decline in number of professional and well-equipped people in the relevant service areas.

Due to lack of proper integration of existing services at the community level and the lack of funding for services, few workers could actually work and that had halted social services.

Dr. Ofori Atta added that there was also the need to do radical things such as pioneering more modern and productive methods of doing work which eliminated the need to use child labour.

" If new fishing methods were available on lake, easily adapted for fisher folk, having children to work for them would be too expensive and the practice would stop,@ she noted."

The Deputy Minister said "society must acknowledge the hidden and silent forms of domestic servitude, young mine workers, sex workers along the routes between our countries and the burgeoning of paedophilic tourism."

She said four pilot projects, the trokosi project, child domestic worker, prevention of kayaye and child labour in the tourism sector had been undertaken to combat child labour yet more is needed to be done, particularly in the area of child trafficking.

She said more shelters both within and outside the country were needed if the fight was to continue.

Ms. Susan Sabaa, National Co-ordinator, Ghana Coalition on Child Rights said the ECOWAS sub-regional initiatives for children included how to establish partnership among African countries to confront such problems.

She said Ghana and Togo had taken the lead and expressed the hope that efforts would grow to affect the entire sub-region. Dr. William Ahadzie of the Centre for Social Policy Studies at the University of Ghana presented a report on the child labour situation in Ghana.

He said out of 2,314 street children surveyed, 52.4 were females and about 70 per cent could not read nor write.

He said, due to lack of enough resources, law prohibiting child labour was not being rigidly enforced, adding that cultural and social practices were still used to subject children to economic activities. Mr. Klouvi Ayi, Chief Officer of Child Labour in Togo, said the problem of child labour in Togo was a growing phenomenon and not new, saying it was difficult for courts to prosecute offenders.

He said most of the children came from the rural areas and were involved in welding, fishing, carrying water, fufu pounding and the government of Togo was still taking measures to fight the social canker.

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