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31.05.2007 General News

Don’t Sell Us - Trafficked Children Plead

Thirteen children from Ekumpoano in the Central Region, who were sold into servitude, have appealed to parents not to give their children away for the sake of money.

The children, who were among a batch of 25 others who were rescued from Kete Krachi in the Volta Region, where they were engaged in fishing, could not hide their joy when they were reunited with their families.

Narrating their harrowing experiences to the Junior Graphic, they said they were maltreated by their masters.

For instance, they said they set off as early as 1:00am to fish in the Volta Lake and returned at 1:00pm before they had their first meal of the day which was always fish and pepper.

The children, most of whom looked stunted but could not remember the ages at which they were taken away from their families, said they were beaten anytime they complained of tiredness.

The children were returned to their parents two weeks ago and have been enrolled in school.

When the Junior Graphic team interviewed the children at Ekumpoano, it learnt that while at Kete Krachi, the boys had the responsibility of diving into the lake to remove the ropes anytime they got entangled in rocks or trees.

The only girl among them said her job was to carry the fish from the shore, smoke and send it to the market to sell.

Ten-year-old Kingsford, one of the children rescued from Kete Krachi said he was five years old when he was taken away.

He said whenever he was unable to disentangle the nets or felt he was suffocating and came out for air, he was hit with a paddle to go back deep down the Volta Lake and finish the job. One of those sad episodes left a visible scar on his forehead which he showed to this reporter.

He also said that anytime he fell sick, he was given some medicine and forced to go back to work even though he would not have fully recovered. He said he used to miss his mother a lot while there.

Ebenezer, 13, another victim, said during his stay there, he used to panic anytime he heard that some of the children they were working with had drowned.

"When that happens I tell my guardians I want to go back home but they would beat me for saying that. I did not even attempt to run away because I was afraid," he confessed.

He said they were not well fed and anytime he complained he was beaten up.

Kwame, 12 years, who is now in KG Two, said he was in nursery school when he was sent to Kete Krachi.

"Now one of my colleagues whom I started school with is in Class Four and it pains me that my education has delayed," he said.

According to him, he does not remember the age he was taken away but remembers that some strangers came to see his parents and when they were leaving they took him along.

He said in order to survive the starvation they went through, sometimes they stole some of the fish when their leaders were not around, sold them and used the money to buy food.

The Junior Graphic also learnt from the parents who gave away their children that since their return, the children had refused to tell them about their ordeal while in servitude.

The paper also gathered that most of them gave their children away because either their husbands or relatives were dead and, therefore, needed money to organise funerals. They gave the children away for amounts which ranged from ¢400,000 to ¢700,000.

Akua Atuban, one of the parents, gave her two children away with the agreement that the funeral of her late husband would be organised for her.

She said the agreement was for six years and confessed that she visited the children only once while they were away but said she did not like the situation she saw them in but could not bring them back because of the agreement.

She said she was happy the children were now back home.

Efua Benyiwa's child was also taken away for an agreed period of three years in exchange for ¢400,000 to enable her to send her sick husband to hospital. She never visited the child but according to her, she was constantly worried.

Meanwhile the Ekumpoano Unit Committee has become alert to the problem and has sought to arrest any mother or family member who indulges in child trafficking.

It has accordingly set up a committee to look out for any stranger who is seen with a child in the community.

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