Interview with the Centre For Initiative Against Human Trafficking.
Based in Tamale, Northern Ghana, CIAHT educates children and communities about human trafficking, human rights and early and forced marriage. CIAHT also runs livelihood programmes to enable survivors of human trafficking and early and forced marriage to generate an income.
CSC caught up with Abdulai Danaah, Executive Director of CIAHT, to find out more about their work.
What is the situation like for street children in Tamale?
Street children are now often part of the urban scene in African countries. Within Ghana, the Department of Social Welfare estimated in 2016 that there are around 90,000 street children in the cities of Tamale, Sunyuni, and Cape Coast, and regions of Greater Accra and Tamale.
In these areas, children can be seen begging on the streets and cleaning vehicle windscreens for money. They may sell sweets, car dusters, sachet and bottled water, and airtime at traffic signals. Some turn to pickpocketing. Girls from the northern parts of Ghana often become ‘kayayes’, carrying the loads of shoppers who buy too much to carry themselves.
Long working hours, a lack of food and shelter, sexual abuse, early pregnancy and drug abuse are common problems facing street-connected children in Ghana.
Why do the children you work with end up on the streets?
The issue of streetism in Ghana can be narrowed down to poverty. Most of these children come from homes that have financial difficulties. Parents have irregular sources of income but have to support large families. With the large number of children depending on just the parents for survival, the older ones are mostly left unattended to while all the attention is given to the younger ones. This gives the older children the incentive to move out of their homes and fend for themselves.
Children being forced out from schools is also a factor. Financial constraints, such as costly learning materials like textbooks, as well as lack of discipline within schools, poor performance from students, and peer group pressures can all lead to children dropping out. For girls, they may be told that their husbands-to-be are going to cater for their education, which rarely happens, and girls who feel they need to make more of their lives than just getting married may decide to flee from home to seek refuge elsewhere. Unfortunately, they have no other place to go than the streets.
In the past, having a lot of children was common and beneficial to the family because the children served as helping hands on family farms, and it was easier to feed many children as food came from the farm. Nowadays, however, with times and priorities changing, having a lot of children is felt as more of a burden on parents and children brought up without much care and attention may end up finding solace in being on the streets and away from home.
Has the way street children are treated in Ghana changed since CIAHT was founded?
Yes, there has been a little change since we first starting operating in 2004. The government has recognised the importance of street social workers and working with street children.
But there is still a lot that needs to be done to improve how street children are viewed in Ghana. Many people continue to see them negatively, and they have no education, shelter, medical care, or food and clothing provision.
What does CIAHT do to support street children?
We carry out various activities. There are 40 junior high schools and 20 primary schools that we have targeted to reduce the drop-out rate. We have also enrolled 92 children in primary and junior high schools and continue to monitor their progress.
Since 2010 we have trained 240 street children in vocational and technical skills including weaving, tailoring and sewing. We are currently training 85 more children in these skills, with the hope that they will be able to open their own centres and provide for themselves in future.
How has Covid-19 impacted the work you do?
There is no shelter, no food, no clothing, no water, and no work for them during the lockdown in Ghana, and many street-connected children were subject to mistreatment by law enforcement agencies. It has been a very difficult time for street children in Ghana.