Many children continue to be trapped in fishing slavery on the Volta Lake. In this huge expanse of water, storms can easily capsize small vessels and kill all those aboard. Children are forced to dive into perilous waters to retrieve tangled nets. Many never resurface, many never return home.
But one of such children who endured this trauma has survived to share his story.
19-year-old Dickson Nartey was sharing his story of child trafficking at the 2nd National Symposium on Child Trafficking held at the GNAT Hall in Accra.
The oldest of ten siblings under the care of a physically-challenged, unemployed single mother, Dickson, then thirteen years dropped out of school where he ended up being trafficked by his mother to a fishing community along the Volta Lake to engage in fishing.
“My desperate mother arranged my own enslavement to a trafficker who gave her an upfront payment and promised more,” narrated Dickson. “The trafficker swore to provide money on a monthly basis to help my mother support her family – my brothers and sisters.”
He recalled how he soon realized that he had lost all aspirations when his master forced him to work day and night on dangerous and deadly fishing boats as threats of violence subdued him from walking away.
“I was forced on several occasions during fishing expeditions to dive into dangerous waters to retrieve tangled nets. I was physically abused, denied access to healthcare and was fed only once a day,” he recalled bitterly.
Though the survivor didn’t recount any personal close shade with death whilst in slavery, he recalled a harrowing incident involving another child who never resurfaced after being asked to dive into the water to disentangle nets, an incident that left him traumatized.
Dickson Nartey’s breakthrough finally came when community education efforts by FTS’ implementing partner, International Needs Ghana (INGH) and Community Child Protection Committees at Mafi-Dove in the Volta Region who work on the frontlines to educate communities on child trafficking, child protection violations, and the slavery that devastates some children, brought him and his family back to freedom.
He was freed from slavery on September 7, 2016 at the age of 15 and enrolled into school by International Needs Ghana, a subsidiary of Free The Slaves.
His shattered dreams have now been restored with INGH through the efforts of the Growing Up Free project and other partners providing him with the needed support to further his education to the highest level.
The 19-year-old who named poverty as a major factor that forces vulnerable families to sell their children into slavery said ignorance of laws that criminalizes slavery worsens the situation.
“Today’s slavery is a hidden crime-making it harder for the public to see and for vulnerable villagers to understand and for those in slavery to understand,” he said.
The child survivor of human trafficking thus tasked government, agencies and stakeholders responsible for child trafficking to intensify awareness raising, enforce laws to punish offenders, and support vulnerable Ghanaian families, to build community resistance to human and child trafficking.