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Setsofia Dowokpor

2016 (Narrative date)

There are an estimated 133,000 people living in modern slavery in Ghana (GSI 2018). Ghana remains a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Ghanaian boys and girls are subjected to forced labor within the country in fishing, domestic service, street hawking, begging, portering, artisanal gold mining, quarrying, herding, and agriculture, including cocoa. Research focused on the fishing industry on Lake Volta indicated that more than half of the children working on and around the lake were born in other communities and many of these children are subjected to forced labor; not allowed to attend school; given inadequate housing and clothing; and are controlled by fishermen through intimidation, violence, and limiting access to food. Boys as young as five years old are forced to work in hazardous conditions, including deep diving, and many suffer waterborne infections. A study of the prevalence of child trafficking in selected communities in the Volta and Central Regions indicated that children from nearly one-third of the 1,621 households surveyed had been subjected to trafficking, primarily in fishing and domestic servitude. 

Setsofia’s mother was suffering from ill health when she arranged for him to be trafficked to a fishing village along Lake Volta in a desperate bid to get month to treat her illness. Setsofia was just 8 years old, falsely promised an education and that he would only work part time. However he was forced to work day and night on dangerous fishing boats with little food or rest. International Needs Ghana, an FTS partner, visited Setsofia’s childhood village to talk about the need to keep children away from hazardous work and to urge slave owners to release their trafficked children. As a result of this outreach and pressure, his slave holder freed Setsofia August 12, 2016.

I lived and worked against my will for five years, under my master. I wake up at dawn and work on the Volta Lake until dusk.

[Setsofia recalls how heavy nets often get knotted at the bottom of the lake]

I don’t like going to remove it, it is dangerous and people usually get injured. If she [his mother] knew she would not survive even after selling me off, I think she would not have sold me out to be forced to work against my will in exchange for the money she received in advance.

[After his release Setsofia received counselling and reintegration support]

It is an obvious dawn of a new day, full of better opportunities and expectations in my life. I am grateful to International Needs for all their efforts to eliminate child trafficking and combat other forms of slavery.


Narrative provided by Free the Slaves