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Matthew Dixon

2020 (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 labour 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.

Matthew was trafficked into fishing on Lake Volta, Ghana after he left school to help support his family. The trafficker promised his mother monthly payment in exchange for Matthew’s labour. He was forced to work long hours in dangerous conditions under the threat of violence. After attending workshops on child trafficking Matthew’s mother realised what she had done and organised his release. Matthew is now back at school.

Thank you all. A speech by Matthew Dixon a survivor of child trafficking.

The Minister, Ministry of Gender, children and social protection, her Excellency, US ambassador to Ghana, distinguished guests, traditional leaders, members of civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations, the CCPC and CRC representatives, the media, ladies and gentlemen, all protocol officers. It is a great honour for me to be here today to share my story as a survivor of child trafficking in fishing along the Volta Lake, on the occasion of the second national symposium on human trafficking.

I am the oldest of 10 siblings. My mother Maria is disabled and cannot engage in farming, the predominant occupation of the people of Murphy Dover in the central town district where I come from. She could not provide for us as she was not gainfully employed. I therefore, I had to abandon my education at just 18 years, That was when I was trafficked to a fishing community along Lake Volta.

I lost all hope as a child slave in a fishing village on Lake Volta. My desperate mother arranged my own enslavement to a trafficker who give her an upfront payment and promised more. The trafficker swear to provide money on a monthly basis to help my mother support her family, my brothers and sisters.

 The family was deceived. As the eldest I was unknowingly deceived too. In my destination community, I soon lost all my dreams of, I soon lost all my dreams for a better life as I could no longer go to school. My master forced me to work day and night on dangerous and deadly fishing boats. I was under threat of violence and unable to walk away. I was forced on several occasions on 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. I can confidently say that many children are trapped in fishing slavery on Lake Volta, the biggest man made reservoir in the world. In this huge expanse of water, stones 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 go home, I was traumatised when I witnessed I factor and devastating incident whilst fishing on the Lake. A child on board a boat never resurfaces after diving after diving to this entangled net. He lost his life. I had the rudest shock of my life. I was frightened and wept uncontrollably the entire day. Forced to suffer as a child slave I could not exercise my basic rights to education and freedom. I didn't even know I had those rights.

Community education efforts by FCS, implementing partner international news Ghana and community child protection committees at Murphy Dover, who work on the front lines to educate communities on child trafficking, child protection violations and slavery that devastates some children, brought me and my family back to freedom. After participating in local education and outreach programmes, my mother realised slavery is illegal and that freedom is a basic human right and asked for my release and return. I was free from slavery on September 7, 2016. Now 19, I have every re-enrolled in basic school. Currently international news Ghana, through the efforts of growing up free projects and other partners, I am receiving support to further my education to the highest level. My shattered dreams of years ago has been restored. My dreams can now materialise. My mother has also acquired knowledge in sustainable schools in alternative livelihood and was supported by FTS, implementing partner international news Ghana, with input to commence provision shop in Murphy Dover. My mother does not plead for hands anymore. With the support of international news Ghana, my mother is taking crucial steps towards economic independence. She now knows the reality of modern slavery I endured. She would rather beg than to traffic her children again.

 When I was released from slavery this is what my mother has to say: ‘I vowed not to sell them off to any trafficker. Although the money I generate on daily basis is not enough to provide all their needs’ Maria says ‘I am I am one who is going to serve as an example so that community members can refrain from criminal acts of trafficking their children.’

My final wish to the government agencies and stakeholders responsible for combating human trafficking is that, poverty often forces vulnerable families to sell their children into slavery. Ignorance of laws that makes slavery criminal as well as laws to punish, prosecute and imprison perpetrators of human trafficking worsen 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 call out for help. And so, the government and the various agencies that are responsible for combating human trafficking need to intensify awareness raising, enforce laws to punish offenders and to support vulnerable Ghanaian families to build community resistance to human trafficking as well as child trafficking. The government should, and more to create national human traffic national human trafficking hotlines that will enable guns to report suspected trafficking cases. May God bless our Homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong. Thank you for listening.


Narrative provided by Free the Slaves

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