Child labor survivors have dreams of liberating others – Global issues

Child labor victim Selimatha Dziedzorm Salifu (right) and her rescuer Andrews Tagoe (left), deputy secretary general of the TUC Agricultural Workers General, who met her on a fishing beach in Ghana.  Credit: Lyse Comins / IPS
Child labor victim Selimatha Dziedzorm Salifu (right) and her rescuer Andrews Tagoe (left), deputy secretary general of the TUC Agricultural Workers General, who met her on a fishing beach in Ghana. Credit: Lyse Comins / IPS
  • by Lyse Comins (durban)
  • Joint press service

Born in a fishing village, Kpando-Torkor, in Ghana, Salifu, was forced to go out and work in the local fishing industry when her father Seidu died, leaving her mother, Mary, with six children to raise. , dress and accommodation. The industry is well documented for trafficking and child slavery.

“When my father passed away, I was drawn into child labor because my mother had no job to take care of my brothers and sisters. She started traveling to the islands (on Lake Volta) in a canoe to buy fish, and sometimes I help her with that, and I help other fishmongers with the same business”, Salifu , now 25 years old, told IPS in an exclusive interview. “I helped them prepare fish for the market, cut and clean it for a fee.” She talked to us on the sidelines 5order Global Conference on Elimination of Child Labor in Durban, South Africa.

“I woke up at 4 a.m. and there. We were crowded with children in the village so I had to get there early to be able to get customers. The boys would go fishing, they didn’t go to school, and some got sick on the lake. They will be pushed into the water to rescue the net (when they get tangled). I found that when I got to school, I was so exhausted, I would fall asleep in class and my teachers would ask me why,” Salifu said.

Her salary is only one or two Ghanaian cedars that can buy ‘kenke’ (similar to sourdough) and some rice. Other children are often paid as little as a small fish for their day job handling tilapia, mudfish and electric fish, Salifu said.

Despite her difficult situation of having to work and study to survive, Salifu still has one dream: One day, she will become a teacher and help children like herself.

“Sometimes it is difficult to get food on the table, and it is also difficult to buy school uniforms. I nearly dropped out of school, but the Lord I served saved me. I had a vision of becoming a childcare practitioner, having my own organization to support children on the street just like myself,” said Salifu. “And then one day, I happened to meet this man on the riverbank of my village, by the river, going back to my usual work. I narrated my story to him, and he said he would talk to his team and they would help me.”

That man was Andrews Tagoe, deputy secretary general of General Agricultural Union of TUC. He is also the Regional Coordinator for Africa of Global March Against Child Labor.

Tagoe worked in the village, campaigning against child labor, talking to parents and educating them about the importance of sending their children to school rather than working.

“I have met the parents in the village and the fishermen and am talking about decent work as well as the fishing process and the usual union issues,” says Tagoe.

He said most parents want their children to become lawyers and doctors, but they go to the beach to work during school hours.

“So I got up and went to look at the beach during school hours around 10am and saw that the beach was full of children participating in activities, carrying fish, and I looked to the left, there were classrooms and teachers. no children. ‘ Tagoe said.

After that, Tagoe made it her mission to reach out to working children, like Salifu and start meeting them and talking about their lives, hopes and dreams.

“Parents also say we don’t know unions that work with child labour. So let’s see what we can do to start a child labor-free sector. The rate of child labor has dropped significantly and more children are now in school,” he said.

“Since 2000, the union has helped more than 4,500 children in the entire agricultural industry, from rice, cocoa and palm oil to lake fishing,” says Tagoe.

A report by NORC at the University of Chicago announced that nearly 1.6 million children are involved in child labor in the cocoa industry in Ghana and Ivory Coast alone.

NORC conducted surveys of 15 to 17 year olds between 2008 and 2019, showing a 62% increase in cocoa production.

However, the report acknowledges that the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana have implemented educational reforms, such as free education and compulsory schooling to combat child labor. This resulted in the school attendance rate of children from agricultural households increasing from 58 to 80 per cent in Côte d’Ivoire and 89 to 96 per cent in Ghana.

Salifu said Tagoe’s team – she affectionately calls him “dad” – supported her to stay in school to pursue her dreams.

“I think my prayers have been answered. They came to take charge of my (job) school, bought my textbooks, and I was able to write basic education exams,” said Salifu.

She goes to school in the mornings and in the afternoon continues to work to support the family.

Salifu completed her Certificate of Basic Education and then worked for six months buying fish and selling it in nearby towns to raise money for the High School.

“Once again, GAWU supported me by paying some fees for me. I finished high school at the age of 19 in 2016. I always dreamed of becoming the greatest teacher in the world and owning my own educational institution, and working with children,” said Salifu. speak.

Her dream was partially fulfilled when she got a job working at a local school before moving to Accra, where she attended a Montessori teacher training institution. She received the National Certificate in Montessori Training and took a place at the Tender Sprout International School in Accra.

“Where I work, the kids come from good families and even drop out of school. But I want to go back to my community and help my brothers and sisters in the village as well as neighboring communities and islands to help free them from child labor,” said Salifu.

“I still want to build my dream to help orphans and bring them back home. My mother is also elderly now so I need to support my other siblings and mother at home. There was no money at home, so they came to me. I need to go back to college to get my early childhood education degree.”

“God has saved me now because some of my classmates have dropped out of school, and some have teenage pregnancies and STIs. I am very, very lucky,” said Salifu.

Salifu hopes telling her story will be a voice to help those still trapped in child labor get out.

“I think our voices should be heard here so we can go back and launch a project with our brothers and sisters so we can help them. That is my motive for being here. Dreams must be achieved,” said Salifu.

Report of the United Nations Office IPS

This is one of a series of IPS stories published about the 5th Global Conference on Elimination of Child Labor in Durban, South Africa.

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© Inter Press Service (2022) – All rights reservedOrigin: Inter Press Service

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