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Association of People for Practical Life Education (APPLE)Atebubu and Accra, GHANA
APPLE is a small grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to using community outreach and education to end child slavery in fishing villages along Ghana`s Lake Volta. Boys as young as six are forced to dive to disentangle nets caught on tree stumps below this large man-made lake, while girls are forced to cook and sell fish late into the night. When the water is too cold or the children get caught in the nets below it is not uncommon to find the bodies of young children washed up on the shores of the lake.In June 2001, APPLE completed an in-depth study into the problem of child slavery in the small-scale fishing industry in Ghana. This report offered valuable insight into the nature of child trafficking to Lake Volta and the conditions of the children. Following from this, APPLE staff, working with international and local NGOs, began rescuing children, but they wanted to do much more to stop the problem at its source - educating communities about the risks of sending children to work in faraway locations and enabling very poor families to obtain alternative means of family income. Using a rights-based approach to rescue and rehabilitation, APPLE intends for the rescued children to not only return home, but to thrive with education and sustainable family livelihoods.
Identification and release of children from slavery:
Having secured funds through Free the Slaves and planned a comprehensive pilot program, APPLE rescued 166 children from slavery in fishing on Lake Volta since 2005. The children were aged between 5 - 18 years. In doing so, APPLE implemented a project through which parents demanded the return of their children, and fishermen were not given any compensation for returning the children. The program began by recruiting and training community coordinators (Comcords) in both the sending and receiving communities. These individuals learned how to educate the public against child trafficking and promote the rejection of forced child labor. They then worked intensively in 40 of the home communities and 20 of the fishing villages, tracing parents whose children had gone into bonded labor and where those children were now working. In many cases in the past, organizations have paid fishermen to release the children, but the Comcords raised awareness in the fishing villages about introduction of a new law on child trafficking in Ghana, raising fears among the fishermen that they might be prosecuted if they resisted giving back the children. The Comcords also brought letters from parents and opinion leaders in home villages, demanding the return of the children. In some cases, APPLE workers simply continued talking and refusing to leave until fishermen gave up the children voluntarily.
Improved economic security of families of the children and social reintegration for returned children:
In January 2006, APPLE provided skills training in batik tie and dye, soap production and pomade making to 13 parents of the returned children (1 male, 12 female), and the parents were trained in small business management skills and provided with small amounts of materials as start-up. It is hoped these new skills will help supplement their income, to prevent vulnerability of the children in the future. The Comcords are monitoring these profit-making activities to see whether the trainees are able to improve their income through this program. All of the children have been enrolled in either apprenticeships or primary schools and provided with uniforms and text books.
Lessons learned and future priorities:
Release of children through community mobilization: The key learning point from this pilot year of the program is that it is possible to gain release of the children through pressure on the fishermen, rather than making payments. This means that there is a sustainable basis for expansion of the program. APPLE urgently needs to develop access to higher levels of funding, as they estimate there are around 2,000 children in bondage in 50 communities. In 2006, at its current level of funding, APPLE expects to gain release and rehabilitation of further rescued children. Despite these small numbers in relation to the overall problem, an important aspect of APPLE�s work is to build resistance to trafficking in the home and destination villages, so that fewer children will be enslaved in future.
Raising awareness about the new law:
In the regions where APPLE is working, it spread knowledge about the new Human trafficking law against child trafficking, so that parents, fishermen, and community leaders are aware of the illegality of exploitation of children.
The economic security of the returned children remains a major concern for APPLE, as they want to be certain that parents can support their children through school on an on-going basis. It is not yet clear whether the skills training will be sufficient to provide for this, and what else can be done to protect these vulnerable families?
Apple`s Comcords holds group meetings with key opinion leaders such as village chiefs, transport owners, and teachers in the home and destination villages. APPLE also distributed pamphlets on trafficking, produced T-shirts and sent press releases to newspapers. Anti-trafficking sign posts were put up in the targeted communities. The human trafficking Act is used to educate the communities on the Law on Human Trafficking in Ghana