Challenging Heights, a Non-Governmental Organization in Ghana, is advocating for the elimination of modern slavery and slavery-like practices in child domestic work in the country. This was made known at a research dissemination workshop on Thursday, 10th March 2022, to share findings of a baseline survey on child domestic work conducted in August 2021.
The survey was conducted as part of a three-year project (2021-2023) being implemented by two Ghanaian Non-Governmental Organizations (Challenging Heights and LAWA Ghana Incorporated), and Anti-Slavery International-UK, with support from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD). The project titled “Many Hands Make Light Work: Eliminating Modern Slavery in Child Domestic Work” is aimed at ensuring that Children involved in domestic work are free from abuse, exploitation and slavery-like situations, and have their rights respected.
The overarching objective of the baseline survey was to provide a situational analysis of child domestic workers in Ghana using samples from three areas of Ghana- Senya (Awutu Senya West), Mumford and Dago (Gomoa West), all in the Central Region of Ghana. Specific objectives include exploring the demographics/background, working conditions, reasons for engagement, rights and responsibilities, types of abuses and available agencies and their capacity to seek agency when they are in abusive situations.
Speaking at the research dissemination workshop in Winneba, the Senior Manager for Impact and Strategic Relationships of Challenging Heights, Mr. Enock Dery Pufaa explained that Child Domestic Work “refers to situations where children perform domestic tasks, not in their own home but the home of a third party or ’employer’ sometimes under exploitative and abusive circumstances”.
Speaking to the stakeholders on the findings of the survey, Mr. Pufaa stated that a “total of 192 Child Domestic Workers and 81 employers were identified from the three communities. Significantly, over 70% of child domestic workers are females while all 81 employers are females, an indication that the phenomenon is gendered”.
The survey confirmed the prevalence of child domestic workers in Ghana, particularly in the Awutu Senya and Gomoa West Districts of the central region where the survey was conducted. The survey further exposed the various forms of abuses and exploitation that child domestic workers are exposed to, including verbal, physical and sexual abuse. Overall, the study found that at least 60% of child domestic workers regularly suffer verbal abuse from their employers and members of their employers’ families, while 40% of child domestic workers suffer physical abuse including beating with the hand, hitting with a cane and knocking on the head by their employers or members of their employers’ families. In addition, an estimated 14% of CDWs are exposed to sexual abuse and harassment including touching intimate parts of their bodies. Child domestic workers are not engaged with signed contracts and mostly work without any form of payment of compensation (98%) from their employers. It emerged from the study that children are more knowledgeable of their responsibilities than their rights, while employers, on the other hand, do not know their obligations towards child domestic workers. Child domestic workers also engage in works that they described as exhausting, and these mainly involve children who sell/hawk for long hours of the day, children who smoke and prepare fish for sale, children working as sand winners, stone quarrying and those who walk long distances to fetch water (sometimes with big pans and bowls). Child domestic workers, the study showed are exposed to different types of risk and hazards (70%), including working with sharp objects or tools, exposure to chemicals and carrying very heavy loads. Although the study showed that the majority of child domestic workers are enrolled in school, the exhausting nature of their work coupled with the inability of their employers to provide for their schooling and other basic needs like books and uniforms often results in them not attending school regularly. It further emerged from the survey that child domestic workers in general, lack the capacity to seek agency, as such will not seek help or inform anybody when they are in an abusive situation, by their employers, other adults or when they know of another child in an abusive situation, and even when they choose to do so, they prefer informing the spouses of their employers, their neighbours and friends. The study found that an estimated 80% of Child Domestic Workers have ever fallen sick or injured while working for their employers. Importantly, 59% of Child Domestic Workers do not visit the hospital when sick or injured, instead, they resort to self-medication and home/herbal treatment.
Mr Pufaa further indicated that, following the completion of the baseline survey, Challenging Heights provided support to 55 Child Domestic Workers found to have been exposed to different forms of abuse and exploitation, including eleven (11) who suffered various forms of trauma. The eleven (11) Child Domestic Workers have been rescued and currently receiving rehabilitation and psycho-social support and therapy, while the remaining 44 are receiving home-based monitoring and support including school supplies and apprenticeship training.
Mr Pufaa called for a concerted effort from government, NGOs and duty bearers at all levels, to address the problem from the causal factors such as poverty, lack of job opportunities and income-generating activities for parents and employers, lack of access to educational opportunities, parental neglect and financial challenges. He further asked for sensitization to be more targeted and intensified at the community level covering children through Child Rights Clubs, Employers through the Employers Association and parents and the general community. Mr. Pufaa highlighted the need for the Stakeholders, particularly, the District Assemblies to support the development and review of bye-laws to place emphasis on Child Domestic Work situations in their respective districts and communities, while efforts are made to enact specific regulations on Child Domestic Work in Ghana.