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Work, not school is the harsh reality for many Ghanaian children

As Canadians prepare for the new school year, find out why some children in Ghana don’t have that opportunity

By William Anim-Dankwa, CCFC, communications manager, Ghana

Naki* stands in the market with an aluminium bowl covering her head. She looks desperately at the women busily buying items on the path surrounding the shops. The water from yesterday’s rain has created black puddles everywhere. She sighs and approaches a woman who’s bought cooking oil, rice and a large can of tomato paste; the woman may need the seven-year-old’s help carrying her purchases.

Naki is one of many girls who wander the Tamale market trying to eke out a living, often on behalf of their older relatives. Naki lives with her aunt in a suburb of Tamale in Ghana, a 40- to 45- minute motorcycle ride away from the market. She makes that commute daily in the wee hours of the morning, returning at dusk with the equivalent of approximately $3 Canadian — or nothing. “I am sometimes beaten when I don’t feel too well and do not want to carry loads,” says Naki. “Sometimes, I am too tired but can’t complain.”

Like many girls, Naki is a victim of a long-standing harmful tradition in the northern region called fostering. This is when families send their firstborn female child to live with their aunts who, in a bid to train them to make money, refuse them formal education. This explains why more boys than girls attend school in the country.

Naki is not alone. According to the United Nations, more than 168-million children worldwide, aged five to 17 were engaged in child labour in 2012, and 11 per cent were married before the age of 15. Meanwhile, in the latest “Ghana Living Standards Survey 6 - Child Labour Report,” conducted by the local government in 2014, 76 percent of active children, aged seven to 15, were working (that includes head porters).

Sadly, despite non-governmental agencies and governments advocating for children’s rights, Naki’s aunt, is oblivious to the harm it causes. So Naki will return to the market tomorrow with her aluminium bowl in hand, teary-eyed.

Last year, Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC) organized a national stakeholders conference on child protection with other international partners. It was followed by a communiqué sent to the government explaining why children under the age of 17 should be attending school rather than working. What’s more, CCFC is implementing a project funded by UNICEF to bring solutions to preventing violence against children, especially girls.

We’ve seen how giving girls in developing countries access to education is a gift. To find out how you can give such a gift, visit ccfcanada.ca/ways-to-give/gift-catalogue.

*the child’s name was changed to protect her identity