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Ghana’s struggle to protect children’s rights

Ghana’s population stands at 32,372,889 (2021) within a territory of 239, 500 km2 which is divided into 16 regions, with Accra as its capital. Children between the ages of 0 and 14 represent 37.44% of Ghana’s population, while the youth between 15 and 24 years old only make up 18.68% as child mortality is high. The entire youth under the age of 25 represent 57% of Ghana’s population[1]. Ghana was the first country in the world to ratify the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (ICRC) on the 5th of February 1990 and committed to domestically implement the obligations into its domestic legislation[2]. However, Ghana has not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child’s Optional Protocols on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, leaving crucial issues involving child labour and exploration unprotected. Ghana likewise ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) in 1999[3].

The Ghanaian Children’s Act expressly defines a ‘child’ as a person below the age of 18[4]. The child’s rights were similarly defined within the Ghanian Constitution of 1992 and reinforced in the “Act of Parliament of The Republic of Ghana entitled The Children’s Act 1998[5].” These legislations provide a legal basis for upholding and protecting children’s rights in Ghana. More precisely, ILO emphasizes that endangering the child’s health and depriving them of education or development is considered exploitative labour work[6].

Ghana is still facing considerable challenges in chronic child malnutrition[7], poor access to education, and protection against the worst forms of child labour. These include, among others, child prostitution, child trafficking, and the involvement of children in any illicit activities[8]. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these issues.

[1]Ghana – The World Factbook. (2021, March 30). Central Intelligence Agency. https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/ghana/

[2] Children of Ghana. (2020b, September 12). Humanium. https://www.humanium.org/en/ghana/

[3] Children of Ghana. (2020b, September 12). Humanium. https://www.humanium.org/en/ghana/

[4] Article 1 of the Children’s Act

[5]GHANA. THE CHILDREN’S ACT, 1998. (1998). Ghana Act of Parliament of the Republic of Ghana Entitled The Children’s Act, 1998. https://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/WEBTEXT/56216/65194/E98GHA01.htm

[6] World Report on Child Labour 2015: Paving the way to decent work for young people. (2015). https://www.ilo.org/ipec/Informationresources/WCMS_358969/lang–en/index.htm

[7]Ghana – The World Factbook. (2021, March 30). Central Intelligence Agency. https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/ghana/

[8] Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182), article 3

 

(Right To Play Ghana, DOVVSU, others renew commitment to child rights. (2019). [Photography].https://www.adomonline.com/right-to-play-ghana-dovvsu-others-renew-commitment-to-child-rights/)

Since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, as poverty has increased, families already undergoing economic hardships seek new sources of income. In this regard, they end up with few options and many opt to marry their daughters off. As a consequence, these girls have to stop their studies[1]. Additionally, these low-income families are also forced to reduce their food consumption, causing children’s malnutrition[2]. Specifically, 12.6% of children under the age of 5 are underweight in Ghana[3].

Associated primarily with poverty-related issues, children also become involved in the worst forms of child labour, particularly in the fishery sector, where they face the risk to become sexually abused and exploited[4]. In the cocoa sector, for instance, children are also subject to human trafficking and work under dangerous conditions, where they handle sharp objects. [5]

Moving towards better protection of children’s rights

In 2017, Ghana launched a strategy to fight child labour in the fishing sector through a second National Plan of Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (2017-2021)[6]. Through this National Action Plan, the Government of Ghana intends to improve access to education and its overall quality.  By doing so, child labour is expected to gradually be eliminated as children will become more aware of their rights[7].

In addition to these factors, the COVID-19 pandemic is strongly affecting the rights of children in Ghana. Being considered as “The Island of Peace” and a prosperous country in terms of human and social development[8], Ghana has acted in many ways to combat poverty, child malnutrition, improper access to education, and child labour. However, as outlined above, there remain significant gaps to be filled in the implementation of legal instruments. In this regard, it is the need of the hour that Ghana ratifies the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography so that children are not left vulnerable to more exploitation and abuse. 

 

[1] Azebre, A. A. A. (2020, July 18). Coronavirus And Child Protection Issues In Ghana. Modern Ghana. https://www.modernghana.com/news/1017046/coronavirus-and-child-protection-issues-in-ghana.htm

[2] The impact of COVID-19 on children from poor families in Ghana and the role of welfare institutions. (2020). Lorretta Domfeh OwusuandKwabena Frimpong-Manso. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/JCS-07-2020-0033/full/pdf?title=the-impact-of-covid-19-on-children-from-poor-families-in-ghana-and-the-role-of-welfare-institutions

[3] Ghana – The World Factbook. (2021, March 30). Central Intelligence Agency. https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/ghana/

[4]2018 FINDINGS ON THE WORST FORMS OF CHILD LABOR. (2018). https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ILAB/child_labor_reports/tda2018/Ghana.pdf

[5] 2018 FINDINGS ON THE WORST FORMS OF CHILD LABOR. (2018). https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ILAB/child_labor_reports/tda2018/Ghana.pdf

[6]2018 FINDINGS ON THE WORST FORMS OF CHILD LABOR. (2018). https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ILAB/child_labor_reports/tda2018/Ghana.pdf

[7] 2018 FINDINGS ON THE WORST FORMS OF CHILD LABOR. (2018). https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ILAB/child_labor_reports/tda2018/Ghana.pdf

[8]Ghana: The “Island of Peace.” (2017b, May 4). SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA ANALYSIS BLOG. https://ifyouwanttogofargotogether.wordpress.com/ghana/#_ftn4

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