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Combatting Child Slavery

Ghana's Lake Volta is the world's largest man-made lake. Thousands of children work in its massive fishing industry—and many of these children are held in slavery. Children as young as three are enslaved in the fishing industry, forced to do hard and dangerous work to earn a profit for their masters.

An IJM assessment in 2013 indicated that more than half of the nearly 800 children interviewed or observed were trafficked—the majority 10 years old or younger. Victims are forced rise before dawn to go out on the lake, diving down into the dark water to untangle fishing nets.

Drowning and other hazards are a constant threat. They work long hours doing strenuous work, with no opportunity to go to school. One boy we rescued had been forced to continue hauling nets even after breaking his wrist. These children can expect no compassion from their masters, who maintain their control through violent beatings and withholding food.

In 2013, we conducted an initial assessment on Lake Volta, which estimated that more than half of the nearly 800 children we personally observed on the lake were slaves. Of those, the majority were under the age of 10.

Our leadership team mobilized to Ghana in September 2014 to launch the field office—IJM's first office in West Africa.

We have partnered with local authorities to rescue 164 children from Lake Volta's fishing industry and have restrained 31 suspected traffickers.

Our Team in Ghana

Accra, Ghana

Field Office Director: Will Lathrop
Established: 2014JS_20170519_1033_201705ACC-Kofi_Approved_for_Full_Use.jpg
Focus: Forced Labor Slavery

More about the issue


Child Slavery in Ghana: Thousands of children like Godson, Gideon and Foli* in Ghana live in slavery on Lake Volta. These children are between 3 and 17 years old and working up to 18 hours a day in the fishing industry. They are paid in daily abuse and threats, and the only way out is to drown or be rescued.

The Deep Place

The Deep Place: One small boy. One huge lake. Foli* was a slave. Immerse yourself in his story.

*To protect IJM clients, we have used pseudonyms, obscured some images and included photos that do not depict actual victims where appropriate. Consent gathered for all images.

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