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.
We rescue children from slavery in the fishing industry by helping law enforcement locate children being held as slaves, and work with Ghanaian police and anti-trafficking forces to rescue them and bring them to a safe place.
BRING CRIMINALS TO JUSTICE
We bring criminals to justice by supporting law enforcement partners to collect evidence and by assisting public prosecutors as they take traffickers and criminals to trial for slavery crimes under Ghanaian law.
We restore survivors by helping them heal from the trauma and finding a safe place where they can thrive—either back home with their families or in a shelter where they will receive an education or job training. We work with aftercare providers and other NGOs already on the ground.
Strengthen Justice Systems
We strengthen justice systems by equipping Ghana's Anti-Human Trafficking Unit and law enforcement agencies to investigate and respond to child trafficking, and strengthening the coordination between law enforcement and social services that is essential to successfully prosecuting traffickers.
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
Field Office Director: Will Lathrop
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: 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.