Eric Opoku Agyemang gives talk on child trafficking in Ghana

By Emma Martin

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Jurgen/Flickr)

Lake Volta in Ghana. (Jurgen/Flickr)

Eric Opoku Agyemang gave a talk on Ghanean child trafficking in Thompson Hall on Friday afternoon, October 28. The focus of the talk was trafficking in the fishing industry, specifically in the Lake Volta region.

Agyemang, originally from Ghana, is currently working towards a master’s degree in social work and public policy in Seattle, but continues to be heavily involved in two organizations that he helped found, Cheerful Hearts and Patriots Ghana, whose aims are to help child trafficking victims. He was also awarded fellowship in the Young African Leaders Association from President Barack Obama.

Agyemang opened the discussion by having all attendees participate in an “energizing” warm-up; he said that he wanted to start with positivity. After placing their hands out, each person had to try to grab the thumb of the person to their right while also trying to pull back their own thumb from the person to their left.

“No worries, we always want people to feel part of the family,” he said about the Ghanean mindset.

He defined child labor as, “work that deprives children of childhood, potential, dignity,” and, “harmful to physical and mental development.” He defined child trafficking as, “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of children for the purpose of exploitation; a violation of their rights, their well-being, and denies them the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

Agyemang said there are currently 49,000 children working on fishing boats in Lake Volta, 21,000 of whom are doing hazardous labor. Dangers include drowning, bad weather, and abuse from fishermen. There is also no access to education for these children.

Agyemang and his organizations are working to advocate and increase education to community members. They have trained peer educators who go house to house and who participate in events like child rights talks in schools.

The organizations altogether currently sponsor 42 children to attend school who are unable to afford it and provide entrepreneurial skills training to formerly trafficked children, with a program specifically designed for girls to make jewelry and paintings to sell.

Agyemang mentioned how important football is to the Ghanean culture, and how the organizations he is in often use sports games to connect with the children.

Cheerful Hearts and Patriots Ghana also work to train teachers in helping students with learning disabilities, as many formerly trafficked children who return to school have special education needs.

Future plans for the growth of his organizations include more research into child trafficking data, the building of rehabilitation shelters and a continued advocacy for education.

Abena Bosompem, a junior sociology and biology major at Mount Holyoke College, found the lecture very informative.

“I’m from Ghana and I didn’t even know about this,” Bosompen said.

Emma Martin can be reached at [email protected]