The International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) and the Department of Children (DoC) under the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, recently undertook awareness-raising on child labour and child protection in the Volta region of Ghana. This is part of ICI’s ongoing efforts to support the DoC carry out awareness-raising sessions in 150 communities in Ghana to ensure a protective environment for children, especially those in cocoa-growing areas.

Using ICI’s Kweku and the Bird series, which is a four-part animation on child labour in cocoa, awareness-raising sessions with both adults and children took place in five communities in the region: Nive, Atukpui, Avee, Shia and Lume, all within the Ho Municipality. The animation series explains how Kweku, his family, friends and his whole community transition from a community at risk of child labour to one that adopts a child-centered development approach. In Ghana, the Kweku series is supporting ICI to raise awareness in areas where the organisation has not traditionally been active. In all, about 1000 children and adults benefited from these awareness-raising sessions in the Volta region under this year’s initiative.

The sessions in the Volta region focused on issues such as child labour, child trafficking and teenage pregnancy, building good parent-child relationships and parent’s legal obligations.

“The partnership between ICI and the Department of Children has gone a long way to ensure that awareness-raising on child labour reaches remote cocoa-growing communities in Ghana,” said Mike Arthur, ICI’s Country Director for Ghana. “Our partnership with the Department gives us the opportunity to carry the message on child labour to communities like Nive and Atukpui. Under ICI’s 2021-2026 strategy we aim to work together with the DoC and other government agencies and departments to promote child protection in cocoa-growing communities.”

Awareness raising of this kind is important as many children assist their parents with farm work to increase the family’s income, though this is not necessarily wrong (some forms of child work is allowed for example when it doesn’t get in the way of schooling and isn’t damaging to health), it can expose them to hazardous tasks. For more information on child labour and child work, click here.

“Over the years, I have worked with ICI in the Ashanti and Bono Regions, and currently the Eastern and the Volta Regions. We extend our appreciation to ICI for being able to sponsor the Department to reach out to people along the border where children engage in all sorts of child labour,” stated Christian Mawusi, an Officer with the Department of Children. He added, “Even though there is COVID-19, the Volta Region has been exceptional with people coming out in their numbers to listen to what we have for them. In our discussions with communities, we see that there are many diverse child protection issues and we are pleased that through the engagement with ICI, we were able to counsel the children and their parents. We are looking forward to carrying out more work like this in the future with ICI’s continued support.”

A number of the communities, for example Atukpui, showed an interest in the establishment of community structures such as Community Child Protection Committees (CCPC) and Income Generating Activity (IGA) groups. CCPCs consist of a group of volunteers who come together to create awareness and monitor child labour in their communities, while IGAs support households with children identified as in/at risk of child labour develop alternative sources of income.

“I was really saddened by the animation. I had a difficult childhood which I neither want my children and relatives nor even someone living with me to go through due to the emotional effects those challenges have had on me. I do not want any child who is associated with me to remember me in connection with any bad or painful memories,” said Mama Dzigbodi, a member of the Avee community, after the awareness raising session in her community. “To me Kweku’s father had no knowledge about child labour initially. Later, when he came to know the effects of what he was doing to Kweku, he changed.

“I know children must be given the guided freedom to be children. When children are well cared for, it helps them to concentrate on their education and away from picking up bad behaviour. Once you have decided to give birth to or live with any child, you must love him or her just like you do yourself.”