Investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas has released “Chained by Child Begging,” a ten-minute movie that explores the rising numbers of child trafficking in the country.
In the exposé, Anas meets with children and their so-called “guardians,” who often use fake names and fabricated stories to lure people to give them money. According to one man who works with the children, many of them are ripped from their families and forced to work as beggars.
“I love children and have made various documentaries on the plight of children,” Anas says in the documentary’s teaser. “Like many of you, while driving around Accra and Kumasi, my heart is touched by the number of children I see…who are all skinny and badly dressed.”
The feature project is in partnership with the #KidsOurFuture campaign, a collaboration between Anas and OAfrica, a child support organisation. The documentary features an original song by Ghanaian musical artist, Stonebwoy, who has also supported Anas and OAfrica in their mission to end child begging.
“We need to educate the public,” Kofi Laing, a human rights advocate, told Joy FM Friday. People think they are helping the child when they give them money, but instead it’s going to the criminals behind the scenes. It’s like the Mafia.”
A Ghanaian human rights centre has revealed that the number of child beggars in the country is rising, and many of them are forced to do so by organised crime groups.
The Eban Centre for Human Trafficking has called for the attention of government to look into options in eradicating child begging in cities including Osu, Nima, Madina, Circle and Shiashie, where they normally frequent.
“Globally, begging is prevalent amongst different cultures and in different forms. Begging and the cartel or forces behind it indicates a weak national and human security lapses of a state,” said Rex Osei Sarpong, the executive director at Eban.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines child labour as “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity.”
Worldwide, 218 million children between five and 17 are employed. Of them, 73 million work in hazardous conditions.
“In its most extreme forms, child labour involves children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses and/or left to fend for themselves on the streets of large cities – often at a very early age,” ILO wrote in a statement online.
Eban said although it is the legal obligation of the country to protect its citizens, specifically children who are used to perform jobs unlawfully, the case is different in Ghana.
“Most cultures have justified the act of begging as an act necessitated due to structural issues like poverty and socio-inequality,” Sarpong said.
“This ‘religio-culture’ position, have been preyed upon by criminal organizations who have cashed out of the act of begging, to traffic homeless and deprived children to make profits.”
In research conducted by Eban, traffickers make approximately $40,000 annually through the use of disabled children who beg on streets.
The study showed that kidnapped children are forced to beg for money, then are introduced to drugs and gangs. Addiction typically follows; the children then resort to begging as a means to feed their habit.
“It is sad to note that, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection is yet, to realize its objective of getting 300,000 children off the streets,” Sarpong said.
But the Ministry maintains that they function to “formulate gender, child development and social protection policy and coordinate gender, child and social protection-related programmes.”
Eban is requesting that government “affirm the nation’s commitment to ending human trafficking,” and “recommends the establishment of a child protection system that suits Ghana.”
To learn more about Eban, visit here.