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Child protection—everyone’s responsibility

By Chantal Aidoo

 

For every couple and to the world, a child is a beautiful gift from God, and in many societies, when a child is born; it is an occasion for joy as a new member is welcomed into the family and the world at large.

 

While some gifts are consumed or put to good use immediately, others are preserved and protected. Children, no doubt, fall into that category of beautiful gifts that require protection and preservation. It has also always been said that children are the future leaders and that a country without children or young people is a country without a future.

 

A Ghanaian adage says: “it is only one person that gives birth but once the child is born, it beholds on everyone to help in its upbringing’, meaning that the upbringing of a child is a collective responsibility of society.

 

Indeed, every child, irrespective of where he or she is born, has the right to grow freely and happily without any form of restrictions.

 

According to the Children’s Act, 1998 (Act 560), no person shall discriminate against a child on  the grounds of gender, race, age, religion, health status, custom, ethnic origin , rural or urban background, birth or other status, socio-economic status or because the child is a refugee.

 

This provision of the children’s Act, can be summed up in two words—child protection, where child protection is defined as the act of safeguarding the right of all children to a life free from violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect.

 

The question, then, is: Why the need to protect children? And the simple answer is that they are vulnerable and cannot survive without the guidance and support of adults.

Apart from physical vulnerabilities, children are faced with social evils such as trafficking, child marriage and child labour, and abuse which affect their growth and development.

 

Effects


In Ghana, child labour or child exploitation is real and children who are exploited do not receive education— which is their right— and end up with short-lived dreams.
Some children risk their lives every day as hawkers in the street while others serve as aids to the visually-impaired who beg for alms instead of being in school.
Everyone— government, the community, family, civil society organisations and the church— have a role to play in the protection of children from discrimination or abuse.

 

What has been done

Indeed, there have been several interventions by government, one of which is collaboration between government and the development partners to end child trafficking through the introduction of poverty alleviation initiatives such as the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) which supports extremely poor households with cash grants, thereby discouraging families from selling their children.

 

In addition to LEAP, government has also passed the Human Trafficking Prohibition Regulation L.I 2219 to standardize the implementation of the Human Trafficking Act which aims to prevent and combat human trafficking, protect and assist victims of human trafficking and to investigate and prosecute offenders of human trafficking.

 

Furthermore, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP) has launched a campaign to end child marriage in Ghana as the phenomenon truncates the education of the girl child and stifles the economic opportunities and security that are derived from education.

 

The government, through MOGCSP, has also increased community engagement and dialogue by feeding traditional and community leaders with updated information on the harmful impact of the practice as well as collaborating with security agencies for the enforcement of laws.

 

Again, through MoGCSP, Government has also provided the requisite training for social welfare workers to equip them to deal effectively with the challenges facing children.

 

Guided by the key principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, and the Children’s Act, MoGCSP has also established a Child Marriage Co-ordinating Unit, developed a National Strategic Framework and launched a comprehensive Child and Family Welfare Policy which taps into positive traditional values, principles and protective practices.

 

The Child and Family Welfare Policy, it is important to note, provides guidance to the reform of child and family welfare programs and activities.

 

Government is not alone in providing the required interventions for child protection. Support is also thus provided by  the Methodist Church Ghana, particularly, the Rev. Thomas Clegg Memorial Methodist Church, which has been able to rescue some street children and provided them with some shelter.

 

What can be done

Undoubtedly, a lot has been done; yet more needs to be done and it is, therefore, up to families, government, civil society organisations and individuals to ensure that every child grows as required or prescribed under the Children’s Act.

 

In other words, the fight against all forms of child labour and exploitation requires collaboration and concerted efforts by all stakeholders. Individuals must make up their minds to report offences against children as well as take it upon themselves to support such children to find their way in life.

 

The communities, for example, can set up Neighbourhood Watchdog or Citizen Vigilante Groups to prevent crime as well as prevent child exploitation.

 

In  deprived communities, government, through the Information Services Department and the National Commission for Civic Education  could sensitize residents, using documentaries, vivid images and sketches or drama to enable them understand the need to protect children and serve as an alert against indulgence.

 

Modules should be created in the Youth Employment Programme (YEP) where young people would be trained in every community to serve as back-up for the social welfare workers.

 

The task, it is worthy of note, would, however, require adequate financial and logistical support for effective execution.

 

The writer is an officer of the Information Services Department.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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