Mrs Mary Magdalene Yartey, Senior Programmes Officer of International Needs Ghana (INGH), a non-governmental organisation has said exploitation of children into commercial sex activities was becoming rampant, hence the need for measures to halt it.
She said this in Accra on Monday, when she presented the findings of a research the NGO carried out on the protection of children from commercial sexual exploitation.
The three year project, which started in April 2011, aimed at raising awareness on commercial sex exploitation of children (CSEC) and its dangers, child rights, adolescent reproductive health and the importance of education.
Mrs Yartey indicated that the project, which was organised in collaboration with Initiatives Development Ghana, was also used to prevent, withdraw and support 500 victims and children vulnerable to CSEC through schooling or vocational training.
The project was also used to economically empower 200 families to be able to sustain the outcomes of the project.
Mrs Yartey noted that 230 children and their caregivers benefitted from the economic empowerment intervention, with loans ranging from GH˘300.00 to GH˘500.00, and this has put them in better positions to care adequately for their children.
She revealed that some of the participants, who were into vocational training such as masonry, hair dressing, dress making, fitting, interior designing, and catering dropped out completely due to pregnancy and relocation, higher costs of some skills training that was beyond the budgeted, and low participation of some stakeholders in implementing interventions.
“Due to this, the organisation found the need to provide some of these children with learning materials including school uniforms, sewing machines, books, and tuition fees to prevent them from depending on men who will demand something in exchange for such help,” she said.
Mrs Yartey noted that over 90 per cent of children reporting to the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit, usually report on cases of physical violence both at home and in the educational environment.
“During the research, the organisation also found out that over 750,000 teenagers become pregnant annually in Ghana, and poverty remained the major cause in these teenage pregnancies.
It was also discovered that what causes most of these sexual exploitation in the girl child are poverty, inadequate knowledge on reproductive health, child rights issues as well as education, low self-esteem, early age pregnancy, absence of parent figures and single parenthood, which makes children from these project communities very vulnerable,” she added.
Mrs Yartey indicated that among the project communities, they recorded high incidence of sexual exploitation of about 60 to 80 per cent amongst children at places like Havana in Korle Wonko, Inshona in James Town, Konkomba in Agbogbloshie, and the bus-terminal opposite Oman FM at Madina, all in Accra.
This, she said, was due to the operation of illegal night clubs in such areas, increase in activities of drug cartels, inadequate law enforcement, high influx of migrant youth looking for employment, rapid growth of urban slums, poverty and economic challenges.
Mrs Yartey noted that during the project, rape and seven other defilement cases were recorded. Five of the perpetrators were arrested, two were jailed, while others are standing trials.
However, Mrs Yartey said that at the end of the project, they were able to achieve almost all their objectives including making respondents understand how strong education was significant for the personal development of children.
She urged government, community leaders, Non-governmental organisations and the ordinary citizen to extend helping hands towards needy children, who are vulnerable when it comes to sexual abuse and other negative acts, to help develop the community and Ghana as a whole.
She also expressed her gratitude to opinion leaders of the communities they evaluated including Chorkor, James Town, Agbogbloshie, Korle Gonno, Korle Wonko, and Madina, for assisting members of INGH to organise group counselling for the participants and providing education on the need for the pregnant girls to resume training after delivery.
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