Abolition Of The Slave Trade
Lynne Symonds in Ghana
Understanding modern day slavery
By Lynne Symonds
Slavery is a fact of life in Africa's Ghana but the Wulugu Project is helping to change the future for the children involved. Charity founder Lynne Symonds explains what the project means to the communities it helps.
When I first visited Ghana, before I had the honour of becoming the adopted chief of two of the most impoverished tribes in the north, I was taken to see the slave tunnels.
I was shown the underground caves, very dark even with the lights for the tourist trade, that housed the men and women all those years ago while they waited for the ships that would carry them to their new masters.
Life of hardship
Today, almost by accident, I am involved in rescuing children and young adults from a life of hardship and deprivation where they are toiling for up to 16 hours a day to earn a meagre amount of food.
Some carry loads on their heads, others pick cocoa, weave cloth or clean. Some of their new masters are kind but many are abused or used as prostitutes.
Learning how to type
Many young boys are taken out on the lakes by fishermen and sent into the dark waters to untangle nets.
They work long hours, often frightened and hungry, and the pay that had been promised to their family is never sent.
Sold for a better life
Patience is about 16. When she was around eight (she is unsure because birthdays are often unrecorded) her mother agreed to sell her to a master who visited their village from Kumasi.
Patience was from a large family in the village of Kpasenkpe. Her mother, one of four wives, was persuaded that Patience would have a better life. She would have food, shelter and schooling.
To go to school had been beyond the reach of her mother and she dearly wanted Patience to have this chance.
Besides, the maize harvest had failed again and the £27 the family would receive would feed them for the next three months.
Working closely with very poor but caring communities who are desperate to improve life for their children makes it easy to see why there are more than nine million children currently in slavery around the world.
But this working relationship has enabled educational charity the Wulugu Project to reverse this situation for many girls.
They are returning to their families and entering our vocational schools.
Here they learn a real trade such as batique, hairdressing catering and computer skills.
Sewing lessons at a vocational school
Alongside this they catch up on missed schooling and have life-saving lessons in family care, health and nutrition.
This means that they will be able to earn an income so that in the future their own children will be able to go to school. Their children will never be sold.
While it would be easy to pat ourselves on the back, the reality is that we could do so much more if funding was available.
For small charities that do not employ fundraisers, there can be no competing with those who have professional fundraisers and bid-writers.
This is despite the fact that we have taken a successful stand against the traditional rake-offs for locals who work with us - none of our volunteers in Ghana benefit directly from our work.
They help us because they value the long-term benefits of education to their families.
Today's challenge is to raise £2,000 to set up a hairdressing school in Buipe - even in the poorest parts of the world there is pride and fashion!
This will remove 20 girls a year from virtual slavery and take their families out of poverty. Not just now but for future generations.
last updated: 09/04/2008 at 12:29