The one thing in love doing is educating people on their rights and that of others.
That is why the issue of forced labour lays so heavily on my heart.
It is a global ‘pandemic’. One that is slowly eating into the future of many young people. Young people who can positively contribute to the development of nations.
Forced labour is an occurrence that has gained little attention if not the much needed in Ghana. Even though there is no generally accepted definition for forced labour one can simply refer to it as individuals being mandated to work against their will especially with little or no remuneration. More often than not, forced labour is linked to labour intensive and under regulated industries such as agriculture, fishing, quarrying, prostitution, trade and mining that have proliferated in the Volta and Western regions of Ghana.
Chapter 5 of the 1992 constitution of Ghana (amended on the 16th of December 1996)elaborateson the fundamental rights and freedom of people. Section 16 of this chapter protects every human being against slavery and forced labour whiles section 24 talks about economic rights such as the right to work under satisfactory, safe and healthy conditions, receiving equal pay for equal work done, the right to rest, have leisure, periods of holidays with pay and working within a reasonable time frame of working hours.
My main focus is on a very old occupation, one that can be found from the north to south of Ghana, a distinct industry that has emerged over the years as a form offorced labour, to put it bluntly modern slavery. Domestic work even though vital to our society does not come easily to mind when we talk of industries that strongly but silently endorse modernslavery.
In Ghana domestic work is not really gender based though the majority of them are women and children; men and the aged are also involved. Fueled by the need to escape poverty and the dependency of people on others, it is sad to know that society’s elite and the populace who can afford to have domestic workers prey on the vulnerability of deprived families and individuals without blinking an eye. On a regular basis people barter their freedom for employment as domestic workers due to financial constraints, lack of education, discrimination, rural urban migration, debt bondage, the illusion of education for children when they work amongst a few others.It is distressing toknow thatthese underprivileged people experience some of the harshest forms of modern slavery. They are exploited and kept in servitude whiles suffering justsothey canmake a meager wage. At times, even without monitory reward families push their young girls and children into domestic work to ease the financial burden at home.
Even though there is a wide range of patterns associated with domestic slavery, there are some common ones;
* Domestic workers are made to work long hours usually without rest, most of the time seven days a week because they are full time live – in servants.
* They receive low or no pay but must be available when summoned at any time of the day, even ungodly hours.
* They sleep in tiny spaces assigned to them and are very shabbily dressed because their employers are not bothered about their welfare.
* They are most times not allowed out of the house unaccompanied and are hidden from people who visit the home.
* They get blamed for everything that goes wrong or not working hard enough and undergo physical punishments like starvation and lashes from canes.
* They are physically, psychologically and sexually abused by members of the household even the young ones.
Slowly but surely victims of domestic slavery become invisible to the world. They lose their dignity and in the process their voices to speak out, they become trapped in a world of modern slavery with no one to turn to. We all witness this heinous crime without advocating against it. It has more or less become an accepted form of our culture and society. I wonder how people can sleep peacefully each night knowing their comfort and happiness is gained from the toil, sweat and abuse of certain individuals they do not hold in high regard in any way at all.
To me there is no perfect formula to solving this problem because to eradicate it will take divine intervention. I believe an effort can be made through ways like, awareness campaigns and advocacy to change societal attitude and ideology on the unsaid acceptance of domestic slavery. Also, although it will be difficult to regulate an industry like domestic work government can implement policies and regulate the working conditions of domestic workers and deal with offender of this vice.
By: Gwandalen Quartey