Backgrounder No. 7

On May 13, 2011, media in Ghana reported that 116 children between the ages of four and 17 were rescued from communities along Lake Volta—which links the country’s northern savannah with the coast—after they had been trafficked from the country’s Central, Eastern, Greater Accra, and Volta regions (Awuni 2011). Ghana is recognized as a source, transit, and destination for women and children who are trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation, and domestic and commercial labour (Quartey,2009:65). Despite this reputation, only a small percentage of children who migrate are trafficked as the vast majority migrate ‘voluntarily’ and often independently of their birth parents (Kwankye et al., 2009: 31).

These ‘voluntary’ migrant children move for a variety of reasons. Many are motivated by economic factors, which include searching for paid work or training or schooling. In some circumstances, children’s independent migration is pursued for a variety of non-economic factors, such as societal norms and values about migration, marriage incentives, or the attainment of knowledge and status that often comes with being a child migrant.

This backgrounder explores the issue of independent child migration in Ghana. It gives an overview of the flow of migrants from Ghana’s northern regions to the south, as these patterns account for the bulk of children’s movements within the country. Although the north-south migration of children has become widespread, as almost every household in Ghana’s northern regions has a direct link with child migration to the south, this migration is a relatively recent phenomenon (Kwankye et al., 2007:24). A culture of child migration to the south is developing as these movements become a ‘rite of passage’ for Ghanaians in the north (Kwankye et al., 2007:25). 

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