FREE THE SLAVES: Nartey Dickson: Community Education Brings Family Back to Fr

Nartey Dickson in school uniform

Disability forced Nartey’s mother to traffic him into slavery. He lost all hope as a child slave in a
fishing village on Lake Volta. Community education efforts brought his family back to freedom. His
mother is learning sustainable skills—and he is back in school.
Nartey is the oldest of 10 siblings.
His mother, Maria, is disabled. She
cannot work in farming, the
traditional and predominant
occupation of the family’s
indigenous people in a village in the
Central Tongu District of Ghana.
She had no way to provide for her
children and could not afford
school fees, so Nartey had to
abandon his education at just 13.
That is when Nartey was trafficked
to a fishing community along Lake
The Human Cost of Poverty
Poverty often forces vulnerable families to sell their children into slavery. Ignorance of laws
outlawing slavery, as well as laws to punish, prosecute, and imprison perpetrators of human
trafficking, exacerbates the crisis.
Nartey’s desperate mother arranged his own enslavement out of desperation, to a trafficker who
gave her an upfront payment and promised more. The trafficker swore to provide money on a
monthly basis to help Maria support her destitute family—Nartey’s brothers and sisters. The family
was trapped; as the eldest, Nartey was unwittingly trapped, too.
Tricked by the lies of his trafficker, Nartey hoped for a better future—he expected to continue his
education in the fishing village. He wanted to be strong—he wanted to provide for his family. The
slave trader had assured Maria he would only work on the fishing boats part time.
A Loss of Hope
In his destination community, Nartey soon lost all his dreams for a better life. His slaveholders
forced him to work day and night on dangerous and deadly fishing boats. He was under threat of
violence and unable to walk away.
Many children are trapped in fishing slavery on Lake Volta, the biggest man-made reservoir in the
world. In this huge expanse of water, storms can easily capsize small vessels and kill all those
aboard. Children are forced to dive into perilous waters to retrieve tangled nets. Many never
resurface. Many never go home.
Forced to suffer as a child slave, Nartey could not exercise his basic rights to education and freedom.
He didn’t even know he had those rights. The ignorance that leads to modern slavery also keeps it
hidden. Today’s slavery is a hidden crime—making it harder for the public to see and for vulnerable
villagers to understand, and for those in slavery to call out for help.
Freeing Nartey
Vulnerable Ghanaian families need help to build community resistance to child trafficking. Free the
Slaves’ partner organizations International Needs Ghana (INGH) and community child protection
committees work on the front lines to educate communities on child trafficking, child protection
violations, and the slavery that devastates some Ghanaian children.
After participating in local education and outreach efforts, Nartey’s mother grasped the
enslavement of her eldest son. She realized slavery is illegal, and that freedom is a basic human
right—then she campaigned for the release of her son.
Nartey was freed from slavery on Sept. 7, 2016. Now 15, he has been re-enrolled in school.
Skills, Not Slavery
Nartey’s mother now pleads for alms in her village, making a tiny income to help take care of her 10
children. She now knows the realities of modern slavery her eldest son endured. She would rather
beg than traffic her children again.
“I vow not sell them off to any trafficker, although the money I generate on daily basis is not enough
to provide all their needs,” Maria says. “I am one person who is going to serve as an example…so
that [villagers] can refrain from the criminal act of trafficking their children.”
With the support of FTS and our front-line partners, Maria is taking crucial steps toward economic
independence. She has expressed interest in building vocational skills in hairdressing, so she can
become self-reliant and confront the vulnerability Nartey and her other children face to reenslavement.
FTS is committed to help free slaves, tell survivor stories, and create sustainable
systems of freedom.
The Growing Up Free Initiative
In June 2015 the Ghana government signed a Child Protection Compact Partnership with the United
States. This partnership facilitates an investment of up to $5 million in U.S. foreign assistance to aid
the government and Ghanaian civil society in reducing child trafficking and slavery, and improving
child protection throughout the country.
The initiative supports the formation and implementation of a comprehensive, integrated plan for
prevention, rescue, prosecution, rehabilitation, reintegration, education, wrap-around social
services, the development of market-based livelihoods for vulnerable families, and the formation of
communities united in the determination to drive slavery from their midst.
Growing Up Free embodies FTS’ proven Community-based Model for Fighting Slavery. Our model’s
core principle is to create local assets that offset the most salient vulnerabilities that lead to modern
slavery: lack of awareness, the absence of strong protective community organizations, household
insecurity such as poverty or illness, inadequate legal protections, and survivor vulnerability to reenslavement.
Growing Up Free pledges to build capacity, educate and mobilize, meet basic needs, and change
attitudes and practices in Ghana.

Photo Credit: 
Emily Teague