Enhancing communities’ capacity in Nigeria and Ghana to combat human trafficking

The project is linked to Decent Work Country Programmes (DWCP) currently being developed between Nigeria, Ghana and the ILO.


In 2003, the ILO initiated a technical cooperation against human trafficking in West Africa. The region was selected in response to growing regional and international concerns about the prevalence of human trafficking. Trafficking of human beings is a major problem in West Africa, rooted in deep poverty and the pervasive desire of poor people to migrate in search for better opportunities within the region or outside it. Both countries have large proportions of the population living in absolute poverty; a critical shortage of jobs, especially for young people; a general stagnation in much of the rural economy; long-standing traditions of fostering of children as part of the process of growing up; high rates of seasonal migration from many rural areas; and large demand for migration both within and outside the country. In absence of safe an regular ways of migration criminal networks abuse this situation and traffic victims - women, men and children - within Nigeria and Ghana as well as in the region and to Europe for forced labour and sexual exploitation. ILO estimates show that hundreds of thousands of people in Nigeria and Ghana have been trafficked into exploitative and/or abusive employment. The ILO Action Programme against Forced Labour and Trafficking in West Africa (PATWA), implemented in Nigeria and Ghana from October 2003 to June 2006, made a substantial contribution to the passage of Ghana's Human Trafficking Act in 2005.1 In Nigeria and Ghana, PATWA supported the governments in the preparation of draft national plans of action against human trafficking and in the building of consensus on the need to combat human trafficking and forced labour.

Ghana’s Trafficking in Persons Action Plan calls for “Community watchdog committees” that can take active steps to detect, monitor and halt attempts of human trafficking in their communities. Nigeria’s Plan of Action calls for community awareness raising programmes and the inclusion of traditional leaders in the national anti-trafficking strategy.

The proposed project will be linked to Decent Work Country Programmes (DWCP) currently being developed between Nigeria, Ghana and the ILO. The elimination of human trafficking and child labour is a central objective of this draft DWCP. They indicate a clear political will on behalf of the government and social partner to work together with ILO to realize these goals. The project is also in line with the ILO Action Plan against Forced Labour, adopted by the Governing Body in 2005.


The proposed project contributes to the prevention of human trafficking through targeted awareness raising and community based outreach and assistance to trafficking victims in one pilot region in Nigeria and in Ghana.


Community-led activities are an important prevention tool in action against human trafficking. No sustainable progress can be made against human trafficking in West Africa without the direct involvement of local institutions and traditional leaders in the identification of human trafficking and implementation of measures against it. Community Vigilance Groups (CVG) led by traditional rulers and religious and community leaders can mobilize community members in rural areas to detect and prevent human trafficking. CVG can be mobilized and trained to monitor irregularities in the community. Integrating community level structures into a prevention strategy against human trafficking contributes to community empowerment, capacity building and awareness raising at the local level and ensures sustainability of prevention efforts.

The purpose of training workshops for traditional leaders in communities and members of CVG is to introduce the nature and dangers of the trafficking problem, and to make them aware of the gendered nature of the phenomenon throughout the whole trafficking cycle; to understand the concepts of forced labour and trafficking; to be able to identify situations of trafficking and forced labour without further traumatizing victims; to raise local population’s awareness of the dangers of human trafficking; and to network with other agencies in protecting and assisting victims.

ILO research provides new insights on the gender dimensions of trafficking and forced labour exploitation affecting men, women and children. While research findings indicate that women are likely to experience more violence at work and physical captivity, requiring additional protection both at the point of recruitment and destination, gender sensitivity requires that attention also be given to the human rights violations of male migrant workers in irregular status and victims of trafficking in forced labour situations. Furthermore, specific attention has to be paid to the needs of trafficked children. In order to achieve the desired impact, gender and human rights issues will be mainstreamed in all project activities. The project envisages a participation of at least 25 % women in training workshops for community leaders and Civil Vigilance Groups.

The proposed project will build on the outcomes of the ILO Action Programme against Forced Labour and Trafficking in West Africa (PATWA) particularly on working relationships with community leaders established in both countries in similar action. The proposed project will also build on the outcomes, knowledge base and contacts of the ILO project “Lutte contre le traffic des enfants” (LUTRENA), which has been addressing child trafficking for labour exploitation in Nigeria, Ghana and 10 other countries of West and Central Africa since 1999.

1 See: Atuguba, R. (2005): Human Trafficking in Ghana: A review of legislation.

Olateru-Olagbegi, B; Ikpeme, A. (2005): Review of Legislation and Policies in Nigeria on Forced Labour and Human Trafficking.