This article was contributed by International Justice Mission, the largest international anti-slavery organisation in the world.
Esther* (not her real name) was very young when she was trafficked — between just four and eight years old.
A woman approached her parents, claiming there was a family who would send Esther to school, and they allowed the woman to take her.
The promise of an education was a lie.
She was trafficked to a remote island in the northern area of Lake Volta, Ghana — an island where many other children would be trafficked and abused over the course of a decade.
When she arrived there, no one called the police. No one came to look for her.
As a little girl, Esther was forced to fish on the lake in dangerous conditions, until the man who enslaved her brought in boys to do the work on boats. After that she became responsible for smoking the fish they caught.
The slave owner and his wife sent their own children to school, but Esther told us he said to her “you didn’t come there to go to school, you came here to work”.
This was Esther’s life: Sweep. Clean. Descale fish. Smoke fish. Collect wood. Go to the market. Week after week. Month after month. Year after gruelling year.
Esther and the other children living in slavery were stuck in an endless loop of work, monotony, and hunger. On top of that, Esther and the other children were abused physically, verbally, and emotionally.
Many children working in Lake Volta’s fishing industry know of other children who have drowned there.
On the day when police and anti-slavery NGO IJM arrived, Esther had just finished cooking. The son of the man who enslaved told her to quickly go and hide, so she anxiously hid in the bush all afternoon. Eventually as it was starting to get late she returned to the house. At this moment, police brought her and the other children to safety.
She stepped into a police boat and cried as the island where she was trapped vanished in the distance.
She told us she had questions for her mother: “I will ask her [why they sent] me there to the island to go and suffer and they never looked for me. If some people had not come to my rescue, if it happened that I died, would they have come to look for my dead body?”
As soon as Esther was rescued, she began telling her IJM social worker about her friend Emelia*, another girl about her age, asking for IJM to go back and rescue her too. Thanks to Esther, several months later, IJM and police were able to launch a follow-up rescue and bring Esther’s best friend — and nine other children — to safety as well.
Esther’s social worker, Perpetual, described their reunion: “Just it's such a joy, such a joy. Hugs all over, they were just so happy.”
Because of Esther, several children trapped in brutal abuse are now free.
You can find out more about child trafficking and how you can help stop it here.