James Kofi Annan was sold into slavery in Ghana when he was six years old. He comes to NUI Galway on Wednesday, 7 December, to share his story and continue his campaign against child slavery. He will deliver a public talk at 1pm at an event organised by the University’s Irish Centre for Human Rights and the organisation Frontline Defenders.
Like most of his other 11 siblings James was sold as a slave, at the tender age of six. He was sent to work in the fishing industry on Lake Volta in Ghana where small children are used to do heavy work with the nets and are sent down to free the nets if they become snagged. He recalls being beaten every day.
After seven years he managed to set himself free but he wasn’t welcome back either in his family or in his village, where he was seen to have disobeyed his father. From then on he was on his own. James educated himself by becoming friendly with the children who were attending the local kindergarden school and used their books to teach himself to read and write.
James eventually was able to complete his university education and got himself a job with Barclay's Bank. However he could not leave his memories of slavery behind and set up a new organisation called Challenging Heights to help other child slaves like him.
“James’s story is compelling and his campaigning and support for child slaves is outstanding. Estimates of a staggering 27 million people in slavery today, many of whom are children, should give us all pause for thought. The blatant disregard for human rights and humanity shown by modern day slavery or human trafficking, must be challenged around the world”, said Professor Ray Murphy of NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Human Rights.
Because James challenges the very profitable status quo he is vilified and attacked and receives death threats on a daily basis by email, text and by phone. Despite the threats and the danger, James Kofi Annan refuses to cease his work to free the victims of child slavery and to end the practice in Ghana.
Asked why he chooses to do this dangerous work he replies, “I had nothing left to lose – I had already lost everything I had to lose as a child.”
James’s organisation Challenging Heights helps children escape slavery and rebuild their lives by providing them with shelter, rehabilitation and education.
All are welcome to this free event at 1pm on Wednesday, 7 December, in the Huston School of Film at NUI Galway (opposite the Cathedral).