When Ayi was 15, her parents sold her. She was sent to the west African country’s capital, Accra, where she was forced to carry heavy loads to the market. One year later, she was forced to work as a prostitute. "I was given drugs and received clients day and night," she says. Police heard about her ordeal from an aid organisation and arrested two men who were suspected of trafficking her.
The Centre for the Initiative Against Human Trafficking helped Ayi back to her home town of Tamale, in the country’s north.
Ayi's story is typical, said the organisation’s Abdulai Danaah. People trafficked are often subjected to sexual exploitation and forced labour. In 2008-2009 there were some 12,000 victims of human trafficking, Ghana's immigration services estimated
Child trafficking in Ghana is partly fuelled by poverty. Traditionally it was common for poor parents to hand over their children to relatives and friends, who were expected to look after them. But this sometimes ends up with parents effectively selling their children, sometimes for as little as the equivalent of £150. They are often tricked into thinking that their children will be treated well.
The anti-trafficking centre is based in Tamale, the capital of northern Ghana and the country’s poorest region. The organisation teaches people who have been trafficked skills for employment and offers business loans to groups. It also gives medical and psychological assistance.
Ayi lived in a rescue house paid for by the organisation and was given counselling as she tried to rebuild her life.
"It is crucial not to reintegrate victims of trafficking back into society too quickly," said Danaah. "A key part of the counselling is to improve the self-image of the women so they feel they can be part of and contribute to their communities,” she told the Guardian newspaper.
There's no psychologist in Tamale to help them. Counselling services, when there are any, vary in quality and quantity.
Ayi, now aged 17, finished school and went on to further education, completing a course at a polytechnic and earning a diploma in marketing.
In February, Ghana started work on setting up a data base to help combat human trafficking. It came after the ninth yearly Trafficking in Persons report named Ghana as a source, transit, and destination country for children and women trafficked for forced labour and sex work.