Ghana (MNN) — A million children get involved in the sex trade every year, and the country of Ghana is no exception to the rule.
Ghana does, however, have a problem that you may not have considered in regard to child prostitution: "Many underage girls–teenagers under 18–are turning to prostitution to make money to pay their school fees."
Lorella Rouster with Every Child Ministries says Ghanaian prostitutes from junior high ages and up often come from homes where one or both parents have died, and where they face extreme financial hardship. Often ECM has found that the young girls are hiding their side jobs from their parents, only working in order to continue attending school.
The numbers of girls involved in the trade are high. "We have seen statistics that show that girls who end up on the street (we minister to many like that) or run away from home usually end up in prostitution within 48 hours of landing on the street," says Rouster.
In response to this severe problem, ECM has been actively reaching out to underage prostitutes in Ghana for the last 10 months. Husband and wife teams are sent out to get to know the girls.
"Our workers usually go and approach the prostitutes on the streets where they're working, or at bars and hotels that are catering to that industry," says Rouster. "The workers go and chat with the girls. They try and find out what's driving them to prostitution, and then they try to win them to Christ."
Many girls have not been in the trade for more than a few months or up to year. The fact that many girls are new to the life is part of the reason ECM has seen such eagerness to come out–the girls have yet to become hardened or jaded about their lives and are still hopeful that there is indeed a way out. About three to six girls each month choose to leave prostitution after talking to ECM workers.
"Those who want to come out are helped either with school fees or with a small loan to help them start their own business if they're not in school. Then our workers invite them to visit a local church where they know they'll be accepted. Many churches, unfortunately, are not welcoming if the girl is known to be a prostitute."
As disturbing as it is that churches often are not willing to take these young victims by the hand, ECM has found a handful of churches that are happy to do so. Regardless of what others might tell them, the ministry makes it clear to the girls that Jesus will always accept them.
"These girls readily recognize their need of Christ," notes Rouster. "They easily come to Christ–He offers them forgiveness, and they know they need forgiveness. He offers them a new start in life, and they know they need that. And He offers them a sense of value which they are really sadly lacking."
The healing process takes time. Counseling is offered, as are the tools for a new life, but the program is still in the beginning stages. ECM hopes to expand the program to include more training programs, a more developed micro-credit program, and more counseling opportunities. Eventually the program will reach other areas of Ghana and continue to expand; but for now, the ministry is working with what they have.
Millions of young girls are caught in the sex trade worldwide, being raped for profit on a daily basis. Girls in impoverished areas are especially at risk. Ministries like ECM which are involved in aftercare and prevention of such atrocities need to be applauded and sustained in prayer. Pray for strength for the faithful believers working in this difficult field. Pray that God would continue to bless and uphold the ECM staff.
This program is helping girls find self-esteem, a purpose, and the Truth, but it cannot expand without necessary funding. If you would like to help ECM's efforts to rescue child prostitutes in Christ's name, click here.