Operation Sunlight is a project which ran from 2006-2011 and tackled child labour in the galamsey (small scale) gold mines of the Talensi Nabdam District in Ghana's Upper East.
It removed 155 children from labour in the mining communities as well as setting up child rights clubs to help prevent others from entering and spreading awareness about the risks involved. Operation Sunlight formed part of the International Programme for the Elimination of the worst forms of child labour (IPEC) and went further to form a holistic project following AfriKids ‘One Child at a Time’ approach.
The mining communities in which Operation Sunlight worked, and where the Talensi Nabdam Area Programme continues, are isolated outposts in the hot dusty scrubland, miles from the nearest dirt road. Some communities have been established for generations but many were built up purely in the pursuit of gold and, as a result, have not benefited from investment in infrastructure, schools, medical centres or any of the basic social services and do not have the normal community leadership and support structures. Use of child labour is widespread, driven by poverty and ignorance of the associated health risks. These include TB, mercury poisoning and serious injury and death; young boys are sometimes used to climb down shafts with dynamite with no protective gear.
In 2007 when the project launched its focus was removing 155 children from labour in the mining communities and reintegrating them into school or training. Operation Sunlight also supported the children's families to cater for them and make up for the loss in income incurred by taking them out of the mines. This was achieved by the provision of National Health Insurance, micro-finance support and a goat rearing programme. After four years’ work with these children, a Comic Relief funded evaluation confirmed that 95% had been successfully resettled. Although the project formally ended in 2011 and its approach taken forward by the Talensi Nabdam Area Programme, the programme’s staff continue to monitor the welfare of the children and provide top up business skills training to those who pursued vocational trades and have now set up in business.
In addition to resettlement of child labourers, Operation Sunlight piloted the child rights club model that is now used across the area programmes. It also successfully lobbied for the construction of two government schools where there had been no state provision and paved the way for school and community capacity building happening as part of the Education Bridge through this activity and the creation of community child labour committees.