Child labour prevalent in agriculture, mining

LINEO MABEKEBEKE

MASERU – Agriculture, mining, and domestic work are among the sectors where child labour is most prevalent, often depriving children of their right to education and exposing them to significant health risks.

The root causes of child labour in Africa are multifaceted, including pervasive poverty, lack of access to quality education, forced migration and displacement, and weak enforcement of child protection and social protection laws, policies, and programmes.

These factors are exacerbated by socio-economic challenges and crises, such as protracted armed conflicts and natural disasters, which push vulnerable families to resort to child labour as a survival strategy.

As a result, African governments are urged to enforce child labour laws rigorously and invest more in education and social protection programmes to address these root causes.

They are also urged to end conflicts and crises, including those exacerbated by climate change, as it is crucial to preventing forced migration and protecting children from labour exploitation.

Furthermore, governments are encouraged to align their efforts with Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 and other relevant goals, such as poverty reduction, education, decent work, and gender equality.

These calls to action were part of a joint statement by the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child’s (ACERWC) Working Group on Children’s Rights and Business, along with the Consortium on Children on the Move and Child Labour, comprising the African Union Commission (AUC), International Organisation for Migration (IOM), International Labour Organisation (ILO), and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

This statement was released in commemoration of World Day against Child Labour, under the theme: ‘Let’s Act on Our Commitments: End Child Labour!’

The organisations stand united in their commitment to ending child labour and protecting the rights of every child on the African continent.

According to the latest estimates, Africa has approximately 92.2 million children in child labour, more than the rest of the world combined.

The World Day Against Child Labour is a critical reminder of this persistent issue that continues to undermine the rights and well-being of millions of children across Africa.

Despite this, significant progress has been made in the fight to eradicate child labour on the continent. Some countries have created National Units for Combating Child Labour, harmonised their national legal frameworks with international and regional standards, adopted national plans of action for eliminating child labour, and established local vigilance committees responsible for monitoring and reporting child labour cases.

Initiatives such as the implementation of free primary education in many countries have significantly increased school enrolment rates, reducing the number of children exploited for labour. Successful interventions, such as community-based child protection programmes and initiatives providing vocational training for at-risk youth, have demonstrated positive outcomes in the fight against child labour.

These programmes not only rescue children from exploitative labour but also equip them with skills for a better future. However, despite these interventions, there are gaps and barriers requiring immediate action. Insufficient resources hinder the effective implementation of child labour eradication programmes.

The enforcement of existing laws is often weak, with limited capacity in the justice system to monitor and prosecute violations. Social and cultural norms, which sometimes view child labour as a necessary contribution to family income, further complicate efforts to eliminate the practice.

The organisations urge development partners and donors to increase funding and technical support, enhance international cooperation, and adhere to global legal frameworks to combat child labour.

Additionally, civil society, media, and local communities are crucial in raising awareness and challenging societal attitudes. They call on all stakeholders to mobilise against child labour, supporting families to keep children in school and out of the workforce through social protection measures like cash transfers and improved access to education and resources.

They also emphasise the critical role that businesses play in preventing child labour through ethical practices and responsible business conduct.

“We urge companies to adopt fair labour practices, conduct due diligence in their supply chains, and invest in community development and child protection programmes that support child welfare,” the statement appealed.

The impact of technology and innovation in combating child labour cannot be overstated. Thus, they appeal to all stakeholders to leverage innovative technologies and digital platforms in the fight against child labour. This includes the increased use of digital education platforms, mobile monitoring tools, and data analytics to effectively track, report, and address child labour cases.

In conclusion, the organisations reaffirmed their unwavering commitment to eradicating child labour and stand united in their vision for a future where child labour is eliminated, and every child enjoys their rights.

Creating a world where every child is free from exploitation and can realize their full potential requires a coordinated, multi-stakeholder approach, as reflected in the Durban Call to Action on the Elimination of Child Labour.

The AU, governments, regional economic communities, international organisations, NGOs, the private sector, children themselves, and all other key stakeholders are urged to work together to develop and implement comprehensive strategies.