Today 12th June is a day set aside to commemorate the World Day Against Child Labour. The aim is to draw attention to the plight of children in various forms of work that is not acceptable, the world over. This year’s celebration is under the theme “COVID 19: Protect Children From Child Labour, Now More Than Ever”.
This is important because childhood is expected to be one of the most enjoyable periods of human existence during which people have the opportunity to play, interact with nature and attend school in preparation for adulthood. Indeed, it is at this stage of development that people need special care and protection as enshrined in Article 28 of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana.
Unfortunately, according to the ILO, 152 million children are trapped in child labour around the world and 72 million of these are in worst forms of Child Labour.
For Ghana, the sixth round of the Ghana Living Standard Survey (GLSS 6) of 2014 estimated children in child labour to be 1.9 million representing 21.8% of total children population.
The underlying causes of child labour include poverty, limited access to decent work opportunities for families, ignorance, lack of access to quality education, irresponsible parenting etc.
Successive governments and stakeholders have not relented in their efforts at combating child labour in Ghana. These efforts are evident in the numerous legislations, Policies, Programmes and projects, as well as strong institutional arrangements that seek to protect children’s rights, promote their development and prevent them from getting trapped in child labour. Effective collaboration between government agencies, tripartite constituents, CSOs, NGOs, private sector, international organisations, etc. which has been the strategy is a step in the right direction.
My Ministry, in collaboration with the National Steering Committee on Child Labour and other stakeholders, secured Cabinet’s approval for the implementation of the second National Plan of Action for the Elimination of Worst Forms of Child Labour (NPA2). The plan has four broad strategic objectives;
a. To reinforce public awareness of child labour and its impact;
b. To improve collaboration and coordination for resource mobilisation;
c. To provide effective monitoring of Social Services and economic empowerment programmes of local government units; and
d. To promote Community empowerment and sustainable action against child labour.
It is instructive that, just before restrictions were imposed to curtail the spread of COVID-19, the Ministry together with its stakeholders developed and launched Protocols and Guidelines for declaring Child Labour Free Zones in Ghana (CFLZ). The idea of CLFZ is to ensure that Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) put in place measures, structures and systems to monitor, prevent and withdraw children from child labour in their areas of jurisdiction.
Despite all our laudable interventions and their contribution to reductions in child labour, there is a perception out there that child labour is not declining. As I speak to you, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are currently contesting the conclusions of a study undertaken by NORC of the University of Chicago funded by USDOL to determine the prevalence of child labour in the two coountries. The inaccuracies and misconceptions contained in the report could have severe consequences for our cocoa sector if not corrected. We have initiated processes aimed at remedying the situation but this would take some effort and the honest co-operation of USDOL.
While the Ministry and its partners are preparing to assess the full impact of various interventions on child labour through a nationally representative survey, there is an urgent need to take new and pragmatic measures to sustain the gains made so far in the fight against child labour.
COVID-19 has also predisposed children to risk factors of child labour. If immediate action is not taken, the impact of measures being taken to contain spread of the virus will have negative consequences on children
According to estimates from the ILO, children will be the hardest hit because 42-66 million of them could fall into extreme poverty in 2020. This will be in addition to the estimated 386 million children who were already in extreme poverty in 2019.
The continuous stay of children at home could also further expose them to all kinds of abuses. Girls may be burdened with domestic chores and predisposed to sexual abuse.
In situations of limited savings and inadequate access to social protection services, vulnerable households may have lost their livelihoods and such households will be at greater risk of falling prey to the demands of loan sharks on terms constituting debt bondage. This could have dire consequences on our effort at combating child abuse.
The Key to the fight against child labour resides in the effective implementation of NPA2. My humble appeal to all Lead Agencies (i.e. Government Departments and Agencies) is to commit to the execution of their respective roles in the plan.
Permit me, before I end my statement, to acknowledge the contribution of notable partners supporting government’s effort in the fight against child labour in various projects and programmes. They include USDOL, Unicef, ILO, ICI, with funding from Cargil, Nestle and SECO, International Needs Ghana, World Vision Ghana and Right to Play, VERITE, the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), PACODEP, Adwuma Pa, CRADA & SMILE with funding from ACE, GAWU spearheading the flagship Torkor model with funding from the ILO, and all organisations and individuals who have in one way or the other, contributed in the fight against child labour
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker I wish to encourage every member of parliament to volunteer to become an ambassador of the fight against all forms of child abuse including child labour.
Long live Ghana, Long Live all our cherished Children!!!