The world must address this issue through strict legal and policy measures, awareness raising on the importance of education as well as through replication of successful programmes that have proved to eliminate child labour and sustain positive change.
This was in a statement issued by Mr Andrews Addoquaye Tagoe, the African Regional Coordinator of Global March Against Child Labour, and copied to the Ghana News Agency in Accra, to commemorate the 2019 World Day Against Child Labour.
This year’s celebration was on the theme: “Children Should not Work in Fields, but on Dreams!”
The statement said in these times when civil society space was shrinking, the world must also realise that without civil society participation and partnership, that lofty goal could not be achieved.
It said as this year also marked the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the landmark International Labour Organisations (ILO) Convention 182, which calls for immediate action to abolish the worst forms of child labour, it was an apt time to reflect on the progress made and assess the continuing challenges.
The statement, issued on behalf of the Child Labour Network representing non-governmental organisations, trade unions, teachers associations and child rights organisations, said it was also to devise sustainable solutions to end child labour, especially in the agriculture sector, which accounted for 108 million child labourers across the globe.
It said child labour was a serious violation of child rights, especially their right to be protected from economic exploitation and hazardous work, and their right to education.
The statement said agricultural supply chains were at the heart of the many national economies, a major source of income for many families, and an impacting force on the lives of millions of children.
The statement said child labour in agriculture threatened children’s healthy development, sometimes even their lives.
“As a general pattern in agriculture at the global level children and adolescents workers are exposed to different dangers and risks such as sharp tools, heavy machinery, pesticides and harmful insects.”
“They are forced to work for long hours in hazardous, extreme weather and dangerous conditions, damaging them physically and mentally.”
“The Agriculture sector is one of the three most dangerous sectors in terms of work-related fatalities, non-fatal accidents and occupational diseases,” the statement said.
It, however, said contrary to the reality, it was often the case that in the rural areas where child labour was pervasive; medical care was inaccessible, improper or unaffordable.
The statement said child labour further hindered children from receiving education and many children did not go to school, while some may combine school and work or they stayed in it intermittently.
“Without schooling and opportunities for their holistic development and for their families, a child and the adolescent lose opportunities for a secure present and future as well as opportunities for decent work.”
The statement, therefore, called on governments to protect children from human rights abuses.
It called on Member States of the United Nations to uphold and effectively implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, ILO Convention 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labour and ILO Convention 138 on Minimum Age for Admission to Employment at the local and national levels.
It further urged the G20 countries to renew their commitment in the coming 2019 G20 Summit on child labour as the declaration of the 2018 G20 Summit states; ”Eradicate child labour, forced labour, human trafficking and modern slavery in the world of work, including through fostering sustainable supply chains.”
It encouraged the G20 to act on the “G20 Strategy to eradicate child labour, forced labour, human trafficking and modern slavery in the world of work agreed in the 2018 G20 Labour and Employment Ministers’
It called on businesses to carry out due diligence in their domestic and global supply chains to assess any risk and avoid being complicit in child labour.
“We encourage governments and businesses to find unconventional ways to addressing Child Labour issues in these modern times, considering the complete value chain of agricultural products, including its cultivation, processing, and distribution….”
This must be from the highest to lowest value crops and smaller sub sectors of agriculture such as pastoralism, livestock and aquaculture, along with gender considerations.
The statement said it was about time that children began working on their dreams and not in fields.