Eliminating child labour through renewed commitment – Guardian

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ILO Director-General Guy Ryder It is a daily routine. Although tough and tedious, she is well accustomed to hawking peanuts in the popular Mushin market in Lagos.    Thirteen-year old, Tokunbo Dada, has a promising future, but currently, the survival of her family partly depends on how much she makes from selling peanuts or groundnuts on daily basis. She has thus become a child-breadwinner.    Narrating her experience, Dada said: “Every day, I stand here by the roadside, and also move round the market; come rain, come shine, trying to earn some income to support my parents.”Tokunbo’s story is not different from that of hundreds of other youngsters, aged between 10 and 15, and sometimes even younger, hawking in many markets around Lagos and all over the country.  She and millions of other kids are why child labour remains a major scourge in the country.Despite limited efforts by government to eliminate child labour, Nigeria still ranks amongst countries that record high volume of worst form of child labour.   Child labour is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity, which is harmful to physical and mental development of the young minds.   More than half of Nigeria’s 79 million children between the ages of five and 17 are put to work, including in hazardous conditions, according to a joint report issued by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), and UNICEF along with a number of other organisations.   The International Labour Organisation (ILO), launched the World Day Against Child Labour in 2002, to draw global attention to the ills of child labour.   Each year on June12, the Day brings together governments, employers, and workers’ organisations, civil society, as well as millions of people from around the world to highlight the plight of child labourers, and what can be done to help them. This year’s theme is, ‘Children shouldn’t work in fields, but on dreams!’Despite this theme, about 152 million children are trapped in child labour worldwide. Although, child labour occurs in almost every sector, seven out of every 10 is in agriculture.   Hundreds of children drop out of school every year to help their parents earn a livelihood. The more unfortunate ones are forced into child labour by organised crime rackets, while many others never get to attend a school because of extreme poverty.   Children are the future of the world. However, when they are forced into labour, their mental and physical growth is impeded. The child is unable to go to school and is deprived of his/her right to education. This is only one of the many fundamental rights that get violated when a child is forced to work. Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that more than 200 million children are engaged in labour today.This only serves to highlight the urgency and importance of the celebration, as it strives to eradicate child labour. Children who are freed from the chains of child labour can finally enjoy basic human rights. They have the opportunity to become contributors of social and economic growth. This year, the ILO celebrates 100 years of advancing social justice and promoting decent work. At the Centenary celebration, the world body looked back on the progress achieved over a 100 years of ILO’s support to countries to tackle child labour. Since its establishment in 1919, the protection of children has been embedded in the ILO’s constitution. One of the first conventions adopted by the ILO was on Minimum Age in Industry (No. 5, 1919). With the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Target 8.7, the international community called for an end to child labour in all its forms by 2025. ILO also called on Nigeria and other member countries to accelerate the pace of progress ahead of the 2025 deadline.Recall that in 2017, Nigeria was indicted at the 106th International Labour Congress for encouraging child labour.   The ILO Director General, Guy Ryder, during this year’s World Day Against Child Labour, said 73 million of these – almost half – are in hazardous work, stating that it was “simply unacceptable”.   Ryder said: “There must be global commitment to do this as well as, “meet the target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which calls for the end of child labour by 2025, and that more coherent action was required, by ensuring the availability of quality education, social protection for all, and decent work for parents.”   The ILO Director-General urged governments, workers, and employers to make a final push to end child labour, saying: “How we treat our children is a reflection of our societies and values. The World Day Against Child Labour gives us an opportunity to take stock, define goals, and recommit to action.   “Our reflection this year – the ILO’s Centenary – is particularly significant because the ILO has been working for the abolition of child labour since its earliest days. Two of the first six conventions the ILO adopted in its first year, 1919, addressed child labour. “It abolition is now the subject of one of the ILO’s fundamental principles, along with ending forced labour, and work-related discrimination, and promoting freedom of association and collective bargaining.”   Ryder said ILO in 100 years had made substantial progress, not just because of intense advocacy, and national mobilisation backed by legislative and practical action, as between 2000 and 2016 alone, there was a 38 per cent decrease in child labour globally.   He said: “The ILO’s Convention on the worst forms of Child Labour, 1999 (No. 182), has achieved almost universal ratification by the ILO’s 187 member states, and the ratification rate of the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) is not far behind.”   In 2017, Nigeria made a moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour. For instance, Edo State established a taskforce to combat human trafficking, while the Borno State Government signed as a witness to an action plan between the United Nations and the non-governmental Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), which aims to end the recruitment and abuse of children. President of Human Capital Providers Association of Nigeria (HuCaPAN), Aderemi Adegboyega, said with the body’s code of conduct, it does not engage workers below the age of 18 years.He submitted that government is trying its best to reduce the incidence of child labour, but cited the poverty level in the country, as one of the factors for increase in child labour.   He argued that some parents are the ones forcing their children into labour by directly asking them to work on their farms, or asking them to fend for themselves to make income, describing it as “unfair”, as it delays the child’s mental development.   With these, he opined that labour legislation be seriously enforced to make sure that such incidences are reduced to the barest minimum, noting that this can only work when the inspection arm of the labour ministry is up to the task.   “On street trading, and begging, government can on its own enforce that kids shouldn’t engage in street trading. The regulatory agencies should go to where these goods originate and tell the manufacturers that they don’t want to see them on the streets. You cannot arrest the people selling it only.   “Also, there should be domestic employment standards for apprentices and domestic staff,” he said.Similarly, the Director-General, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Timothy Olawale, said eliminating child labour in the country is a work in progress, as relevant laws are still being tinkered with to ensure they are eliminated.   He stressed the need for government to enforce proper sanctions, which is still lacking, and the need to set up machinery for legislative input as well increasing the capacity of labour inspectors to enforce compliance.  Labour inspectors conducted 4,694 child labour inspections, found 606 violations, and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and Other Related Matters (NAPTIP), convicted 10 perpetrators for crimes related to the worst forms of child labour.   Despite these efforts, children continue to be engaged in the worst forms of child labour, including in quarrying granite and gravel, commercial sexual exploitation, and armed conflict, among others.   Furthermore, the legal framework is replete with inconsistencies regarding child labour, and the minimum age for work is below international standards, just as there are not enough labour inspectors to provide sufficient coverage of the workforce, while social programmes are not sufficient to address the scope of the problem. 
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