By: Rancy S. Teewia
Liberia, on Wednesday, June 12, 2019, joined the International Labor Organization (ILO) in its celebration of the World Day against Child Labor, after 100 years of advancing social justice and promoting decent work. The occasion was hosted at the Ministry of Labor in Monrovia.
The day is observed on the 12th of each year as a manifestation of the commitment member governments of the International Labor Organization demonstrates to the two conventions concerning Children; Convention 138 and Convention 182.
The celebration was held with the theme, “Children shouldn’t work on fields, but on dreams,” while the national theme for Liberia was “Prioritize Children’s Dreams through Qual Education”. The commemoration of the day brought together governments, employers and workers organizations, civil society, as well as millions of people from around the world to highlight the plight of child laborers and what can be done to help them.
The Minister of Labor, Moses Y. Kollie, said the World Day against Child Labor is reflected on progress achieved over during 100 years of support to countries by the International Labor Organization (ILO) on tackling Child Labor since its founding in 1919. The Labor Minister said the protection of children has been embedded in the Preamble of the ILO’s Constitution and one of the first Conventions adopted by the ILO was on minimum age in Industry.
“On this day, we also look forward towards UN Sustainable Development Goal Target 8.7 set by the international community calling for an end to child labour in all its forms by 2025. In support of Alliance 8.7, we call for immediate action to address the remaining challenges so that the world community can get firmly on track towards eliminating child labour. A newly released ILO report points the way with policy approaches and responses.”
He said 2019 also marks 20 years since the adoption of the ILO’s Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 with only a few countries still to ratify, this Convention is close to universal ratification. “On this World Day we call for full ratification and implementation of Convention No. 182 and of the ILO’s Minimum”.
The Labor minister further said that since the team of the Labour Ministry began its work in 2018, with the support of H.E. Dr. George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia, they have given serious attention to demonstrating the political will by coordinating governmental support to issues and processes associated with combatting child labour.
Last year, entities of the Government of Liberia provided support through the provision of items, services and know-how to the celebration of the World Day against Child Labour, the first of its kind for the Government of Liberia to observe said event. We must also note the role of CLEAR II Project, funded by the US Department of Labour in covering the financial gaps.
Min. Kollie said, in November last year 2018, the Ministry of Labor hosted Liberia’s first National Labour Conference; highlighting issues of child labor.
“We were able to create a consensus amongst stakeholders of the need to ratify Conventions 138 and 182 of the ILO. However, the Children’s Law of 2011 and Decent Work Act of 2015 already provide protections for Liberia’s Children of which the Conventions named above describe, which means by ratifying or acceding, Liberia will only be accumulating a reporting duty.”
Addressing the occasion marking the celebration of the World Day against Child Labor was the President of the ECOWAS Special Representative to Liberia Ambassador Babatunde Olanrewaju Ajisomo also said it is important that the Government of Liberia should give serious attention to the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme because it has a critical role to play in making the education of the child attractive and irresistible and all stakeholders should do everything possible to ensure its success.
The ECOWAS Representative indicated that the beauty of the programme is to strengthen the capacity for education of the children through nutrition and development of children’s mental capacity for learning.
He said it is therefore pertinent that Liberians themselves take ownership of it in order to drive it successfully and derive maximum accruable benefits from it in the overall interest of the country.
“One critical area worthy of note is the need to look inward for the sustenance of this laudable programme. The provision of school meals and the entire feeding regime must be less dependent on food importation in order to develop the national economy. In addition, the huge foreign exchange that may be used to import food items may well be spent locally to improve the standard of education, quality of life and create employment in Liberia.”
At the same time, the Deputy Minister for Children Protection Service at the Ministry of Gender Lydia Mai Sherman said children are the bedrock of any potentially productive population and the social realities of the current dispensation are quite obvious to prove that children are the catalysts of Liberia’s demographic potential. According to a UNICEF’s 2016 report, 1.8 million out of Liberia total population of 4.75 million are children below the age of 18 years.
Madam Sherman said children in Liberia faced insurmountable challenges ranging from abandonments, persistent non-supports, child rape, susceptibility to violence and abuses, hunger, as well as relatively low-quality parenting.
Recounting that in the first quarter of 2018, the Juvenile Unit at the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection recorded 37 cases, which include simple assault, theft of property, child conflicts, abandonment, street children and rape. Of this number, there are 17 females and 20 males between the ages of 2 weeks to 17 years. Dejectedly, statistics show that child labour approximately 5-14years still remains alarming in Liberia at 20.8% according to UNICEF 2012 statistics.
She further added that in urban areas, children are seen selling in the streets, while those that reside in the rural areas are engaged in undue agriculture, fishing and mining activities, especially in hazardous environments. “Our girls’ children are also employed in homes to do domestic work, which put them at risk of physical and sexual harassment and it will interest you to know that about 39.2% of Liberian children around the age range of 15-17 years have experienced physical violence. Also, 3,323 Liberian children lost one or both parents/ primary caregivers due to the Ebola virus disease-according to Ministry of Health and UNICEF reports”.
In furtherance, report from the International Labor Organization (ILO) shows that only 35% of children worldwide enjoy effective access to social protection. And, almost two thirds of children globally—1.3 billion children—are not covered, most of which lived in Africa and Asia.
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