The national plan of action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labor in Ghana aimed to implement a framework, which would eliminate child labor successfully by 2015. Despite this plan, children are still heavily involved in many big industries in Ghana. The main industries which upkeep a high level of child labor are the cocoa industry, the fishing industry, and the gold industry. The tasks children are required to do as part child labor are often very dangerous and could be fatal. This work can also be unpaid and the children live in enslaved conditions.
In Ghana, it was recently reported by GhanaWeb that child labor is on the rise in certain industries in the country such as the fishing sector. Despite leaders in the cocoa industry advocating for reduced child labor in the industry, the result hasn’t necessarily reduced child labor, but in fact, has shown a shift in labor from one industry to others! The supply chain manager of the International Cocoa Initiative has urged the government to take a stronger stance in collaborating with various private or public co-operations to promote children’s education and dissuade child labor. Some Cocoa companies even went as far as donating schooling resources such as books and stationery to children to promote school attendance rather than child labor.
At the beginning of this month, the Adansi region of Ghana announced the programme ‘Child labor free Zone’ to aim to protect children from exploitation and eliminate child labor in the region. The programme also aims to promote access to education for children in the region. One reason that Ghana is pushing forward with aiming to eliminate child labor is due to it signing and ratifying the UN convention on the rights of a child, which specifically states in article 32 that children should be kept safe from harm.
So why then does child labor still exist in a big way in the cocoa industry and other industries?
The main answer could be associated with the discussion as to what constitutes child labor and also what is the best way to deal with child labor. Many argue that the only way to solve this issue of child labor is to ban it. This would ensure the safety of children from child labor. However, others very strongly argue that banning child labor would lead to slavery and that in fact, we should rethink the concept of banning child labor and focus more on addressing the issues that cause child labor.
If child labor is banned, how will many families afford to feed themselves? Also banning doesn’t necessarily stop child labor or encourage families to send their children to school, it can, in fact, cause worse conditions for the children and their families’, for example perhaps the children are forced into more exploitive forms of work such as prostitution. Also pushing for a total ban reduces the chances of big organizations providing a dual education and work program for children to work and earn some money as well as attend a certain level of schooling.
There are even cases where children have spoken about how child labor is not exploitative and can be empowering to some, especially young girls. Often children may engage in child labor to support their family and not necessarily out of extreme force. The ILO claims child labor is when it is dangerous, exploitative and affects a child’s development. The ILO also puts forward that the minimum age a child should be allowed to work is 15 years old, and until this time a child should be able to enjoy the right to education.
Images courtesy of Pinterest
If we want children to go to school instead of work in the fields we cannot just outlaw a basic income method their family uses, but instead, we need to provide access to education for the children. Access in this context means more than just providing schools, it means providing the necessary resources as well as maybe an incentive for children to stay in school. Also, the system itself needs to be reformed in that the children should be learning useful life skills that they can utilize in the future, maybe within a trade.
Child labor results in millions of children out of school, this is why child labor is a very big issue of equity in education and affects specifically low socio-economic families. One reason that child labor continues to exist in many places is also the attitude to child labor as a normal aspect of life and the opinion that education is not important and that child labor isn’t a form of abuse. Also, the long-term benefits of education for some may be outweighed by the short-term need for money from child labor.
A common question people ask is if we know that child labor can affect children negatively, how do we change it, especially if it is so ingrained in some societies? Well perhaps it’s not about banning it or providing funds to governments (which can become mismanaged and disappear into the abyss of aid), perhaps it is more about regulation and changing mindsets. Perhaps it’s more about meeting people halfway, and educating people with skills they actually can apply in the future. If there is a system providing families with a supply of income that the child was meant to bring in, and also a system which would give the children a good chance at receiving a job post-schooling, then maybe peoples attitudes to education would also change.
Abranoma, N. (2018, November 09). Child labour on the rise in fishing, oil palm sector despite decrease in cocoa sector – ICI. Retrieved November 10, 2018, from https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Child-labour-on-the-rise-in-fishing-oil-palm-sector-despite-decrease-in-cocoa-sector-ICI-699277
Ahsan, A. (1998, April 22). Rethinking Child labor. Retrieved November 10, 2018, from https://www.thecrimson.com/article/1998/4/22/rethinking-child-labor-precently-theres-been/
CLC. (2013, July 31). CHILD LABOR AND ENSLAVEMENT IN GHANA’S LAKE VOLTA FISHING INDUSTRY. Retrieved November 13, 2018, from http://stopchildlabor.org/?p=3554
Daily Monitor. (2018, November 10). Fund to fight child labour should be well utilised. Retrieved November 12, 2018, from https://www.monitor.co.ug/OpEd/689356-689356-view-asFeed-y4dsqsz/index.xml
ILO. (2017, September 19). 40 million in modern slavery and 152 million in child labour around the world. Retrieved November 4, 2018, from https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_574717/lang–en/index.htm
MIinistry of Employment and Social Welfare, Ghana (2009, November). National Plan of Action (NPA) for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour in Ghana (2009 – 2015). Retrieved November 7, 2018, from https://cocoainitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/ghana_national_plan_of_action_for_the_elimination_of_wfcl_2009-_2015.pdf
Nuako, D. A. (2018, November 7). Adansi North District launches ‘Child Labour Free Zone’ programme. Retrieved November 10, 2018, from https://www.myjoyonline.com/news/2018/November-7th/adansi-north-district-launches-child-labour-free-zone-programme.php
UNICEF. (2014, August 07). Rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Retrieved November 10, 2018, from https://www.unicef.org/crc/index_30177.html
UNICEF. (2017, December). Child labour. Retrieved November 6, 2018, from https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-protection/child-labour/
US Dept of Labor. (2018, September 19). Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor – Ghana. Retrieved November 12, 2018, from https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/ghana
Other useful sources:
BBC Podcast- “The inquiry: Should we rethink the ban on child labour?” –https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w3cswqtw
Featured image courtesy of https://www.pinterest.com/pin/484418503651057841/