Loud youth voices demand an end to child labor — Global Affairs

Lucky Agbavor, a former child laborer from Ghana, shared a personal testimony from his life at the 5th World Conference on the Elimination of Child Labor as a former child laborer. Credit: Cecilia Russell/IPS Children forced into child labor are robbed of their childhood with dire consequences at the 5th World Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour. Credit: Cecilia Russell/IPS
  • by IPS correspondent (durban)
  • Inter Press Service

The conference takes place at a time when child labor has been on the rise around the world since 2016 and amid a looming deadline to meet the UN Sustainable Development goal of eliminating child labor by 2025.

An estimated 160 million children are in bonded labor, with a further nine million expected to join their ranks due to the Covid-19 pandemic and economic crisis in many parts of the world.

Lucky Agbavor, a former child laborer from Ghana, caused a stir with his testimony of being forced into child labor at the tender age of four when his poverty-stricken mother sent him to live with a relative in a village in fishermen. While his mother thought he was being educated and cared for, the boy was forced to work on a ship and nearly died. He later he was sent to another relative.

“He took me to load beams, load it in the woods,” the young man recalled. He managed to go to school, but working and studying were difficult. He returned home after failing his basic education certificate in 2012.

“I came back home and things were very difficult,” he said.

But Lucky made it through high school making money selling ice cream, and today is proof that anything is possible.

“In the middle, I put all the efforts,” he said. Thanks to a scholarship from the Pentecostal Church, Lucky was able to study for a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

“I hope to become one of the renowned nurses in Ghana,” she told the amazed audience.

Thatho Mhlongo, ambassador to Parliament for Nelson Mandela, was unequivocal.

“Child labor is not a rumour, it is real as it is happening all over the world. I have personal experience. I have seen a very close friend of mine having to work and support his family.”

He praised the conference organizers for inviting children and hearing their voices.

Thatho also acknowledged the South African government’s efforts to support children affected by the recent flooding in KwaZulu Natal, which has claimed hundreds of lives and left many homeless.

“Transparency, respect and inclusion and children understand the implications of their choices,” he reminded the audience, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, two Nobel Peace Prize laureates and high-profile delegates from the labor movement.

As children’s narratives swirled, the government, unions, businesses and NGOs grappled with the challenges of combating the scourge of child labor and finding ways to meet the 2025 deadline to end the practice in a battered world. by wars, displacement and the pandemic. .

The vice president of the Federation of Workers and leader of Cosatu, Bheki Ntshalintshali, questioned how when “the world is three times richer, 74% are denied a social subsidy”.

“Poverty leaves children vulnerable,” he said.

Ntshalintshali called for a “new social contract” to end child labour, noting that four out of five children are forced to work in the agricultural sector in sub-Saharan Africa.

Jacqueline Mugo of the Federation of Kenya Employers recognized that it was crucial, though not easy, to reverse the trends of rising child labour.

“It is certainly even more crucial than previous conferences to succeed and galvanize to end child labour… If we don’t address the root causes, we will surely not succeed,” he said.

2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, who has fought child labor in India and elsewhere for 40 years, remained optimistic despite setbacks.

He pointed out that while the wealth of the world had increased still, the situation of children had worsened.

“I am angry about the discriminatory world order and the still old racial mentality. We cannot eradicate child labor without eliminating it in Africa. We know what the problem is and what the solution is. What we need is, as Madiba said, (because) the concerted action is courage,” Satyarthi said, referring to South Africa’s first democratic president, Nelson Mandela.

He said it was time to get past partisan politics, adding that it was possible to reduce child labor once again.

Nosipho Tshabalala facilitated a discussion on child labor in which Stefan Löfven, former Prime Minister of Sweden, spoke about labor market and supply chain challenges and how we can use the climate transition to create jobs.

Leymah Gbowee, another Nobel Prize winner, pulled no punches when it came to Africa’s dismal child labor record.

She criticized African governments that paid lip service to the goal of eradicating child abuse.

“When the cameras are off, suddenly the policy kicks in… Africa is responsible; our governments are not blameless,” he said, reminding politicians that “our children are the key to any policy, not the policy.” “.

Employment and Labor Minister Thulas Nxesi was also critical, saying: “We passed resolutions, big plans but no implementation.”

But he also defended SA, saying the country provided safety nets for vulnerable children through grants and free meals a day.

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder called for a human-centred approach to ending child labour.

“Child labor occurs in middle-income countries…always linked to poverty and inequality. More than two-thirds of children’s work occurs alongside their families,” Ryder said.

These children were later excluded from education.

The UN representative on the African continent, Amina Mohammed, and chair of the UN SDGs, said through a hologram: “Child labor is simply wrong. The ILO has a fundamental role in this work.

He noted that “the lack of educational opportunities fuels child labor.”

Saulos Klaus Chilima, Vice President of Malawi, called for urgent action, saying: “We will get there. We will achieve what we want to achieve. I believe we can overcome.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his speech, praised the ILO for being at the forefront of global efforts to eradicate the practice of child labour.”

“Child labor is an enemy of our children’s development and an enemy of progress. No civilization, no country and no economy can consider itself at the forefront of progress if its success and wealth have been built on the backs of children “, said. saying.

Ramaphosa said South Africa was a signatory to the Children’s Convention because “such practices rob children of their childhood.”

He noted that while for many people, child labor “conjures up clandestine workshops…there is a hidden face that is children in domestic servitude to relatives and families.”

“We call on all social partners to adopt the Durban Call to Action to take practical steps to end child labour. We must guarantee in all countries the ILO convention against child labour; universal action to universal social support,” Ramaphosa said.

Report of the UN Office of IPS

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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