In order to abort the use of children as “workers” in Liberia, three international non-profit organizations, the Winrock International, Lawyers Without Borders and VERITE on Wednesday, January 23, began a two-day workshop, dubbed “Child Labor”, in the country.
The workshop, funded by the United States Department of Labor, is being implemented by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in ten countries. The workshop in Monrovia brought together human resource managers and representatives of the Ministry of Labor (MoL).
The two-day event is being implemented in partnership with the Liberia Chamber of Commerce.
The objective of the workshop is to enhance the capacity of governments and the private sector so as to reduce child labor through improvement in national legislation, improved monitoring and enforcement of laws and policies related to child labor, promoting businesses, respect for human rights, increased corporate accountability, and national action plan on child labor.
Ms. Lisa Cox, program director for VERITE, said the workshop will help participants better understand definitions and legal framework on child labor and safe youth employment; provide tools to help businesses identify where they might have risks of child labor in their own operations or in their supply chain; learn about internal audits and monitoring, discuss age verification in recruitment and employment; discuss the importance of grievance mechanisms and methods for investigating complaints, and introduce model code of conduct and supplier/contractor agreements on child labor.
Giving a brief background, Ms. Cox said there are over 151.5 million child laborers globally, with 87.5 million boys and 64.1 million girls. She further noted that there are 19 million child laborers in the world ages 5-11 years, while 16.3 million are 12 to 14 years. She indicated that nearly half of 72.5 million are performing hazardous work.
Ms. Cox said in 2017 Winrock’s CLEAR II conducted a review of child labor, and the purpose was to gain an understanding of the inspectorate’s mandate and authority as well as its resources, management structure and overall ability to enforce national laws, to meet international obligations that pertained to child labor.
She said the review was based on an examination of laws, policies, and reports from international and national NGOs on current issues related to child labor in Burkina Faso.
Additionally, she noted that field visits and interviews with staff from the government, trade unions, industry groups, international NGOs and civil society stakeholders were held in Montserrado and Margibi counties.
She said these figures are lower than the last global estimate in 2013, which estimated that 168 million children worked in child labor.
While this is encouraging, far too many children in the world still remain trapped in child labor, compromising their individual and collective future.
Meanwhile, the workshop is expected to end today, Thursday, January 24, 2019. However, interviews conducted across Monrovia on what is described as child labor had other responses. Many women interviewed said they are not comfortable with the term child labor as it is being explained. “I have six children,” Madam Kolu Zagama of Paynesville said. “Their father died and, because I never went to school, I have to sell to put food on the table.”
She added that she is compelled to allow her children to sell cold water so as to add up to the family’s income. “How can anybody say that we are abusing our children by allowing them to work?” she said.
Other fathers interviewed said before international non-profit organizations begin to say what “we do here with our children is child labor and maybe inappropriate, they should know that African governments or rather the Liberian government has done nothing to uplift the poor and therefore our children will have to sell to support the family income.”
Another father, who asked not to be identified, said: “It is unfair for international NGOs to come to Africa and decide to tell us about what is wrong in our country. We appreciate their presence, but they should work with us and not become an authority on how to raise our children.
“Have they closed their eyes to the extreme poverty that has swept across Africa and that our governments are unable to solve? There are many parents who are unable to send their children to school because of poverty and such children help their parents by selling in order to survive,” he concluded.