Child labour is gradually becoming a terminal disease eating into the inner core of the development of children in Ghana and beyond.
Historically, steps taken by states to address this issue is clear evidence that its effect cannot be taken for granted on children. Indeed global goals such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) did not spare its effects on children if not tackled.
The effects of child labour are unfortunately not limited to individual progress but largely affect government’s effort to ensure the development of children economically and socially. This has attracted countries such as India and the United States of America (USA) to make radical pronouncements on child labour at the apex of its judicial hierarchy.
Child labour in cocoa farms
For instance, the Supreme Court in the USA in the case of Doe vs Nestle USA Inc brought to the fore, the effects of child labour and how its consequence could affect the global economic indicators of countries and quality production of commodities for global consumption when child labourers become the order of engagement. According to Fortune 500, on March 1, 2016 pages 55-63, FERRERO and HERSHEY have pledged to buy 100 per cent cocoa from certified producers by 2020.
The other side is that Doe v. Nestle USA Inc has created the need for industry players to invest properly in countries where they will need the raw materials for production. According to the same report, chocolate producing company such as Mondelez International have pledged 400 million dollars to support child labour reduction by 2022.
Judging from this case, it is obvious that child labour is not only a social issue but also an economical issue. Clearly, any nation that develops a lukewarm attitude towards addressing child labour does so at the detriment of growing its economic base and transforming industrialisation into safe industrialisation that observes safe practices that protects the work environments in order to increase productivity, quality assurance and safety for the human resource.
Research shows that when children are engaged in hazardous work and worst forms of child labour at early stages of their lives, their productivity diminishes in their 30s and 40s. In view of this, the argument that the work done by children under harsh conditions are part of socialisation can no longer hold because its bad effect is greater than the good.
1992 Constitution and child labour
Indeed, Ghana, as a country, has had its fair share of progress and tardiness in the process of addressing child labour but it stands to say that Ghana has taken steps to address child labour. The 1992 Constitution states that “every child has the right to be protected from work that constitutes a threat to his/ her development and education.” This commitment clearly demonstrated government’s intention to deal with child labour. Indeed, the state through Parliament in 1998 passed the Children’s Act 560 which also under its welfare principles made it clear that the interest of children must be paramount at all material time when issues concerning children are at the fore.
The part five of the Children’s Act 560 is devoted to children in employment and child labour. Section 87(1) states; no person shall engage a child in exploitative labour and 87(2) also states; labour is exploitative of a child if it deprives the child of its health, education or development. The Constitution and Children’s Act set the tone for the ordinary man and woman to understand the context for which the state is interested in dealing with child labour.
Ghana through various interventions by the executive and civil societies, international and development partners, as well as industries, have taken steps to address child labour. Many interventions have been introduced in the past. These include tracking database of children previously engaged in child labour and ex-working children, a mono-sector decentralised system, integrated-child labour monitoring system and the community-based child labour monitoring system. These efforts led to the harmonisation and development of National Plan of Action (NPA) on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (WFCL).
I believe that in addressing child labour, the form is as equally important as the substance of child labour existence. Indeed, the laws of Ghana have acknowledged the existence of child labour, therefore, the question to answer now is: “How do we address the issues of child labour in Ghana?”
Ghana Child Labour Monitoring System
Ghana in 2010 instituted a new approach towards addressing child labour. This system is called the Ghana Child Labour Monitoring System (GCLMS). This system in my opinion is so unique and fit for Ghana because it is a system that its mechanical design and delivery recognises the needed structures. The primary pillars of the system are active processes in reducing child labour, consistent direct observation of children and sustainable alternatives for families and children.
The system recognises community, district and national-based structures to fight child labour with all the seriousness it deserves. Since its establishment and was piloted in 2010 to 2012, little has been heard about the system. This paved the way for players in this sector to invent their own means for dealing with child labour.
In 2015, Child Rights International (CRI) engaged the GCLMS by establishing community structures to handle child protection issues and serve as surveillance on the community. CRI through the implementation of the GCLMS covered 350 communities collecting data on 13,274 households. The interventions in the communities reached 59,041 household members.
As a result of this intervention, a community register was created to identify Children who are at High at Risk of Child Labour (CAHR), children engaged in Hazardous Child Labour (HCL) as well as children in the Worst Forms of Child Labour (WFCL), various forms of interventions have, therefore, been provided.
Over 2,000 community members and 8,060 children have been trained to identify, monitor and address child protection issues and to advocate against child labour respectively. Some other 1,734 children so far have also been assisted to come out of child labour conditions and are enrolled in school. Children supported with textbooks and reading books so far are up to 20,814. Seventy-five children in cocoa communities are on scholarship and various forms of additional livelihoods given to families.
In my opinion, Ghana require one single and potent approach in tackling child labour and will require collective efforts of the state, industry players, schools and communities to tackle child labour in Ghana.