Child labour is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and dignity that is harmful to physical and mental development. It refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children. Child labour is dangerous, and it exceeds reasonable hours, but more importantly, interferes with a child’s education.
According to UNICEF, of all children in Ghana aged 5 to 17 years, about 21% are involved in child labour, and 14% are engaged in a hazardous form of labour. This is twice as common in rural areas in Ghana. Some scholars have said that, for poorer households, child labour is a negative coping mechanism and most of the children are involved in agriculture and fishing industries. Labour can also be defined cultural-wise.
In effect, what is regarded as child labour in the developed world cannot be the same in a developing country like Ghana. Every development is local. By extension every problem is local. So you will need the local solutions to local problems.
For example, it is commonplace in Ghana for a parent to ask a child to sell foodstuff and other errands for the survival of the family. This cannot be child labour. While usually, boys are more likely to be doing manual work, this could be due to household interpretation of what constitutes child labour. There are several forms of child labour in Ghana. These are slavery, child trafficking, debt bondage, serfdom, forced labour and sexual exploitation.
Slavery is where one person is owned by and made to work for another person without having any say over what happens to them. Slaves are held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase, or birth and are not allowed to leave or refuse to work. Child trafficking is the illegal trading -buying, selling and movement of children for labour or sexual exploitation.
Children are trafficked for several reasons including forced labour, prostitution and recruitment as child soldiers and beggars. Debt bondage is forced labour, where work is exchanged to pay off loans that people cannot pay off with money or goods. For example, a poor family may hand over their child to someone to pay off their debt, and that child will have to work for years until the debt is cleared.
Serfdom is when a person is forced to live and work on land belonging to another person, often with little or no pay. Forced labour is when someone inside work against their wishes. Sexual exploitation is the mistreating, abusing and or taking advantage of someone for personal gain and profit, by involving them in prostitution or commercial sexual activity.
The economy of a country is hinged on the capacity of its human resources and that includes children as well. Child labour is a significant problem in Ghana, affecting almost two million children. A UNICEF report says, there are no reliable figures on the number of children affected by the worst forms of child labour. and children living and working on the streets of Ghana.
Elements that impede the prevention of child labour include social norms that consider it acceptable for children to work and promote the view that many adolescent children should be treated as adults, poorly enforced legislation and policies prohibiting child labour, insufficient allocation of resources for the prevention of and response to child labour, inadequate services to support working children or prevent child labour and family reliance on income generated by children due to extreme poverty.
On 25th September 2015, the world leaders adopted Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs for the coming 15 years. The Sustainable Development Goals are a set of 17 goals and 169 targets agreed by the world leaders and designed to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice and tackle climate change by 2030.
These goals replace the 8 Millennium Development Goals, MDGs adopted in the year 2000. Despite the overall success of MDGs, the failure to include goals on ending child labour, slavery and trafficking, and many other goals that are now included. With extensive advocacy for years by various child rights organisations across the globe, three major goals have taken shape as part of SDGs, giving us a clear agenda of promoting children’s rights.
Global March Against Child Labour network too, through years of lobbying and campaigning was finally able to get a dedicated Target-8 on eradicating slavery, trafficking and child labour in all its forms. The three goals and targets relating to Global March’s work, that also form the central strategic framework and long term plans for the organisation as follows:
Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Target 8.7: Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers and by 2025, end child labour in all its forms.
Children’s rights include their rights to association with both parents, human identity as well as the basic needs for physical projection, food, universal state-paid education, healthcare, and criminal laws appropriate for the age and development of the child’s race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, disability, colour, ethnicity or characteristics.
A development communication strategy to prevent child labour must focus on creating awareness of what constitutes child labour in Ghana. There may be those who do not know where home chores end and where child labour begins. Television advertisement should be part of the project to educate and inform the citizens about how to end child labour.
After this, there should be a deliberate education on how child labour has affected the country’s social capital and how we can reduce this cancer. Attention should be given to integrating children who are victims of child labour back into society. Education is the solution to the victims of child labour.
>>>The writer is a development communication consultant. He can be reached on [email protected]