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A recent global trend in labour administration is the renewed fight against child labour, forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking. This objective is encapsulated in the Alliance 8.7, an initiative of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which seeks to end child labour and modern slavery. The global alliance, which was launched at the Ford Foundation on September 21, 2016, builds on the momentum created by the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The initiative also helps to advance other sustainable development goals, including poverty eradication, education and gender equality.
According to the ILO, an estimated 180 million children work in the worst forms of child labour, including hazardous work, slavery, forced labour, commercial sexual exploitation and illicit activities.ILO defines child labour as work that is physically, mentally, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children and which interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school; obliging them to leave school prematurely, or requiring them to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work. It is widely believed that one of the worst forms of abuse and exploitation of children is child labour as it is detrimental to a child’s physical and mental development.
Poverty is believed to be the root cause of child labour. Therefore, it is more prevalent in Africa and Asia, which account for over 90percent of total child employment and where abject poverty is widespread.
In November 2017, ILO unfolded four key policy pillars in efforts at ending child labour across the globe by 2025. These include boosting legal protections, improving the governance of labour markets and family enterprises, strengthening social protection and investing in free, quality education. It urged governments to step up efforts at ending child labour.
Nigeria has since joined the rest of the world in responding strongly to this clarion call. Apart from being among the first countries in Africa to ratify and implement the ILO Conventions on Minimum Age at Work, Nigeria has also ratified the conventions against Worst Forms of Child Labour, ensuring best practices in this regard especially through the National and State Steering Committees on Child Labour.
One steering committee that is worthy of emulation for being consistent in evolving effective approaches towards the elimination of child labour is the Oyo State Steering Committee on Child Labour (SSCCL). At a recent seminar organised by the committee, in Ibadan, stakeholders reiterated their stance on child labour, calling on government at all levels to encourage corporate organisations to enlist in the fight against child labour through the offer of incentives such as tax waivers.
The occasion, which held at the Recreation Centre of the British American Tobacco (BAT) factory, Toll Gate, Ibadan, drew attendance from various stakeholders in the fight against child labour, including representatives of the Nigeria police, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the National Agency for the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), officials of the State Ministry of Labour, members of the press, among others. The main business of the day was the presentation of the final draft of the State Action Plan (SAP) on child labour eradication tagged Oyo State Action Plan for the Elimination of Child Labour in Nigeria (2017-2021).
In an opening address, the Chairman of the Oyo SSCCL and Director of Works, Ministry of Works, Adewole Ogunbiyi, said that the mandate of the committee is the elimination of all forms of child labour in Oyo State, adding that the committee was working with key stakeholders to achieve the laudable goals.
British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN), a key private sector supporter of the Oyo SSCCL, made a presentation titled ‘Impact of Child Labour Responses in Agro Communities,’ which was delivered by the Head of Leaf, Oluwakayode Oshodi. He decried the prevalence of child labour in the agricultural sector and attributed the situation to the limited understanding of the impact of child labour by the rural dwellers, which underscores the imperative for training and enhancing their awareness on the phenomenon of child labour.
“The agricultural sector is one area where child labour is prevalent. There is a thin line between helping a parent and exposing a child to child labour,” Oshodi said.
He noted that parents who engage their children and wards in child labour see only its short-term and cost-saving benefits failing to realise the long-term consequences therein.
Speaking on the efforts of BATN in the eradication of child labour, he noted that not only does the company constantly ensure that its farming partners and stakeholders understand the impact of their decisions as regards child labour, but it also conducts regular spot checks on their farms to ascertain compliance with its child labour policy. He also noted that the company has been working closely with government at all levels as well as other relevant agencies to fight the scourge.
“We ask farmers to share with us evidence of the child’s school attendance and take steps to reward members who are compliant through our annual Farmers’ Productivity Awards,” Oshodi stated.
In his address, the State Secretary of the Committee, Mr Marcus Williams, emphasised the important role that the organised private sector can play in stemming the incidence of child labour. He stated that for the menace of child labour to be fully contained it must not be left to government alone. Hence, corporate organisations must be willing to show commitment and to support the campaign.
“We know child labour still exists, it is only manifesting in different ways on a daily basis with many children being used for menial purposes. We strongly believe the political will to address the menace is there in Oyo State, in spite of the huge challenge that funding presents,” Williams said.
While charging development partners to seek ways to raise funds locally, he appealed to the relevant arms of government to whom the draft action plan is to be presented to ensure its implementation and not be deterred by insufficient funds.
Williams, who gave a summary of the State Action Plan on child labour, stated that it provides the roadmap for the National Policy on the Elimination of Child Labour in Oyo State. He listed the key thematic areas of the plan as (i) policy, legal framework and assessment (ii) child protection (iii) awareness campaign (iv) monitoring and evaluation, among others.
Speaking on best practice on child labour elimination, Williams identified gradual integration of victims and rehabilitation as pivotal to the achievement of positive results.
“There is a lot that goes into re-integration of victims. Gradual integration is very important in the elimination of child labour. Therefore, stakeholders need to understand the dynamics of gradual integration and must work together in this regard,” he stated.
There is no doubt that the right synergy among the various stakeholders in the fight against child labour can be very critical in eradicating it.