afrol News, 3 August - Following increased media attention on the widespread use of child labour in West Africa, including child slavery and trafficking, UN agencies intensify their cooperation with Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, and Nigeria to put an end to the practice.
The United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) announced on 1 August that it would be working with the United States development agency on a survey of child labour in West Africa. The recent scandal (April 2001) - following the 'Etireno' ship's carriage of more than 100 children destined to be sold into slavery in Gabon - has increased the focus on child labour in West Africa. Equally, the massive use of Malian and Burkinabe child slaves on Ivorian cocoa plantations was documented in September 2000, and caused massive outrage in Britain, Mali and Côte d'Ivoire.
The ILO's International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) now announces it will collaborate with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) on the child labour portions of a survey on labour practices in five West African cocoa-growing countries. Beginning in September, IPEC will provide technical and training expertise for the project, which involves Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, and Nigeria.
IPEC says its aim is "to work towards the progressive elimination of child labour by strengthening national capacities to address child labour problems, and by creating a worldwide movement to combat it." The programme targets bonded child labourers, children in hazardous working conditions and occupations and children who are particularly vulnerable, i.e. very young working children (below 12 years of age), and working girls.
A report released in November 2000 by the Global March Against Child Labour documented the shocking exploitation of children in almost every part of the world. From rich country to poor, "there seems to be no escape for children suffering in the worst forms of child labour." Asia and Africa, however, were shown to host most problems of child slavery, child prostitution and child soldiers.
The most known example of child labour in Africa probably remains the use of child slaves in Côte d'Ivoire, which afrol News has reported about several times. "Thousands of Malian children were trafficked and sold into indentured servitude on Ivorian plantations," as the Global March report confirmed. In cross-border trafficking, Benin, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo are known to be the main providers of child domestic labour to the main urban centres of Côte d'Ivoire. The report also showed that young girls are trafficked from Togo to Côte d'Ivoire, where they are exploited as prostitutes.
Along with several non-governmental organisations such as the Global March Against Child Labour, the international labour organisations have started massive campaigns to combat child labour, slavery and trafficking in Africa the last years. ILO, through IPEC, has started activities in 13 francophone African countries since 1998. In all, some 20 countries are scheduled to become IPEC members on the continent.
- The most important issue in Africa is seen as awareness raising about the worst forms of child labour, according to information by IPEC. "The vast majority of child labourers are in the informal sector and therefore mainly invisible and exposed to danger."
IPEC scored its first success in French-speaking Africa in 1997 when Madagascar launched a national programme on child labour. This year, Morocco, Niger and Togo also launched national programmes. Four other countries - Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Senegal - have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, "demonstrating the change in attitude among French-speaking countries where child labour was formerly a less important political priority," according to IPEC.
ILO counterpart, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), launched its own worldwide campaign to stop child labour this year, with a special focus on Africa. The powerful unionists have since put strong pressure on governments to follow up their international obligations, surveying and documenting the widespread practice of child labour across the continent.
In June 1999, the ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour was adopted, and so far, 73 of the world's 175 countries (thereof, 21 African countries) have ratified it. The campaign for ratification and follow-up however goes on with increased pressure. "We are determined to see that these promises make a real difference in the lives of exploited children," confirms Kailash Satyarthi, Chairperson of the Global March.
Source: Based on ILO, ICFTU and afrol archives