The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has said that the elimination of child labour, especially its worst forms, is critical to growth and development of West Africa.
Director of the ILO Abuja Country Office for Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, and liaison office for Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS), Ms. Vanessa Phala, said this during a three-day ‘Experts’ Validation Meeting of the second cycle of the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour and forced labour’, in Lagos.
She said there is a need to close the gap in the prevalence of child labour in the region through accelerated action by each member state and thorough monitoring and evaluation of efforts by the ECOWAS Commission for maximum impact in improving social protection, social security, social safety nets and economic growth.
The latest global estimates by the ILO and UNICEF indicated that in terms of prevalence, nearly one of four children in sub-Saharan Africa (23.9%) are in child labour while West and Central Africa accounts for a significant number of these children, with an estimated average of 30% children (31% male, and 30% female children) in child labour.
While acknowledging the concerted effort of the ECOWAS Commission, in collaboration with ILO for the successful evaluation of the implementation of the first ECOWAS Regional Action Plan (RAP) for the elimination of the worst forms of child Labour, she noted that the assessment of the implementation of RAP was informative and identified successes and gaps that require interventions.
Noting that the evaluation informed the development of the draft of the second cycle RAP document set for validation, she expressed optimism that the effective implementation of the RAP by member states and monitoring by the ECOWAS Commission will progressively ensure the elimination of child labour across the region.
The ILO is collaborating with ECOWAS in the evaluation, development and validation of the RAP, under the framework of the Accelerating action for the elimination of child labour in supply chains in Africa (ACCEL Africa) project, funded by the Government of the Netherlands.
However, given the global increase in the number of children trapped in child labour to an alarming 160 million – from 152 million in the last four years, ILO said: “Our efforts in Africa requires acceleration as there is the need to implement innovative actions that will ensure positive impact through strengthened partnerships.
“Through targeted actions in agriculture and artisanal gold mining supply chains, by projects like the ACCEL Africa, the ILO is supporting national stakeholders in the elimination of child labour.
“We are supporting communities with the most prevalent cases of child labour by promoting economic empowerment, strengthening of legal frameworks, supporting communities to take ownership of the fight against child labour, providing withdrawal, prevention and rehabilitation services to children in or at high risk of child labour and promoting community wellbeing to ensure the sustainability of the actions.”
She added: “As we review and validate this regional strategy to prevent and respond to the exploitation of children in the workplace, it is important to observe the implications of our actions in achieving SDG Target 8.7. It is hoped that the implementation of this RAP will contribute to the achievements of SDG 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.”
While commending the ECOWAS Commission in its various achievements in the elimination of child labour and protection of children, she said with the validation, ECOWAS has implemented its 2021 International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour (IYECL) pledge.
Representative of Ghana in a statement, said: “It is undeniable fact that enactment of regulations and development of policies are necessary for the elimination of child labour, their presence alone is not sufficient enough to eliminate child labour. The critical ensuing step in the child labour elimination process is effective and efficient implementation of the plans.
“Children of ECOWAS deserve better protection, education, health, nutrition and care and it is our responsibility to ensure this. Let us do whatever we can with the available resources and push for necessary collaborations and partnerships to achieve the goal of this RAP. I am confident that, with dedication and commitment, we can.”