The international community last Tuesday, June 12, marked the 10th International Day Against Child Labour with many and varied activities, all geared towards bringing to the attention of citizens the plight of children who are engaged in back-breaking jobs and the attendant risk of such activities. It was under the theme, Human Rights and Social Justice: Let?s End Child Labor,underscoring the point that fundamental human rights of children are violated when minors become labourers.
It is regrettable that despite the copious provisions of Ghana?s Fourth Republican Constitution protecting the rights of the child as provided for in Chapter Five, the incidence of child labour is still prevalent in the country: many children are into stone quarrying, fishing, among others.
In a statement on the day, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) made some significant observations which Public Agenda identifies with. It noted that Ghana has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the two International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions (No 138 on minimum age and No 182 on action in tackling some of the worst forms of child labour) and protects children in article 28, clause 2 of the 1992 Constitution, as well as in several other pieces of national legislation.
Despite this, the reality looks quite different for many of its children. According to a 2008 ILO survey, about 39% of an estimated 6.36 million Ghanaian children are working, with 1,031,220 (17%) of them being under the age of 13, working as hawkers, truck pushers, in the agricultural sector or in households or the majority even in hazardous activities such as the cocoa industry (which involves works with machetes and pesticides), fishing (which involves the risk of drowning) and stone cracking.
CHRI views child labour as a dangerous impediment to the child's physical and psychological growth and development. Given that many children who help out their families by working in the household or farms are missing valuable school time, which negatively impacts their level of education and therefore chances for a brighter future; given that children who work in servitude and in hazardous sectors are prone to suffer mental and physical traumas and given that these children are supposed to be Ghana's future, there still seems to be a long way ahead of us to fulfill our obligations to protect the rights of our children and enable social justice to prevail.
For the benefit of the society as a whole, CHRI urges Ghanaians to be mindful of the importance of keeping children out of work and appeals to government, civil society organisations, schools, community- based organisations, traditional leaders parents and the media to support the cause in raising awareness to end the practice of child labour in Ghana.
The call by the CHRI is very timely and relevant against the backdrop of the manner in which sections of society deal with children's issues is rendering the mantra, Children are the future leaders, an empty refrain. All of us have a role in securing a better future for our children- in our homes, schools, churches, mosques and workplaces. We urge all parents in particular to create the right environment for the proper nurturing of their children. We believe, ?for the rise of a nation begins from the homes of its people.