20 December 2012

Liberia: Labor Boss Troubled Over Child Labor, Trafficking - Says Liberia's Image At Stake

Labor Minister Varbah Gayflor Monday (Dec 17) expressed concerned over reports of increasing child labor and trafficking practices in the country and stated that the Ministry will intensify efforts of awareness in 2013 to salvage the situation.

Minister Gayflor noted that reports and practices of these internationally prohibited activities were not good news for the country and has the propensity to dampen the nation's growing admired international image.

She said the Ministry has put into place a system and would work with local and international partners to create awareness on the issue as many of those involved were doing so innocently.

The country's labor chief lamented that some parents and guardians were using children to make money for them which constitutes child labor. Others, she explained, go to the rural counties to bring people's children under the guise of sending them to school, but use them to make money which amounts to both child labor and trafficking.

"This is wrong and unacceptable; these children are being denied their future because they are not going to school," the Labour Minister stated, adding, "We have our own challenges here--high illiteracy rate--and we don't want our children to be like that. We need to prepare the children for the future so that that can have a role to play in the development of this country."

Among other things, the intervention, she said, would include "sending messages out there into our communities that things are not going right; we want to let people know so that when they see some of these things happening... in their communities to inform us to come in."

Minister Gayflor indicated that community mobilization and involvement is a key to addressing the situation, "and we are trying to beef up the inspectorate and establish a hotline, where people can call and tell us this is happening in their communities."

Still on the issue of child trafficking, the Minister said Liberia is one of those countries almost below the belt of not taking strong stance, "because we have not been doing too well with prosecution of trafficking cases," and even big partners like the US are not happy with this situation.

The public, she said, needs to know what trafficking looks like and how to avoid it. "You find people go into the counties to get the little children...this is trafficking," she continued. "You go to get the people's children from the country side to send them to school but you send them in the streets to sell water and other things.Whatever you use them to do other than sending them to school, we say you are trafficking," she explained.

The Minister lamented that in some bad instances these children are reportedly used for ritual purposes or turned into child prostitutes. "This is not good," and we will have to battle against it," she vowed.

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