4 March 2014

Liberia: Perpetrators of Forced Labor Must Be Punished


When Children Were growing up in Monrovia during the 1970s and 80s, they weren't allowed to sell in the streets as we see it today. In those days, children were restricted and were sent to public or private schools by their parents. Children, who were disobedient were taken from academic schools and sent to vocational and technical schools or boys' camp.

Kids Were Not permitted to sell in the streets or engage in forced labor, prostitution or in activities that undermine their future. Since the armed rebellion in 1989 and the consequences the war years have had on Liberia, today, most children have become bread winners and forced to engage in terrible working environment.

The 2013 Human Rights Report on Liberia has revealed some interesting accounts, among which it said that young women and children were subject to forced labor on rubber plantations and in gold mines, rock-crushing quarries, and alluvial diamond mines. The report highlighted areas in which some children were engaged in "hazardous labor" in alluvial diamond and gold mining as well as in the agriculture sector. It said families living in the interior sometimes sent young women and children to stay with relatives in Monrovia, Liberia's Capitol, or other cities with the promise that the relatives would assist the women and children in pursuing educational or other opportunities.

However, The Report added that in some instances these women and children were forced to work as street vendors, domestic servants, prostitutes, or beggars. State Department report: "Child labor was widespread in almost every economic sector. In urban areas children assisted their parents as vendors in markets or hawked goods on the streets. During the year there were reports that children tapped rubber on smaller plantations and private farms. There were also reports that children worked in conditions that were likely to harm their health and safety, such as rock crushing or work that required carrying heavy loads.

The U.S. State Department report cited several instances in which children are engaged forced labor. It also outlined some of the constraints faced by the government to effectively deal with the problem of forced labor. The report said child labor was addressed as a child endangerment issue; consequently, no reliable figures were available on the number of children removed from forced labor, adding that the government took few steps to prevent or eliminate forced labor during the year.

There Are Constraints and complexities in dealing with such a volatile situation especially when issues of poverty and rising wave of unemployment are drawn into the picture. The government does have the laws and the necessary institutions to ensure that underage children are removed from jobs or activities that would subject them to hard or forced labor. However, it appears there are financial and capacity problems undercutting government's ability to deal with this issue effectively. The State Department report regarding children engaged in "hazardous labor" particularly in alluvial diamond and gold mining as well as in the agriculture sector speaks to the level of poverty and desperation facing our people. For instance, some children are compelled to go with their parents on rubber plantations to help them handle jobs that are actually meant for adults.

With An Already dwindling economy and brittle environment, this government cannot singled handedly solve this problem. Therefore, it requires the intervention of our foreign friends, including local and international NGOs, to work with government that would help create opportunities for our children and take them from the fields of hazardous labor. Institutions that violate the rights of our children must be held accountable.

Additionally, The Government of Liberia must institute stringent measures against those individuals and institutions bent on violating the rights of our kids. We believe that the reported action of these individuals and institutions has put the lives of the kids at risk. This is unacceptable and outrageous for people to endanger the future of children with impunity

Copyright © 2014 The NEWS. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.