Currently, Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Taking its young demographic base into consideration, it is not questionable to predict that the country would have bright future for its economic and political resurrection. UNICEF issued a report in 2014 that from the estimated 90 million population of Ethiopia; more than 52 per cent are under the age of 18. Thus, working on such significant portion of population would be rewarding in state building and transformation. Because they are the main driving forces who are capable to realize the renaissance and prominence of the once influential east African nation.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) launched the World Day Against Child Labour in 2002 to attract attention on the global extent of child labour and action and efforts needed to eliminate it. Each year on 12 June, the World Day brings together governments, employers and workers organizations, civil society as well as millions of people from around the world to highlight the predicament of children labourers and to indicate direction for next implementations. As part of the world, Ethiopia marks the day every year to show its willingness to fulfill the rules set by the United Nations to protect the rights and dignities of children.
The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs have been celebrating World Day Against Child Labour to create awareness on the magnitude and effects of child labour in the country. According to researches, hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian children are obliged to accomplish tasks beyond their ages. Besides, they have been vulnerable to plenty of physical and psychological abuses for many years. Having realized this tragic scenario, the Ethiopian government has been working to alleviate child labour in collaboration with its partners.
As part of the concerted efforts being undertaken to improve the life of children, the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs has been accomplishing successful works on the well being of children over the last two decades. The activities are ensuring fruitful results so far. In an exclusive interview with The Ethiopian Herald in connection with June 12 World Day against Child Labour, Child promotion and protection Directorate Director, Kibru Hailu said that his directorate has been endeavouring to accomplish three basic initiatives; Child development, prevention and protection, and alleviating harmful practices.
"Children are the future leaders of this country. If we want to produce competent, knowledgeable, healthy and ethical leaders of tomorrow, we should have to invest our time, skill and capital on children," he said, adding "the Ethiopian government has been working devotedly to prevent child trafficking, eradicating harmful practices, child labour and child abuse."
According to the Director, 12,436 street children were identified in the capital Addis Ababa over the last five months; from that number 7,000 children were reunited with their families and the remaining 5,436 confirmed orphans have been granted local and foreign adoption.
"The country has strict adoption policy. It would have serious consequences to send our children overseas without studying the background of the person who takes orphaned children for adoption. S/he must fulfill the necessary requirements," Kibiri noted.
The government in collaboration with other partners has been providing caring and rehabilitation services for physically and psychologically affected children, Kibri pointed out.
In 2009, Ethiopia has launched children's parliament with the objective of promoting children's right. Moreover, such initiatives would go a long way in ensuring many advantages in the future fate of children. The Director said that 400 child parliaments have been established right now. The government supports the parliaments financially and technically. Since the children elect their president and vice-president as well as secretary of the parliament democratically, Kibiri insisted that the process has tremendous advantages.
"Child parliament is very important for children. It enables them to exercise rule of law and democratization process. It also helps them to develop their political skills and strengthen their relations,"
Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Child Labour Exploitation Expert, Wosenesh Birhanu for her part said special attention has been given to safeguarding the rights of the disabled, HIV positive and street children by government and other stakeholders.
She admitted that there are still many children under 14 who are facing physical and psychological abuse by their immediate family members and employers.
"We receive daily information and complaints against child labour. Based on the information we receive from informants, corrective measures have been taken on abuser so far. Awareness creation workshops and discussions are made a point to root out the problem," she added.
Wosenesh noted that the fast economic growth of the country especially the construction boom, being noticed in urban areas, has triggered the rural to urban displacement of children seeking casual work. According to her, children who work in manufacturing, agriculture and traditional weaving industry are more vulnerable to child labour.
The expert insisted that taking measures on abusers could not be enough to bring sustainable change on child labour. She rather believes continuous awareness creation activities should be launched so as to bring drastic change on the exploitation of child labour. As children who come from rural areas of the country have no registered birth certificate, the sad episode has been creating challenge in addressing the problem.
In 2015, Ethiopia has shown immense improvements in efforts to eliminate child labour. The Ethiopian government has adopted a proclamation which provides strict legal frameworks and guidelines for the prevention and suppression of trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, which criminalizes all forms of human trafficking and contains provisions to prevent child trafficking and other child labour activities. This legal framework has been changing everything particularly in safeguarding the rights and safety of children in the country.
The Ethiopian government believes that education would be an important weapon to transform the nation and to realize the renaissance. That is why it has been hugely investing in education especially in supporting children across the country to have access to education and other basic needs. It has been striving to produce healthy, qualified and competent engineers, doctors, scientists, innovators, teachers, lawyers, politicians and other professionals through properly implementing the policy starting from Kebele up to the federal level. Assessing the success stories being achieved on children's right so far, it is safe to claim the future of Ethiopia is flamboyantly bright.