Youth survivors, activists will hold governments accountable for calling for action to end child labor – global issues

Our voices need to be heard and listened to – now and in the future, say survivors and activists of child labor at the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labor in Durban Badaku Marandi (India, survivor), Rajesh Jatav (India, survivor), Selimatha Dziedzorm Salifu (Ghana, survivor), Divin Ishimwe (Burundi activist), Esther Gomani (Malawi, activist), Rebekka Nghilalulwa (Namibia, activist, representative of the 100 million March). Credit: Cecilia Russell/IPS
  • by Lyse Comins (durban
  • Inter Press Service

These were some of the differing views of child labor survivors and young activists in response to the Durban Call to Action to eradicate the practice on the 5e Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labor in Durban. Hundreds of delegates, including world leaders in business, trade unions and civil society, attended the conference, which took place in the city from 15 to 20 May 2022. Sessions and panel discussions highlighted topics from agriculture, climate change and global supply chains and how these sectors and issues contribute to child labour.

During the closing ceremony on Friday, Jacqueline Mugo, vice president of the International Organization of Employers for Africa, highlighted the key points of the 11-page Durban Call to Action.

“The Durban Call to Action is a comprehensive action plan. Employers are fully behind this plan,” Mugo said.

The Durban Call to Action aims to:

  • Ensuring decent work for adults and young people above the minimum working age
  • Stop child labor in agriculture
  • Prevent and eliminate child and forced labor through data-driven policies and programmatic responses
  • Realize children’s right to education
  • Achieving universal access to social protection
  • Increase funding and international cooperation.

“It is in our hearts to realize this crucial turning point. We must not disappoint the children of the world. This implementation of the Durban appeal will be largely the work of an African who will take the leadership of the ILO later this year, so we have no reason to fail. We are very committed to working on its full implementation,” Mugo said.

Togolese diplomat Gilbert Houngbo ILO Director General (elected) will take up his new position on October 1, 2022, strategically positioning him to lead the fight against child labor worldwide.

“This conference is groundbreaking. Let’s not forget that 160 million children are engaged in child labour, half of which are involved in hazardous work that endangers their physical and mental health. We must not forget that behind every number there is a girl, there is a boy like all others who wants to learn, who wants to play, who wants to be taken care of and grow up and get a good job as an adult. They are denied the most basic rights to protection. It’s unacceptable and, frankly, morally unacceptable,” Houngbo said.

According to the latest International Labor Organization (ILO) and UNICEF statistics released in 2020 and highlighted at the conference, at least 160 million children are now involved in child labour, up from 8.4 million in just four years.

Sierra Leone Labor Congress Secretary General Max Conteh blamed the Covid-19 pandemic for eroding progress made in the fight against child labour.

“Statistics indicate that past performance is quickly eroded and child labor is exacerbated, not thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. This has resulted in large numbers of children dropping out of school and entering the labor market,” says Conteh.

South African Employment and Labor Minister Thulas Nxesi called on countries to implement action plans to implement the Durban Call to Action.

“The message was very clear, governments have to pass the necessary legislation, governments and companies (must) accept that we need a structural change of the economy, it should not just be about profit, it should also be about people. That message was very clear. It would be a serious mistake if children did not release the Children’s Call to Action earlier at the conference, which emphasized the need for free access to education, social protection, the provision of safe spaces during crises such as pandemics and climate change disasters and the important to evoke the spirit of “nothing about us without us” to democratically involve children in policies and decisions that affect their lives.

Several child labor survivors and activists commenting on the conference and the Durban Call to Action said the focus in fighting child labor should be on education, eliminating corruption and listening to children’s voices.

Esther Gomani, a student from Malawi, was pleased that the voices of some 60 children, representing ten countries, were heard for the first time at the world conference during special children’s sessions.

“They used to do things without involving people (children). People come to conferences, and there is no obligation. They come to enjoy the benefits. Now the voices of children are amplified (so that they will be heard) – nothing about us, without us. We need to be involved in the solutions,” Gomani said.

Rajesh Jatav, a child labor survivor from India who was rescued by the Kailash Satyarthi Foundation, said governments should focus on providing quality education.

“Education is the key. This is the only message. Provide quality primary education. Governments have a lot of money for good education. But there is corruption. They should use this money to stop illegal flows,” Jatav said.

Badaku Marandi, a survivor from India, strongly agreed.

“We are child survivors and educated, we challenge the government and the private sector to provide quality education,” Marandi said.

Rebekka Nghilalulwa, a child activist and representative of 100 million March (Namibia), said the plan had to be put into practice in order to get results.

“I want to see everyone’s responsibilities and roles described. The Durban statement should properly outline the implementation. That way next time we will celebrate and not deliberate on issues. It would be disappointing to record voices just for show. However young we are, we have the experience (of child labour)’, Nghilalulwa said.

IPS UN Office Report

This is one of the stories that IPS will be publishing at the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labor in Durban, South Africa.

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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