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Nigeria, ILO, NECA move against child labour

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In order to achieve Target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aims to eliminate all forms of child labour by 2025, African governments must accelerate actions against child labour, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Regional Director for Africa, Mrs. Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon, has said. 

Speaking on the commemoration of the universal children day, the ILO regional boss stressed the need for African countries to address informality, extend social protection to all, improve legal enforcement mechanism, increase access to free, basic, quality education and strengthen social dialogue.

Though COVID-19 crisis has increased economic insecurity, disrupted supply chains, and seriously slowed down manufacturing with roughly 85 percent of employment in Africa in the informal economy, Mrs. Samuel-Olonjuwon stated the situation could be compounded by an expected increase in child labour due to the closure of schools, the significant loss of income of parents during the pandemic, the absence of basic social protection and increasing poverty.

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She revealed that the ILO is expediting action to strengthen the capacity of governments in labour inspection and law enforcement, as well as workers’ and employers’ organisations in the fight against child labour in its worst forms. 

She hinted that ILO was also supporting more resilient post-pandemic economies with a commitment to ‘build back better’. The aggressive enlightenment of the populace on the differences between child work and child labour by media professionals would help reduce subjecting children to unsuitable work as the pangs of poverty extend its frontiers across many African countries due to impacts of COVID-19. 

The National project Coordinator of the ILO regional project ‘Accelerating Action for the Elimination of Child Labour in Supply Chains in Africa (ACCEL Africa Project)’, Dr Agatha Kolawole, who stated this during a Journalists and Media professionals training on effective child labour reporting and presentation of the National Advocacy Strategy on Elimination of child labour in Nigeria in Abuja, added that child labour not only stunt the education and physical wellbeing of children, but also puts the future of countries in jeopardy.  

She argued that child work as opposed to child labour allows children contribute to the welfare of the family without jeopardising their future and ability to contribute to national development in latter stage of their lives.  

On his part, the Officer in charge of the Nigerian office ILO, Mr. David Dorkenoo lamented the increasing number of child labourers in Africa especially when the menace is decreasing in other parts of the world.

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His words: “The issue of child labour is beyond just legalistic measures and putting in place the social framework aimed at addressing the challenges. There’s a pressing need to appeal to the emotions of humanity and persons to own and gain full support of the population. One very powerful tool to reach out to the general population is the media.” The meeting also validated the National Advocacy Strategy on the elimination of child labour. 

The National Bureau of Statistics 2017 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), a re-analysis of the 2011 MICS, revealed that about 43 per cent of Nigerian children, in the ages between five and 10, are working and about half of these working children are estimated to be engaged in child labour. 

Indeed, many children work for long hours in dangerous and unhealthy environments, carrying too much responsibility for their age. They work with little food, small pay, no education and no medical care establishes a cycle of child rights violations. While children have always worked in Nigeria, the figures have increased over the years.
   
This is in spite of Nigeria’s ratification of the ILO’s Child Labour Convention 138 on the Minimum Age for Admission to Employment, and Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. There is still a high prevalence of exploitation in the largely informal agricultural and mining sectors.

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