By George M. Weah
Millions of girls and boys throughout the world are engaged into child labour and are victims of human trafficking, specifically child trafficking, that have placed them into child labour. These works have deprived them of adequate education, health, leisure and basic freedoms, thereby undermining their potential growth and development as well as their ability to gainful employment. More than half have been trafficked and are exposed to the worst forms of child labour such as work in hazardous environments, slavery, or other forms of forced labour, illicit activities such as drug trafficking, prostitution, and involvement in domestic work and in armed conflict.
The incidence and impact of child labour on the children’s fundamental rights and national development is one of the major concerns of the Government of Liberia. Child Labour is a cross-cutting issue that violates the fundamental rights of children emphasized by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
The International Labour Organization (ILO) launched the First World Day Against Child Labour (WDACL) in June 2002 under the theme “A Future without Child Labour” as a way to highlight the plight of these children. The day, which is observed on June 12 of each year, is intended to serve as a catalyst for the growing worldwide movement against child labour, reflected in the huge number of ratifications of ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour and ILO Convention No. 138 on the minimum age for employment.
The global pandemic (COVID-19) has profoundly affected the world of work. In addition to its threat to public health, the economic and social stability, the long-term livelihood and well-being of millions were also negatively impacted resulting to more child laborers.
Children’s participation in the labour force is endlessly varied and infinitely volatile, responding to changing market and social conditions. Experience shows that a combination of economic growth, respect for labour standards, universal education and social protection, together with a better understanding of the needs and rights of children, can bring about a significant reduction in child labour. Child labour is a stubborn problem that, even if overcome in certain places or sectors, will seek out opportunities to reappear in new and often unanticipated ways.
Liberia has signed many international Conventions including the UNICEF’s Child Rights Convention (CRC), the ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (No. 182), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons. Added to these is the endorsement and launched in 2019 of the Liberia’s National Action Plan Document (NAP) for the Elimination of the worst forms of Child Labour that aims at ensuring that children are shielded from activities that are detrimental to their physical, social or psychological well-being.
As Liberia joins the world over in observance of this year’s World Day Against Child Labour (June 12), with the Global Theme: “Act Now to End Child Labour”, the Government of Liberia recognizes that the worst forms of child labour and other hazardous work done by children deprive them of their dignity, rights to education, health, well-being and protection. As emphasized in the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), it is clear that through relevant line Ministries such as the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Ministry of Health, and in partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and other relevant humanitarian agencies, the Government of Liberia can achieve her objectives in the fight against child labour.
Against this backdrop, I call on all of the relevant actors and stakeholders to coordinate efforts and mobilize the needed resources, and with the support of the public, to ensure that no child is a victim of child labour or involved in hazardous work.
The Author: George M. Weah iADs the President of the Republic of Liberia