It’s time for a single Monitoring System to address child labour issues comprehensively in Ghana

Have you thought of a Ghana where there is a centralized system where all Child Labour issues can be reported and address in the shortest possible time in a well-coordinated manner by the push on a button?

May at times, most people in Ghana get confused as to what is child labour and child work. To be clear in our minds let understand what is Child labour is?

Not all work done by children should be classified as child labour that is to be targeted for elimination. Children’s or adolescents’ participation in work that does not affect their health and personal development or interfere with their schooling is generally regarded as being something positive. This includes activities such as helping their parents around the home, assisting in a family business or earning pocket money outside school hours and during school holidays. These kinds of activities contribute to children’s development and to the welfare of their families; they provide them with skills and experience, and help to prepare them to be productive members of society during their adult life.

The term “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.

In its most extreme forms, child labour involves children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses and/or left to fend for themselves on the streets of large cities – often at a very early age. Whether or not particular forms of “work” can be called “child labour” depends on the child’s age, the type and hours of work performed, the conditions under which it is performed and the objectives pursued by individual countries. The answer varies from country to country, as well as among sectors within countries.

Child labour is a big social problem which needs to be solved on urgent basis by the support of both, people (especially parents and teachers) and government. Children as little as they are however they carry a flourishing future of any developing country. So, they should be our biggest responsibility as a country.

Children should not be used in negative ways. They should get proper chance to develop and grow within the happy environment of family and school. They should not be limited by the parents only to maintain the economical balance of the family and by the businesses to get labour at low cost.

It is wealthy to note that both past and present governments, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), local and international Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), and other partners have done some work over the years to nib the child labour canker.

Ghana led the world to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This was, in evidence of the country’s recognition of the need for children’s right to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health, physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.

The prompt ratification of the Worst Forms Child Labour (WFCL) Convention and signing unto the International Labour Organisation (ILO)/International Programme on Elimination Child Labour (IPEC) Programme in 2000 further affirms Ghana’s recognition of the problem and commitment to address it. This thus marks the beginning of an accelerated action against child labour.

Child Labour Monitoring System plays a very central role in the prevention and elimination of all forms of Child Labour.  To this end, Ghana has over the years fashioned out a number of policies and programmes to improve child welfare and protection services across the country.

Unfortunately, these policies are often designed to address one section of the sector, i.e.; cocoa subsector, fishing, mining, quarrying, or domestic servitude among others. This renders such beautiful national policy/policies ineffective.

Indeed, before the year 2000, the country had taken significant steps in promoting the rights and welfare of its children by ratifying the ILO Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No.29) in 1957 and the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105) in 1958. As far back as 1967, the Labour Decree, (NLCD 157), had provisions for the protection of children from labour exploitation. All these and the enactment of the Children’s Act, 1998 (Act 560) and its Legislative Instrument, the Child Rights Regulation, (LI 1705) provided a good platform for the critical momentum that was initiated with the technical support by the ILO’s IPEC.

Since then, several Government institutions, Employers’ and Workers’ Organisations, local and international NGOs like International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), and other international agencies such as the ILO, UNICEF and IOM have contributed significantly to efforts to address the problem. This has resulted in the development of policy and legislation and the implementation of small-scale direct actions in identifying, withdrawing and rehabilitating children engaged in WFCL.

Given the critical role CLMS plays in the mix of child labour interventions; and possible administrative and technical inconsistencies which have arisen from implementing a dual model CLMS in one country, it was critically important to harmonize and reconcile Integrated Child Labour Monitoring System  (I-CLMS) and Community Child Labour Monitoring System  (CCLMS) and standardize the operation of child labour monitoring in a manner that enhances the country’s ability to deal effectively with child labour and meet its international obligations in that respect.

So, it came as no surprise, when I read in the media that a proposal has been made in the Second National Plan of Action (NPA 2) for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour in Ghana calling for the establishment of an effective child labour monitoring regime. The NPA indicates the need to rationalize all existing child labour monitoring mechanisms into a single system.

To ensure inclusiveness and a holistic approach to tackle the child labour problem in all sectors, the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare in partnership with its Social Partners, ILO/IPEC, UNICEF and other key partners in 2010 developed Ghana Child Labour Monitoring System (GCLMS) which was piloted by government in Six (6) districts (25 Communities) under the National Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour in Cocoa (NPECLC).

The GCLMS served as a means of monitoring child labour issues in the country. The GCLMS was said to be a holistic and dynamic process for reducing the WFCL and other forms.

In that same policy document, government and its partners were to establish National, Regional, District and Community structures to serve as interface for the protection and identification of victims of child labour as well as delivery of services to identified vulnerable households and children at all levels.

The GCLMS which seek to harmonized in a coordinated manner all other sectors activities to improve child welfare and protection services across the country also fell short in addressing the gaps between the various sectors as the final pilot report identified some challenges and made some recommendations for a review to include the tools and the processes

 

Need for review of GCLMS

The review of the GCLMS has become imperative due to various challenges arising out of the piloting stage due to changings in approach in tackling child labour across the country by the various sector players.

Prior to Action 1.1.7.1 of NPA2, the final pilot report of the GCLMS by the NPECLC also made recommendations for the review of some of the process to include data collection procedure, tools (questionnaire and software), setting up of structures (Community Child Protection Committees (CCPCs) and District Child Protection Committees (DCPCs) at all levels. The review of the GCLMS and harmonizing it with all other monitoring and remediation systems being used by both the public and private sectors with the view to making the system responsive to national needs as well as the institutional objectives will eventually ensure full utilisation of the system by all stakeholders to protect children of from all forms of child labour and abuse.

The National Coordinator for the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), Mr Mike Arthur, also believes there is an urgent need to review the GCLMS to make it more effective and efficient for addressing child labour in all sectors of the country.

According to him, the review of the GCLMS should be done in other to harmonize all other child labour and protection monitoring and remediation systems

Luckily for us the pilot report had identified challenges, including the changing approaches to data collection procedures and tools such as questionnaire and software, and the setting up of structures at all levels by various organisations, to tackle child labour issues. So it is in order for the state actors and its partners to go back to the drawing board and iron out all the deficiencies in the old document to make it workable and practicable to all sector players. He said.

Mr Arthur suggested that the review should be used to evaluate some of the indicators identified under the System that have proven to be unachievable by stakeholders, measure the relevance of others, and ensure a more streamlined system that would be relevant to tackling child protection in its entirety, especially in the cocoa sector.

However, he was of the view that government does not need to restrict all players to use a single harmonized system, but could adopt good aspects of the various private monitoring systems, while allowing existing workable ones to run alongside the GCLMS.

He said his outfit, ICI has already developed its own CLMRS, which it was working with in selected cocoa communities within the Western, Eastern, Central and Ashanti regions, using the Supply Chain Approach to identify child labour within groups of cocoa buyers, and monitoring the activities of suppliers.

At this juncture, I join in the chorus been sung by industry players, and technical advisors to say Ghana needs a simple, robust, cost-effective, and sustainable system that is natural, objective social protection services acceptable to all key partners.

 

 

By: Franklin ASARE-DONKOH

Writer’s: franklinadonkoh@gmail.com  

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