Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Child labour in West Africa

24.11.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 59% of children in West Africa are involved in agriculture. The information was given during the 2018 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labour workshops held in Dakar, with the objective of preventing, reducing and transforming child labour in agriculture into decent rural employment opportunities for young people.

Child labour is one of the most serious human rights violations in the world. Children and their families are captivated by people who promise them a way out of poverty for a better future. As a result, hundreds of thousands of children are transported to borders and sold to work in vegetable gardens every year. They are deprived of their rights to education, to health, to grow up in a family, and to protection against exploitation and abuse. According to the International Labour Office, the number of boys and girls aged 5 to 17 engaged in hazardous work are estimated at about 85 million, of which 59% work in the agricultural sector. These children work on farms and plantations where they sow, cultivate, harvest, spray pesticides, keep livestock, or cut down trees in forests.

Human Rights Watch reports that a scandal related to this problem in West Africa arose in 2015 based on a Fair Labour Association (FLA) report, commissioned by Nestlé, It was discovered that more than half of the production of chocolate in the United States came from cocoa harvested by abused children in Côte d’Ivoire. Many had been trafficked from Mali and Burkina Faso. Such a level of abuse can have harmful consequences on the child and lead to permanent physical and mental handicaps.

According to the FAO, agriculture is one of the primary reasons why children are taken out of school.

What does the law say?

Child trafficking is a serious problem in West Africa. However, a Togolese law prohibits this phenomenon and imposes a fine of between $1,500 and $15,000 on anyone who “recruits, transports, transfers or accommodates” a child for the purpose of sexual exploitation, forced labour or slavery.

And according to Article 4 of Chapter I of the African Charter on the Rights and Protection of the Child, rights are guaranteed to all children under the age of 18 “without distinction as to race, ethnic group or colour, sex, language, religion, political affiliation or other opinion of national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status, and without any similar distinction for his parents or his legal guardian”. Article 18, which also covers the rights and responsibilities of the family as the natural basic unit of society, is clear. Governments, international institutions, NGOs and the media are already aware of the complexity of this affair.

Child protection

It is clear that the elimination of child trafficking requires the joint efforts of all concerned. For example, governments to local communities, national action plan, child coordination and monitoring mechanisms, village committees in Benin and micro-credit projects for education in Togo.

It is in the same light that FAO and ILO organized several workshops on child labour in the agricultural sector where representatives of the countries of the sub-region met, with employers, workers in the agricultural sector and members of Farmers’ Associations from Mali, Niger and Senegal in attendance. The aim of these workshops has always been to promote good practices at the regional level to improve national responses to the problem of child labour. For a long term solution to child labour and protection of children there is need for the adoption and enforcement of appropriate laws. According to the document “Child Trafficking in West Africa, Political Answer”, the main obstacles to legislation in the countries of the said zone stem from a lack of official cooperation between the states, especially since trafficking is not really addressed in the national laws.

Therefore, the legal framework is paramount and must consist of three main things: the additional protocol to the international convention against transnational organized crime to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking of persons, especially women and children, the 34th Convention of the Hague of 19 October 1996 on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition, enforcement and co-operation in respect of parental responsibility and measures for the protection of children and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and pornography.

UNICEF ​​has introduced five organizational priorities, including girls’ education, mainstreaming early childhood development, and increasing protection of children from violence, abuse, exploitation and discrimination.

In the same vein the World Day of the African Child which is celebrated every 16 June was put in place to facilitate children’s access to quality education. In the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, the focus is on a more equitable distribution of education, including spending more resources, energy and creativity in educating orphans and other children.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Photo Credit ; google image/illustration

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