Just two days yesterday, (June 12) the world commemorated the international “Say no to child labour” which aims at raising awareness against all forms of child abuse and child labour, this day has been observed annually since 2002 by the International Labour Organization (ILO).
I participated in the commemoration in my way and had this to piece-up. The day provides a great background to shed light on a daily and open act that people indulge in without any repercussions.
Child labour is a distressing reality that robs millions of children of their childhood, education, and overall wellbeing and rights.
“I want a young girl that is really easy to manage and can do housework. I have a little daughter about 10 years of age. That means this girl should also be good with children,” women say as they send in for housemaids at home.
It is sad to say that this is a normal act in Uganda. Housemaids in homes are usually between the ages of 16 and lower.
These children are often subjected to long hours of work in dangerous conditions, deprived of education, exposed to physical and emotional abuse and denied the opportunity to develop their full potential and in some cases also never paid their little monthly pay.
What saddens more is that these children are sent in to work mostly with the knowledge of their parents or very close relatives, with reasons like; she should look for school fees, the parents are sick so she should take care of her remaining siblings and get some money for the parents’ wellbeing.
As Citizens Concern Africa (CICOA), we have witnessed child labour in extractives industry especially gold mines where they are exposed to dangerous substances like mercury which exposes them to graver health concerns, like loss of eye sights and skins diseases.
It affects their education potential as it gives them false quick riches which never materialise. We have seen how the sector also pushes children to the periphery when parents get compensation money from government and big extractive companies, leaving children alone and fathers getting new wives.
According to the Ugandan Constitution Section 2 of the Children Act as amended in 2016, a child is a person below the age of 18 years.
According to the international law, a ‘child’ means every human being below the age of 18 years. This is a universally accepted definition of a child and comes from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) – an international legal instrument accepted and ratified by most countries.
However, even with this knowledge the evil of child labour is as alive as ever before because of extreme poverty that pushes the parents and children into looking for alternative livelihood solutions.
Children that would be in school are forced out because they, too, would like to make a change at home.
To effectively address child labour, it is crucial to tackle the underlying root causes including poverty, lack of social protection, inadequate access to education and healthcare and discrimination.
The consequences of child labour are far-reaching and affect not only the individual child but also society as a whole.
When children are forced into labour, they miss out on essential education, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and illiteracy. This impedes their ability to secure decent employment in the future, leading to a perpetuation of poverty across generations.
Moreover, child labour hinders economic progress by suppressing wages, perpetuating unfair competition and creating an exploitative work environment.
We have to reaffirm our commitment to protect the rights and wellbeing of every child.
Eliminating child labour requires a collective effort, combining legal measures, social programmes and educational initiatives.
Governments, civil society organisations and the international community should collaborate to address these issues comprehensively.
This includes promoting sustainable economic development, poverty reduction, social safety nets and equitable access to education and healthcare.
By joining hands and working together, we can create a world where children are not exploited but cherished, empowered and given the opportunity to thrive.
The author, Jemimah Babirye Kasibbo is an Advocacy Officer at Citizens Concern Africa (CICOA)