Winnie Nyandiga, 100 Million's Africa Regional Organiser, reflects on progress to end child labour after African youth activists, student leaders, child labourers and child labour survivor-advocates themselves led a week of social media action demanding the full implementation of the Durban Call to Action.
(Picture: Winnie (second left) leading our side event 'Youth, Student and Survivor-led Action to End Child Labour by 2025' at the 5th Global Conference for the Elimination of Child Labour. She is joined by (left to right), Samuel Sasu Adongteng - All-Africa Students Union, Leymah Gbowee - Nobel Peace Laureate, Amar Lal - Child labour survivor-advocate and lawyer, Esther Gomani - Deputy Secretary-General for Southern Africa Students Union)
A quarter of a century since the first Global Conference for the Elimination of Child Labour was held in Oslo, the fifth conference recently took place in Africa for the first time –and never has it been more timely.
With only three years left to push for the breakthrough needed to achieve the 2025 SDG 8.7 deadline to end child labour, taking stock of the progress on policy, commitments and action taken to eliminate child labour, are we on the right track?
“No civilization, no country and no economy can consider itself to be at the forefront of progress if its success and riches have been built on the backs of children.”
- H.E. President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa during his opening speech at the 5th Global Conference for the Elimination of Child Labour 2022
The number of young child labourers in Africa has increased sharply since the start of the SDGs and is now the same as 25 years ago despite world wealth more than doubling in that time.
For the first time, Africa is now home to more child labourers than the rest of the world combined. 92 million young Africans, many as young as 5 years old, are so poor they are forced to work to survive and projections by the ILO demonstrate that there will now be a further increase and another 8.9 million more children could be in child labour by 2022 as a result of both the COVID-19 pandemic.
Youth activists, student leaders, child labourers and child labour survivor-advocates themselves refuse to accept that any child should be forced to work. All children and young people have the right to a say in the decisions which will impact their lives, but child labourers and survivors of child labour face multiple forms of discrimination which often makes it difficult for their testimonies to be heard. The 1 in 10 children forced into child labour may well have mined the minerals that make our screens but they are rarely on them.
Determined to challenge this exclusion, from the 12th -16th June 2022, alongside dedicated and impactful civil society organisations from across Africa, youth activists amplified the voices and agency of child labourers and survivor-advocates across social media in an online week of action. From the World Day Against Child Labour to the International Day of the African Child, they shared powerful survivor-advocate testimony films, recorded by youth activists in Africa, and demanded governments listen to their experiences.
Supported by 100 Million, Siasa Place, ILO Africa and AU’s advisory organ Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC), youth and student-led organisations: Tanzania Coalition Against Child Labour and WoteSawa Domestic Workers Organization, Prime Goals Initiative, SOMERO Uganda, Justice for Every Child Kenya, Youth Coalition for the Consolidation of Democracy, Burundi National Students Union, and Street Beats Foundation, shared powerful survivor-advocate testimony films demanding governments to listen to their experiences.
CHILD LABOUR AND ITS CONNECTION WITH OTHER INJUSTICES
The powerful testimonies from eight former and current child labourers in eight African countries demonstrate the interconnection of child labour with other injustices and human rights abuses that continue to be propelled by the rise in extreme poverty. All of them demand that decision-makers fully implement the commitments made in the Durban Call to Action including achieving universal social protection, realising every child’s right to free, quality education, increased financing and cooperation to end child labour and survivor engagement in all policy and programmatic responses.
In Nigeria and South Sudan, Mubarak and Wani are among tens of millions of children and young people living in conflict-affected areas at risk of being abducted, recruited, maimed or killed and who are too often denied access to humanitarian assistance and protection.
Their fundamental rights to freedom, safety and education are threatened by attacks on
their homes, schools and hospitals due to conflicts they had no part in creating. Mubarak calls upon the Government of Nigeria to act now and look into the plight of vulnerable children and their communities and Wani uses music to amplify the important message of child rights as critical to peace, unity, freedom and education. Children and young people hold the keys to building strong, peaceful societies envisioned in the 2030 development agenda, realising the SDGs and eliminating child labour in all its forms means we must leave no child affected by conflict behind.
Cutting across the multiple layers of the exploitation within child labour is gender-based violence and discrimination. As a young child, Happiness, like millions of other girls and young women living in poverty, was trafficked into full-time domestic child labour in Tanz ania by false promises of education and a better life. She later ran away because of the physical violence she experienced from her employer.
In Burundi and Liberia, Janet and Ciza are among millions of children aged 5-11 entering poverty and child labour at unprecedented rates due to limited provison of, and access to, child-focused social protection. Forced to hawk on the streets of Monrovia to support her family’s survival,
Janet calls upon the Government of Liberia to stop child labour. Ciza's experience in child labour as a young boy, including violent mistreatment by his employer and dismissal at night, pushed him to seek refuge in drugs.
In the absence of government support, young people and students are stepping up to support their vulnerable peers, and Ciza now benefits from a detoxification program by the Burundi National Students Union in their program "BIRACASHOBOKA".
Half of all children in child labour in hazardous work that directly endangers their lives. In Kenya, Omar is an illicit alcohol brewer facing daily challenges including conflict with the law, and without the proper safety equipment, he risks being burned if the brewing boilers explode during the distillation process.
Agriculture, in which Francis was forced to work as a sugar cutter in Malawi, is one of the hazardous sectors of child labour and also the most prevelent, accounting for 70 per cent of children aged 5 to 17 in work.
Working in mines also puts children’s health and safety at dangerous risk, yet Anyakot was just eight years old when she worked in the Tiira gold mines and was exposed to extreme injustice including sexual harassment, teenage pregnancies and rape.
Marginalised children in child labour experience multiple systemic injustices and continue to lag behind. This threatens our efforts to eliminate child labour by 2025 as part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The pre-existing systemic failures which cause this exploitation of child labour must be eliminated to make the goal of achieving the rest of the SDGs possible for the world’s most marginalised children.
The Durban Call to Action, agreed by all governments and stakeholders at the 5th Global Conference for the Elimination of Child Labour, clearly outlines that the intersectional approach to ending child labour lies in upscaling universal social protection and the meaningful participation of survivors in all policy and programmatic responses.
This cannot be yet another set of empty promises to the world’s most marginalised children and young people. All governments must fully implement the Durban Call to Action urgently.