Conference aims to reduce exploitative child labour

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Governments and civil society organisations of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland will assemble in Johannesburg in July to focus their efforts on combating child labour in the region.

The first of its kind for the sub-region, the Regional Child Labour Conference from 4 to 6 July promises to take forward the recent resolution by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva to "give child labour the red card'.

Almost 50 million children aged between five and 14 years are economically active in sub-Saharan Africa - or 26 percent of youngsters in this age group.

The continent is the only region of the world where the exploitative child labour has not decreased over the last four years, whereas globally, child labour has declined by 11 percent during the same period.

ILO reports that child labour situation in sub-Saharan Africa got worse since 2000.

HIV and AIDS is seen as one of the key contributing factors, as are the region?s soaring population growth and the expansion of the informal economy, where much of the child labour - particularly the worst forms - is to be found.

Child work is defined as exploitative when it interferes with a child?s schooling and is harmful to his or her health.

It is not only restricted to paid work; it often involves children working in their own homes, at school or in family businesses without any pay.

The worst forms of child labour, however, involve commercial sexual exploitation and child trafficking within a country or internationally through which many children enter a cycle of prostitution and drug addiction, or theft, selling drugs or pirated goods, housebreaking and other forms of crime.

Other ways in which children are harmfully exploited is hard labour in farms or mines, work on the streets such as rubbish collection or domestic labour.

The upcoming conference forms part of a sub-regional project, "Reducing Exploitive Child Labour in Southern Africa' (RECLISA), which is funded by the United States Department of Labour.

Through the ILO, the US Department of Labour also funds a sister programme in the same five countries - Towards the Elimination of the worst forms of Child Labour (TECL).

"At the heart of the RECLISA project is the critical role of education, which provides children with information and confidence to avoid falling victim to child labour or enables them to escape this form of exploitation if they had been entrapped by it,' says Dr Philip Christensen, who directs the RECLISA Project for the Prime Contractor, the American Institutes for Research (AIR).

Dr Helene Aiello serves as RECLISA Director in South Africa for Khulisa Management Services, which is hosting the conference.

She adds: "The need for coordinated action to eliminate child labour is real. Every day, we are faced with news headlines about exploitation of vulnerable children. To assist with learning and capacity building, we structured the conference programme to highlight successful projects in southern Africa and the results they have achieved to help vulnerable children.

"The programme also speaks to the ILO action plans to eradicate harmful child labour by supporting national responses, particularly by introducing them into national development and policy frameworks.'

All five countries participating in the conference have ratified ILO?s Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention.

South Africa has finalised a time-bound action plan and has begun its implementation, while the conference will assist other four countries in formulating their plans.

The conference programme will profile RECLISA projects in southern Africa, including four South African initiatives that prevent exploitation of children at risk and use education and other social services to rehabilitate children who had been subjected to child labour.

Expected to deliver the keynote address is Duncan Hindle, Director General of Education. The closing address would be delivered by Vanguard Mkosana, Director General of the Department of Labour.

Professor Mary Metcalfe (Head of WITS Education) will chair the event

Full details available here


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