Traditional authorities have been urged to design and implement community bye-laws on eradicating child labour as a contribution to efforts towards a child labour free Ghana.
The Regional Coordinator, Africa, of the Global March Against Child Labour, Andrew Addoquaye Tagoe, who made the call at Torkor in the Kpando Municipality during a community stakeholder meeting, identified chiefs as formidable forces in eradicating the canker through their effective leadership roles in getting their subjects to comply with various regulations within jurisdiction.
Mr Tagoe said the critical roles of traditional authorities continued to pave way for better community management and the sustainability of initiatives and thus urged chiefs to come on board to assist in ending the menace.
Over 2,000 children have been withdrawn from child labour, child trafficking, bonded labour, and slave-like practices in fishing value chain in over 10 communities along the Volta Lake.
The rescue mission, set in motion by the Ghana Agriculture Workers Union (GAWU) of the Trades Union Congress 12 years ago, also saw some 1,425 fishermen and farmers registered as members of GAWU to further strengthen their compliance with child labour laws and also encourage adult labour and decent work.
Figures from the United Nations Children’s Fund indicated that of all children in Ghana aged five to17 years, about 21 per cent of them are involved in child labour and 14 per cent are engaged in hazardous forms of labour.
Ghana is a signatory to several international labour conventions and treaties including the ILO convention 182.
Section 89 of the Children’s Act, 1998 (Act 560), provides appropriate age groupings for admission to various categories of work including light work for children below 13 years, employment (apprenticeship) in normal work for children 15 years and above and hazardous work for adults 18 years and above.
Child labour is, however, still endemic, especially in fishing on the Lake Volta. Boys are involved in hazardous activities such as diving and disentangling of fishing nets from underwater tree stumps while girls are engaged in fish processing and selling at the expense of their education.
The Torkor model
GAWU, in view of the phenomenon, collaborated with inland canoe fishermen, chiefs and some non-governmental organisations, among others, and began experimenting various strategies towards halting and eradicating the canker by designing the three-pronged Torkor model, following the successful implementation of strategies at Torkor, a fishing community in the Kpando Municipality, now declared child labour-free.
Mr Tagoe, who doubles as the Deputy General Secretary, GAWU of TUC, said the strategies, including organising informal workers, social mobilisation through sensitisation and capacity building and community-based sanctions and knowledge sharing, were designed and implemented with funding support from the ILO through the US Department of Labour, Netherlands Trade Union (FNV), and the Global March against Child Labour.
The coalition identified and has, so far, rescued close to 2,000 children from 10 fishing communities along the Volta Lake including Torkor, Dzigbe, Kpeyiborme, and Torgorme, among others.
He said the success story of Torkor hinged on advocacy born through the community’s thorough understanding of the concept of child labour, child work and forced labour.The model also led to the establishment of a number of classrooms for the community by the Inland Canoe Fishermen while the Missahoe Children’s orphanage in Kpando opened its doors to over 100 rescued children.
Strategies including training professional divers to fill up the labour gap left vacant by the rescued victims and establishing Community Child Protection Committees were also implemented to ensure the maintenance and sustainability of the rescue programme.
He said an absence of resources, partisan politics, chieftaincy disputes and critical issues such as knowledge loss which occurred following the transfer of a teacher who had been trained to provide services to child labour victims, among others, continued to militate against the holistic implementation of the programme which mostly pivoted around collaborative efforts.