My Keynote Address on “World Day Against Child Labour 2012” 12th June 2012
I stand to give this keynote address on this special day when we look into the issue of child labour and how best we all as partners and stakeholders in society can join hands to help curb this menace which is retarding human development; physically, mentally, emotionally and psychologically. World Day against Child labour should not just be a day on the UN Calendar where large sums of moneys will be given out to people just to make noise in the name of observing the day and make the world aware that there are millions of children on the street, on farms, on the sea etc, but a day to give and implement practical solutions that will take almost all children off the streets and the business ventures a day we, at SFLIG, wish and pray will be celebrated and remembered as the end of the era of Child Labour.
Solutions for Life Initiative-Ghana is a youth focus, youth led, non-governmental organization that works on youth and development issues and it is empowered by our passion and desire for sustainable development. We exist to impact informal transmission of knowledge, social capital and psychosocial support for young girls, the less privileged and most vulnerable in society. We help raise their self-esteem whilst seeking social justice and developing their role in building sustainable and productive futures. Our mission is to create a platform to help young people build up their confidence, give them equal opportunities, give them companionship and a listening ear, and provide unwavering encouragement dedicated to helping them become agents of change in our generation. SFLIG act and will act as the little voice of the voiceless and also work in the sole interest of the youth and the females of our societies. We the members of SFLIG firmly believe that each individual can make a difference. According to ‘The State of the World’s Children 2012 : Children in an Urban World’ Report, one billion children living in urban areas lack access to schools, health care and sanitation despite living alongside these services. According to UNICEF an estimated 246 million children are working, and most likely to work in hazardous places like mines, or working with dangerous tools like machinery and pesticides. Most of these children if girls are most likely to be lure into sex business and if boys into illegal business like scams, selling drugs, armed robbery etc. This is the more reason why we shouldn’t just observe this day but make giant efforts to stop it. It is with this passion to eradicate it, that we took the time to research the issue of Child labour and to find out its root causes, because we believe our government and policy makers are turning a blind eye. We believe that every social canker can only be dealt with if its root cause is identified, and our research, alongside the Atwima Kwawoma district case study, gave us a deeper insight into the issue and its root causes. For instance, our results tell us that 36% of parents interrogated said that the reason their child is not enrolled in school is poverty, i.e. a lack of financial support. The response we received from the children interviewed backs this up with 54% of them saying that their reason for not being in school is inadequate financing. Most children involve in child labour according to our research are a result of; • Impoverish families or parents • Teenage pregnancy • Divorce • Lack of family support in case of orphans and children who have sick parent/parents • Single parenting where the parent most often a woman has no source of income to cater for their children. • Lack of mentors Children involve in child labour are most often from the peri-urban towns where there are high rate of teenage pregnancy and teen mothers. The needs of children in these peri-urban areas are most often neglected because the issue of child labour is always lumped together with that of city dwellers. Policy making and resource allocation then becomes difficult and robs these rural children from attaining and reaching their full potential in developing their communities. We believe that the root cause of child labour can be traced from the rural poor and that is where more focus should be based if we are hoping to eradicate it. Our research into the issue of Child labour directed us towards our primary focus for this day: “Empowering mothers to help curb child labour”. We believe that we can’t just send children to school or stop them from involving themselves in income generating activities since some children involved are supporting their own education and that of other siblings and parents; if we don’t economically empower their parents, most often the mothers, then we are going to fight this battle against child labour for years, decades and centuries to come and the same issues will prevail. Today SFLIG wants to use this day to present to our policy holders, one way we know and believe can help us address this issue of Child labour. That solution is to empower single young mothers so they can take care of themselves and the child and to break the chain of poverty that takes children into child labour. Our research made us aware that about 80% of the people on the street both children and adult were there as a result of teenage pregnancy, divorce and single parenting and it has become a cycle with most families.
I want to give a real life example to explain my reason; Evander, is being raised by a single mother who is economically impoverish and the little she is doing is not enough to cater for him and his other siblings, and since he is the only boy, it has dawn on him to take care of the home as an early age of 14 years. He wakes up and by 3:00am he is at Kejetia to work as a driver’s assistant (mate). The money he earns is not even enough for him to save because he has to share the GHc 15.00 he gets with the mother. Looking at Evander’s case it is not possible to just put him in school and say that we have solved his issue. Evander wishes to be in school but if he does who will take care of him, the siblings and the mother? The only way to get Evander in school will be made possible if his mother is economically empowered and independent, earning enough income to take care of her and the children. Again let’s take a look at a boy, who works as a janitorial boy, he is out of school because of his broken home. At the age of 14, he cleans toilets in order to get some money to feed himself, and now out of school, let’s ask ourselves this question, would he do this if the mother had any reliable source of income? It is in the light of all this that we wish to run one of our initiatives to bring about solutions to some of life issues, in this case the “Empowering mothers program”. With this initiative we are looking at working to build their self esteem to help them know their worth and impart in society, educate them to know basic management skills and to crown it all a vocational training in cloth making, candle, liquid soap and bead making. We envisage seeing mothers financially empowered and children in school. We wish therefore to seek partnership with all stakeholders involved in this fight, to support us to carry out this initiative which we think is timely and needs to be started now. The issue of child labour if not taken seriously is going to rid the country and the world of skilled labour to help grow the economy. The future of this economy I can boldly say rest on all of us here present, the old and the young alike, it starts with the little kindergarten child to the CEO at the office. I want to empathically say that we will fail and make this day not meaningful if we neglect the grass root cause of Child labour and address it as urgently as possible. We at SFLIG believe that every life counts and as such we shouldn’t grow the economy leaving others behind because it will make our effort unfruitful. I want to take this opportunity to inform our policy makers, we need policies that have the rural poor at heart, policies that work to bridge the poverty gap by coming out with more business ventures and also supporting and partnering with grass root organizations like Solutions for Life Initiative-Ghana; who are actually on the ground to better lives. Our wish as an organization is to celebrate, if possible by next year, just the remembrance of Child labour since it will be history very soon. I wish to end by admonishing us all present to join forces together in our own small ways to support government efforts and also to make right choices with our lives to curb child labour. We are happy you did honor our invitation to be here and support us in our quest to make every life count in nation building.