By: Masahudu Ankiilu Kunateh
Mr. E. T. Mensah, out going Minister of Social
Media practitioners at a one-day sensitization and training workshop on child labour have agreed that the issue of child labour is a major concern and must be mainstreamed in their reportage.
This was contained in a communiqué issued by the media practitioners after the workshop in Accra.
It was organized by the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare (MESW) and supported by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The workshop was meant to sensitise and enhance the role of the media on the concepts of child labour and its elimination in the country.
According to the media practitioners, we accept and support the National Plan of Action (NPA) on the elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (WFCL) and commit ourselves to raise public awareness and advocate for its effective implementation.
They further urged all stakeholders, particularly the National Steering Committee on Child Labour under the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare (MESW), private organization, social partners, international organizations and civil society to dedicate themselves and ensure the effective implementation of the NPA.
As participants of the training, we pledged to give wider and consistent coverage on child labour issues and interventions in Ghanaian order to increase public awareness and action on the issue. The seasoned media practitioners called for debate on child labour issues during impending presidential debates.
Opening the workshop earlier, the out-going Minister of Employment and Social Welfare, Mr. Enoch Teye Mensah stated that the government had taken significant steps through legislation, policies and other initiatives to ensure holistic protection and promotion of the rights and well-being of Ghanaian children.
He mentioned the Courts Act, 1994, Children’s Act, 1998, Labour Act, 2003, Human Trafficking Act, 2005, Juvenile Justice Act (Act 563), the Education Act 2008, as well as the 1992 Republican Constitution, were all initiatives directed at eliminating child labour in the country.
He said these indicated the growing global concerns about the employment of children, particularly in activities that were exploitative and consequently jeopardize their health and educational development.
According to the Minister, although government has achieved some successes, the media needed to partner government to fight the worst forms of child labour and eventually eliminate the menace from the society.
He urged the media to willingly take up the challenge and become the foremost advocates against the menace, saying the time had come for media practitioners to discuss issues that affect the country and put a stop to “the political syndrome”.
The Project Officer, International Labour Organisation (ILO), Mr. Emmanuel Kwame Mensah explained that child labour occurs when children are allowed to do work that jeopardized their health, education and safety, adding that the nature of the work and the circumstances in which it is carried out, determines its severity.
He announced that over one million children in Ghana were engaged in child labour, with over 240, 000 engaged in hazardous labour, and over 91 per cent of both parents of working children were alive.
Mr. Mensah, however, noted that not all forms of work done by children were hazardous, since children were allowed to do work that helps in their social integration.
He said the media could be a strategic instrument for resource mobilization, by acknowledging and prioritizing child labour as a major issue of public, political and developmental concerns.
The Executive Director, Future Rescue Development, Mrs Sylvia Hinson-Ekong, said human resource development was a major component of development and government needed to protect the rights of individuals. She said in order to eliminate child labour in the country, the laws on worst forms of child labour should be updated and duly disseminated.
The Free Compulsory Basic Education (FCUBE) policies should be fully implemented with priority given to the deprived areas.
She said alternative forms of education, including transitional programmes for mainstream education should be available to out-of-school children especially in the rural communities, as well as infrastructural development to eliminate child labour.
Mrs. Hinson-Ekong encouraged journalists to refer cases to the appropriate authorities to and make sure to follow up on stories relating to the rights of children.
The Chief Technical Officer of the ILO, Ghana Mr. Steve Mcclelland called on the media to create awareness on the menace, by keeping the spotlight on children and their right