HUMAN Rights Watch Southern Africa director Dewa Mavhinga yesterday said there was need to mount pressure on government to put in place legislation and regulations that prohibit children from working in tobacco fields where they were exposed to risk of contracting diseases.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
According to a report titled A Bitter Harvest, Child labour and Human Rights Abuses on Tobacco Farms in Zimbabwe, there was rampant child abuse of children on tobacco production.
The report exposes deep-rooted child abuses among them exposure to poisoning.
“We have discovered there is a huge gap in terms of the protection of children who are working in tobacco fields,” Mavhinga said on the side-lines of the launch yesterday.
“We have discovered that children and other workers are exposed to nicotine poisoning which comes from handling tobacco leaves”.
He added: “We have also discovered that farmers and their families do not have information about the risks and dangers and that the government does not have laws and regulations in place prohibiting children working in the tobacco sector, specifically prohibiting child labour for children under 18 years.”
Mavhinga said the government was well aware of such practices, including the Justice and Primary and Secondary Education ministries.
He said the government must take measures to ensure children should be allowed to stay in school and that there was a fulfilment of the constitutional requirements that there should be free access to primary school education.
“The government should revamp its laws and regulations and put tobacco farming on the list of hazardous work for children.
“It should have a more rigorous monitoring mechanisms of labour inspectors who are equipped to make sure those communities in small-scale and large farms monitor these abuses and stop them,” the HRW regional boss said.
He said the government had shown political will to address the situation.
Mavhinga said so far meetings with ministers were indicative of some intent.
“But what we are going to do is to make it a continuing dialogue so that we push the authorities to identify the dangers and to take measures to prevent and stop them,” he said.
“So we are moving in this line to ensure that we have stakeholders in Zimbabwe, tobacco companies and farmers that highlight these issues so that there is sufficient pressure to take up these issues.”