Activists squeal over spike in child labour cases

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Sithembiso Nyoni

BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA

CHILD rights activists have implored government to urgently raise awareness on laws governing child labour.

Studies have shown that child labour is on the rise globally due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and in Zimbabwe, it is rife in tobacco farms.

Child rights activists who spoke to NewsDay Weekender bemoaned poor enforcement of laws on child rights violations.

Alois Nyamazana, co-founder of Fathers Against Abuse, a non-profit organisation against gender-based violence said there was need to conscientise communities on the dangers of exploiting labour from children.

“Child labour is an issue of concern, not only in tobacco farms, but in various sectors, mostly the informal,” Nyamazana said.

“Children must not be employed, but are supposed to be in school learning. If they then spend most of their time doing some farming work to earn a living, it becomes a danger to society. There is a need for increased awareness among all the stakeholders at grassroots level. Teachers, parents and guardians and community members have to know the dangers and repercussions of recruiting children into the employment sector. Authorities should unpack the law to the custodians of children to seriously implement the stipulated measures against child labour.”

Another child rights activist Angeline Mikiri, who is the ambassador for Women’s Day Entrepreneurship, said curbing child abuse requires a collective effort among all members of the society.

She said sexual exploitation was a form of child labour which was resulting in teen pregnancies.

“Community leaders must take the leading role in fighting child abuse in the form of sexual and labour exploitation,” Mikiri said.

“Community leaders, who include traditional leaders, act as opinion leaders in communities and can spearhead positive attitudes on the fight against labour and sexual exploitation of children. Government should fight for the enforcement of binding laws against such practises.”

NewsDay Weekender conducted a survey with five tobacco farmers on their perception on child labour laws and four of them said they were aware that employing children was unlawful.

However, all of the respondents professed ignorance on laws that prohibit child labour.

Nyamazana called for tobacco industry companies to implement strict measures to ensure that farmers do not profiteer from child labour.

Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) chief executive officer Meanwell Gudu said government was ensuring that children on farms had access to education so that they do not look for jobs at a young age.

“Government has been making efforts to erect schools on farms so as to ensure that children go to school,” Gudu said.

“We have also launched an agriculture labour practices working group, which consists of the board (Timb), farmers’ representatives and contracting companies where we encourage recommended labour practises among the tobacco industry stakeholders. We have also put some measures where we compel tobacco contracting companies and farmers to sign pledges that they will not profiteer from the proceeds of child labour, in line with the international standards of the of the sale of tobacco.”

The International Labour Organisation in its 2017 report on Global Estimates of Child Labour noted that boys appear to face a greater risk of child labour than girls, but girls were more affected forced labour for sexual exploitation.

Women’s Affairs minister Sithembiso Nyoni said the scourge of teenage pregnancies and child marriages continue to affect the lives of thousands of girls in the communities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that it is affecting everyone, everywhere, but the effects are not equal,” Nyoni said. “It is not a secret that the pandemic is deepening existing inequalities and vulnerabilities, particularly for women and girls. Existing gender and other inequalities have been exacerbated with girls and young women facing increased threats of gender-based violence, discrimination and abuse as protective structures are disrupted and economic stresses increase.”

  • This article was produced through sponsorship from WAN–INFRA Women in News (WIN) under the Social Impact Reporting Initiative. However, content does not reflect views of WAN- INFRA WIN.