Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has validated the report on the evaluation of the Regional Action Plan (RAP) for the elimination of child labour, especially the worst forms in West Africa.
This was contained in a communique issued yesterday at the end of a two-day virtual meeting with ECOWAS member states, child labour focal points, representatives of workers and employers’ organisations, CSOs, media, and development partners.
ECOWAS ministers in charge of Labour and Employment had in 2012 adopted the ECOWAS RAP for the elimination of child labour, especially the worst forms (2012-2015), due to the challenges of child labour in the region.
The commission said the goal of RAP was to eliminate the worst forms of child labour in West Africa by 2015, while working towards its complete eradication in the long term.
It said following the expiration of the plan in 2015, the commission launched an assessment to evaluate the measures and actions taken by member states as part of the implementation of the plan.
It stated: “ECOWAS Commission validated the report of the evaluation of the Regional Action Plan (RAP) for the elimination of child labour, especially the worst forms in West Africa from October 21 to October 22.
“The objective of the meeting was to review the report of the evaluation of the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan (RAP) for the elimination child labour, especially the worst forms (2012-2015) with a view to defining the key strategic pillars and priorities for a new regional action plan.”
The communique said ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne, underscored the importance of the meeting by highlighting that nearly 73 million children are in hazardous work that directly endangers their health, safety and moral development.
She noted that about 48 million children aged 5-14 depend on labour for survival in West Africa alone.
Jagne stated that child labour was one of the protection priorities of the 2017 ECOWAS Strategic Framework for Strengthening National Child Protection Systems to prevent and respond to violence, abuse and exploitation against children in West Africa.
She cited the ratification of the ILO Convention 138 on the minimum age for work and the ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour by all ECOWAS member states as indication of the progress made to implement the RAP and called for more urgent action by social partners and the member states of ECOWAS to combat child labour.
The representative of the Minister for Employment and Labour Relations of Ghana, Mr. Peter Antwi identified poverty, conflicts, political instability, weak educational systems and human capital development, as well as absence of effective child protection systems as major obstacles to the fight against child labour.
He urged member states to create decent employment opportunities, maintain political stability and build quality educational systems for the development of the needed human capital for economic development.
He stressed the need for the maintenance of peace and stability in the ECOWAS region without which children and women would bear the brunt of child labour.