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Saulos Chilima calls for swift action to end child labour

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By Patrick Botha

Vice-President Saulos Chilima has called for swift action to end all forms of child labour in line with the Bueno Aires Declaration of action, which seeks to accelerate efforts to end child labour.

Chilima said this on Monday in Durban, South Africa, where he addressed the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour, where he is representing President Lazarus Chakwera.

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“I personally believe that, with the right mindset, we will achieve our goals. With the involvement and commitment of everyone, we can overcome child labour and forced labour decisively. Let there be no onlookers or by-standers. It’s action time,” Chilima said.

Statistics produced jointly by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and United Nations Children’s Fund show that, globally, about 160 million children were subjected to child labour at the beginning of 2020, with nine million more children at risk due to the impact of the Covid pandemic.

The Vice-President said Malawi was also not spared as an estimated two million children aged between five and 15 years were involved in child labour.

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He informed the delegates that Malawi had ratified the relevant ILO conventions, including all fundamental conventions such as Convention 138 on the minimum age of entry into employment, as part of efforts to eliminate child labour.

“Corresponding legislation has been enacted in my country. We have the Employment Act aimed at regulating minimum standards of employment and prohibit child labour and forced labour,” he briefed the conference.

Chilima said, more importantly, Malawi has also abolished the Tenancy Labour System due to its resemblance with forced labour or bonded labour, which, he said, was a crucial step towards the sustenance of the country’s efforts in the fight against child labour.

“A childhood is for learning and not earning. In this regard, we, as Malawi, make an honest plea to the member states here present, the entire UN [United Nations] system and other stakeholders including the private sector, that, with all our might, we should fight one war; a war against all unacceptable forms of work,” he said.

He said there was a need for quick interventions and policies to extend social protection coverage for children and their families, scale up investment in free and quality education, promote rights of children from birth to adulthood and promote decent work for young people.

He urged stakeholders to include the agriculture sector when implementing anti-child labour programmes, saying the sector accounts for 70 percent of child labour cases.—Mana

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