The Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations (MELR) in partnership with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), organized a Consultative Seminar for Development Partners on Wednesday, 27th April, 2022 in Accra.
The seminar was aimed at calling on Development Partners to pledge their support to working towards the fight against Child Labour Free Zones (CLFZs) in Ghana through the Child Labour Unit (CLU) of the Labour Department under Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations.
The occasion was used to share the Government of Ghana’s progress and prospects of initiatives and successes on the implementation of CLFZ as spelt out in the Framework of the National Plan of Action Phase II (NPA II), towards the elimination of Child Labour. The NPA II expired on December 2021. Meanwhile, a consultant has been contracted to assess the NPA11 and advice Government on extension of the NPA 11 or to have another NPA111.
The programme was also an opportunity to discuss the possible coordination among donors that would contribute to the achievement of CLFZs in Ghana.
JICA in 2020 supported the Ministry to launch the Establishment of CLFZs Protocols and Guidelines in Ghana. Between October 2020 and April 2022, the Agency through its Study Team together with the Ministry agreed to conduct pilot activities on some 8 indicators in the guidelines.
The essence was to ascertain the effectiveness and efficiency of the document so as to be able to assess and to declare their intervention areas as CLFZ. Specifically, Atwima Mponua District Assembly (AMBA) in the Ashanti Region and Bibiani Anhwiaso Berkwai Municipality (BABMA) in Western North Region were piloted.
Speaking at the seminar, the Minister for Employment and Labour Relations, Hon. Ignatius Baffour Awuah, commended all the development partners for honouring the invitation as well as JICA for the great initiative to pioneer the CLFZs project in Ghana.
The Hon. Minister lamented on how often times foreigners and NGOs conducted research on our cocoa grown areas where they churn out huge figures on child labour, for which as a country, we have tried to put up defence. He revealed further that the recent statistics produced by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) shows child labour data is relatively low as compared to those reported by foreign researchers, although not ruling out the fact that child labour is prevalent in the country, he pointed out. He cited the indictment of Ghana and La Cote D’Ivoire in the US Notch Report as examples that have serious implications on our cocoa as a nation.
Hon. Baffour Awuah echoed that the current CLFZ initiative supports us having to come out with a holistic data from all partners and which will also be a home grown one and called on all the partners to support the initiative to inform policy decision.
The Hon. Minister also highlighted on the new emerging trend of forced labour issues as the country scale up on the issues of Child Labour. He was to quick say that forced labour are issues of advanced criminality and urged all to report such matters to his office so that collectively issues relating to the child labour menace can be completely eradicated and left as a legacy for generations to keep and followed through.
On his part, Ms Ozawa Maki, representative from the JICA, Ghana Office express her heartfelt appreciation to the Government of Ghana and the collaboration with the MELR. She noted the dissemination of the study result by JICA was to solicit the inputs from other donors so together we can accelerate the way forward.
Ms Maki also agreed to the Chief Labour Officers statement that no individual partner can succeed alone in addressing the problem, adding there is the need to build concerted efforts, synergies and collaboration on resource mobilisation, and where to channel resources and ultimately generating a holistic national data on child labour to meet the global SDGs target 8.7 of reducing child labour to the barest minimum by 2025.
She reiterated JICAs readiness to continuously support the fight towards CLFZ, a child labour free Ghana and child labour free world.
In all there were sixty-nine (69) development partners including the World Bank, Verite’ Ghana, ILO, IOM, ICI, GIZ, UNICEF, and FAO.
In respect of their pledges to work towards the implementation of the CLFZs process, the ILOs said it is convinced that CLFZ is the way to go, saying more importantly that it is measuring result unlike the previous times where it was difficult to get into areas. The representative said because CLFZs is situated in the NPA II, he urged all partners to work within the context of the National Plan. ILO is committed to the course, he stated.
Verite Ghana disclosed they are already championing forced labour and are ready to support CLFZs to ensure the last child is out of labour.
International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) added its voice saying coordination is central to the CLFZs concept, pointing out that it is already partnering with government and would continue help scale up the issues of child labour.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the organization have had over 4 several discussions with the CLU on the CLFZs and with funding support from the European Union( EU),they are ready to help the CLFZs programme.
The GIZ added that partners should identify the areas where there are gabs, discuss them and bridge the linkages to make sure every child is safe in Ghana.
UNICEF urged government to take a look at how to support children in the referral systems, that child protection issues should be addressed as well as social support and functioning systems in place. The representative cried for the areas of where to invest in child protection in order to have a comprehensive way to help every child in need. This he said will to a large extent compliment the CLFZs in the country.
The International Organization for Migration opined child trafficking, human trafficking and exploitation were very much relevant to the success of the CLFZ process. He revealed they have partnered with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP) and would be happy to collaborate with partners, especially in the areas of data generation for policy decision.
The World Bank commented on the new environment coupled with the social protection of the child and advocated that the Bank is prepared to work with the others towards the realization of CLFZs in Ghana.
As part of the closing remarks, Madam Emma Ofori Agyemang, Director Policy, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation said, the NPA II has expired and is under review and as part of the process there was need for government to lead the process to have lessons learnt and shared. She indicated what is clearly distinct about the CLFZ Process is the response and fulcrum on child centeredness. She told partners even though they may have their interest, most of which is focused on the Cocoa Product, she used the platform to encourage partners to become more policy responsive where we all would put the child first. She mentioned for example that there are issues of standard of living targeted at farmers and their families, health related and educational issues, child protection, referrals and remediation issues but noted the matter largely goes beyond an individual and requires collaboration where partners need to be interested in the tangibles including improved coordination, establishment of monitoring systems, child labour monitoring, data collection and reporting among others.
Madam Emma recalled at the international level that; Ghana had no records of happenings when it comes to reporting on interventions. She said donors’ intervention were on adhoc and piece meal basis and in going forward, donors must become more specific about their interventions and thereby meet each other halfway and also to avoid duplication.
The Director concluded by saying that, Ghana needed one solution, which was home-grown research and therefore called all the partners to come on board with the MELR and JICA to have a Ghana Child Labour Free country.