Child labour: In the matter of alms begging

Although World Day Against Child Labour is celebrated on June 12 every year, this year the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is organising a joint campaign of the day with the World Day for Safety and Health at Work which is celebrated on April 28 every year to create an awareness to end child labour in all forms as well as improving safety and health of young workers at workplaces.

Safety and Health at Work as well as Child labour border on the human rights of young people across the globe. These two issues fall under Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 8 with a target which states, “take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern-day slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms”

While the world focuses on the major aspects of child labour such as child slavery, prostitution, trafficking there is another phenomenon of child labour where children are involved in alms begging.

In Wa, the regional capital of the Upper West Region of Ghana, there’re a group of boys who are seen walking together, and strapped around their shoulders is a rope tied through holes that have been made at the top edges of large empty tomato tins. They leave home in the morning and return in the evening. These children are denied the opportunity of education.

They usually roam the market and the lorry stations, moving from one food vendor to the other or from one shop and stall to the other with the hope of being given some food or money. Their activities give the impression that these boys beg alms for a living. In fact, these boys are breadwinners of their families.

According to the Children’s Act 1998 (560), Section 87 (1) states that “no person shall engage a child in exploitative labour. Further, section 87 (2) defines exploitative labour as, “labour is exploitative if it deprives the child of health, education or development”.

Thus, by the definition of exploitative labour in the above-mentioned Act, these children are involved in labour that deprives them of one of the indicators – education. The safety of these children is equally an issue. These children are vulnerable to road accidents and people who would want to abuse them while they are in the market begging alms for their survival.

Alms begging may seem unhazardous; however, the act goes along to interfere with the child’s holistic development. Those children will grow with the mentality of believing that alms begging is the way of life. Working to earn a living becomes a new phenomenon for them.

Recently, it was reported that the Accra Metropolitan Assembly and the La Dadekotopon Municipal Assembly have undertaken an initiative of ridding the streets of Accra off beggars and efforts are being made to reintegrate them into society.

This initiative is commendable and it is important that all Metropolitan Municipal and District Assemblies emulate the initiative where there are children who are involved in alms begging on the streets of towns and cities across the length and breadth of this country.

Children involved in alms begging is a phenomenon that must not be allowed to persist. All concerted efforts must be made by the state to ensure that children are not involved in activities that have a tendency to blight their future as well as deny them of their rights.

As the International Labour Organisation (ILO) creates the awareness on ensuring the safety of children at work as well as ending child labour, the ILO and other agencies of the United Nations must begin to hold state parties accountable to the conventions on eliminating child labour in all forms.

Source: Alex Blege


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