Workers’ Union in Ghana forming Child Labour Free Zones

The General Agricultural Workers’ Union (GAWU) would form 30 Child Labour Free Zones (CLFZ) in three districts in the Volta, Eastern and Ashanti regions by the end of July 2015 to facilitate efforts to eradicate child labour in those regions.

The CLFZ pilot project, dubbed “OMAR’S DREAM” also aims at promoting children’s rights to education through advocacy and campaign at all levels to increase access and opportunities for 2,400 children to enrol and remain in schools in the 30 communities. Currently, the Union had formed three CLFZs in 30 communities in cocoa, oil palm and fishing in those three regions. About 30 anti child labour clubs were also formed and were given basics in Child Labour.

Mr Andrews Addoquaye Tagoe, the Head of Pragrammes, GAWU who announced this at a day’s stakeholders’ meeting with HIVOS Team, a child labour NGO based in Holland, said they were implementing a pilot project on integrated area based approaches towards CLFZs with the International Labour Organization in some selected cocoa growing areas in Ghana.He said the notion that CLFZs were not possible in Ghana was a fallacy and that GAWU under its “Stop Child Labour Campaign” is championing that course to make CLFZs feasible in all their targeted project areas across the country. The meeting was to exchange ideas and information on promoting the creation of CLFZs in Ghana and the success story of GAWU.

Mr Tagoe said the project would also establish and strengthen trade union organizational structures in two regions and increase incomes of unionised GAWU members in the 30 targeted communities by 20 per cent. He said the strategies used by the Union over the years in partnership with ILO/IPEC on its projects were hinged on various forms of integrated approaches towards CLFZs. He said GAWU had also established three bridge schools – a specialised class – at Kpando Torkor in the Volta Region to carter for rescued children above school going age to fit into a formal school system. He said through sensitization and educational campaign the Union was able to withdraw 1,138 children instead of the targeted 1,000 and prevented about 1,400 others from entering child labour. “Both the rescued and prevented children are in school and are receiving direct support such as National Health Insurance, uniforms, exercise books, pens and pencils, canvass and boots from GAWU,” Mr Tagoe said. “About 1000 farmers and farm assistants in the target areas educated and sensitized on CLFZs concept, about 1425 farmers and fishermen unionised and established 30 GAWU local unions and Community Child Protection Committee.”

Mr Kinsley Ofei-Nkansah, General Secretary of GAWU, said child labour was a social injustice to children and called for concerted efforts to address the problem.He said as a union they had the mandate to promote all rights including that of children and vulnerable in society.

Ms Sofie Ovaa, International Coordinator of the Stop Child Labour Movement, a Holland based NGO, said their organization is a worldwide movement with regional offices all over the world. She said Stop Child Labour (SCL) project started in 2003 as awareness creation campaign in Europe with some European NGOs but later formed coalition of both NGOs and Trade Unions and were able to rescue more children and placed them in formal education.Ms Ovaa stated that the principle behind SCL was based on the same framework of ILO and other International Conventions and that their targeted continent includes Asia, Latin America and Africa. “Child Labour is still a problem for the adults, especially from age 15 to 18 years and about 168 million children are believe to be in child labour globally,” she said and stressed the need to implore the stakeholders to buy into the ideas to keep children in formal education. “If people agreed to work together to eradicate child labour, no one can use poverty as an excuse for sending his or her under aged wards to work.” She therefore expressed the hope to work together with all stakeholders to expand CLFZs in countries that the issue is prevalent.

Ms Akky de Kort, Omar’s Dream Coordinator, also based in Holland, said Omars Dream concept was a three-year project being implemented by NGO Coalitions in the Netherlands with the aim of maintaining children in school using area-based approach. “We are also working with the coalition to link teachers’ unions to the free zones to ensure its effectiveness,” she said. GAWU was established in 1959 from a merger of five agricultural trade unions and is currently the biggest trade union organizing farmers and agricultural employees in Ghana. 

This article was published at the news website