CHILD RIGHTS AND PROTECTION: A NEED TO END CHILD LABOR TODAY.
‘Mama Maya (not a real name) good morning o, ‘where is Maya and Samuel?’ Mama Maya’s friend asked. ‘They have gone out to sell some firewood, times are hard you know’ She lets out a short laugh. Her friend’s countenance changed as she screams on top of her voice saying ‘these children are not even up to 10years of age… how could you…Don’t you realize its Child Labor? Mama Maya looked lost. She adjusted her wrapper and asked. ‘What is Child Labor self?
Mama Maya is not alone in the failure to grasp or come to terms with what exactly Child Labour connotes. Child Labour in its simplest terms means the engagement of a child or children to undertake tasks mental or physical with the aim of earning some payment.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) report of 2013, Child Labor is any work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children and or interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school; obliging them to leave school prematurely; or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.
According to the same report, globally there are over 168 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 working when they should not. Over 10.8 % or 15 million of these children are Nigeria which has the highest rate of working children in Africa. The ILO report says that they are involved in some of the worst forms of child labor exploitation including misuse as soldiers in armed conflicts.
Several factors are responsible for the prevalence of child labor in Nigeria of which poverty is obviously an overriding factor. According to Wikipedia, poverty is the complete lack of the means necessary to meet basic personal needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. All over the World, Children are prone to the effects of poverty more than adults as such, most parents resort to forcing their children out of school to be employed as early as the age of 7 for extra income to augment life. These children engage in menial jobs such as farming, hawking, begging, and carrying heavy loads, etc. oftentimes, these affect them physically, psychologically and even their health-wise. Furthermore, it exposes them to child trafficking, traffic accidents leading to serious injuries or death, prostitution, early marriage, gambling, arm robbery and so many more.
Large family sizes can also contribute to the practice of child labor. In countries like Nigeria where men marry more than one wife and have many children as they want, it becomes economically difficult for the parents to cater to the basic needs of these children thereby creating an atmosphere for the children to go out and hustle in the streets to make ends meet.
Another cause of child labor is a broken family, so many families have broken up. Some couples have separated or divorced while some are having marital issues. Oftentimes, these domestic conflicts affect the Parents’ ability to properly manage their families leading to the exposure of the Children to danger including exposure to Child labor.
Another reason for the prevalence of Child Labor in Nigeria is the failure of Sub National Governments to domesticate and fully implement the Child Rights Act 2003 as passed by the National Assembly. Since the passage of the act, only a few states have domesticated the act and fewer more have fully implemented the same. The law was passed to protect the Nigeria Child from abuses and other forms of discrimination. 17 years after its passage, the fate of the Nigerian Child has not improved significantly yet.
Given the above, therefore, the following are the recommendations as a panacea towards Child Abuse in Nigeria
The full implementation of the Child Rights Act 2003 at all levels of Governance in Nigeria
Advocacy on State Actors on the need to strengthen Child Protection systems in Nigeria
A robust sensitization and awareness creation of the issue of Child Rights with a focus on Child labor should be put in place at all levels of Governance in Nigeria
Establishment of Family Courts and Child rehabilitation centers at levels in Nigeria
A robust economic empowerment strategy for Families especially single Mothers should be put in place by Governments at all levels in Nigeria
Child Rights and Child Labour is everybody’s responsibility in Nigeria. The failure to protect children is deemed as a failure to protect the future. As such, all stakeholders including State and Non-State Actors should put in efforts to protect the rights of the Nigerian Child today and forever.
Mama Maya heaves a sigh after being sensitized on Child Rights by her Friend. She resolved to end the malaise as soon as her children return home tonight.