President Peter Mutharika yesterday called on Malawians and all child welfare stakeholders in the country to join forces and eliminate child labour, warning that those who participate in the exposure of children to child labour will face the law.
Mutharika said that it is his expectation that businesses and enterprises in this country will play an active role in the elimination of child labour in the country.
Said Mutharika: “Let me emphasise this: Recruitment of children is illegal under the laws of Malawi. It is criminal. Those of you who recruit children may think that you are hiding. But the long arm of the law will catch up with you. Instead of recruiting children, let us support them to go to school. Let us support every child to become part of a skilled labour force. If we do so, everyone in the supply chain stands to benefit.”
Mutharika was speaking during the commemoration of the World Child Labour Day in Lilongwe where he was a guest of honour.
Upon arrival at the event, Mutharika participated in a big walk for a couple of dozens of metres before watching presentations and performances from children and stakeholders featuring child labour elimination processes.
The World Day Against Child Labor was first commemorated in 2002. Malawi at the moment has a 29 percent child labour prevalence which represents 1 230 000 children, a majority of whom haven’t seen the inside of a class room.
Dalitso Baloyi of Winrock International said ending child labour in the country must be a corporate social responsibility of every business, adding: “One of the reasons we have this staggering percentage in child labour is because education is not yet compulsory in the country. We don’t have a registration database and anyone can claim to be a Malawian. So much as we have rolled out the national registration system, we need to register everyone so that we know which child is where.”
Pontius Kalichero from the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) said child labour has remained a significant challenge in the agriculture value chain.
According to him, the expansion of the Integrated Production System (IPS), otherwise known as contract farming can aid elimination of child labour in the tobacco sector. He also noted that labour inspection in Malawi is so weak so much that it is almost non-existent and as such perpetrators of child labour easily go unnoticed.
Said Kalichero: “Mainstreaming child labour projects, upgrading of opportunities for agriculture commodities, promotion of decent work for children and provision of adequate resources for labour inspection are some of the things needed to end child labour in the country. There is a need for aggregating child labour data to help policy makers when making policies.”
There are only two child labour reduction programmes in the country; one of them is ARISE which is being sponsored by tobacco buying companies such as JTI and it targets withdrawal of children from tobacco estates and equipping them with technical and entrepreneurial skills for their survival. n