Atiwa East District exhibit progress made in the fight against child labour

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Community engagement event
Community engagement event

In a bid to address the pressing issue of child and forced labour in the cocoa and gold mining sectors within the Atiwa East District, the Edmark Rescue Foundation, in collaboration with Rainforest Alliance, recently organized a district-level stakeholders’ engagement event.

The event, now in its fourth succession, took place at the Atiwa East District Assembly Conference Hall in Anyinam on Wednesday, April 24, 2024, under the theme “Deepening Commitments and Actions to Tackle Forced and Child Labour in Cocoa and Gold Mining in Atiwa East District.”

The dialogue brought together various stakeholders, including government officials, NGOs, community-based organizations, and representatives from the private sector, to discuss the progress made in combating child labour and to strategize on further initiatives to address this critical issue.

The project dubbed “Tackling Forced and Child Labour in Cocoa and Gold Mining,” with funding from the Norwegian government through NORAD, seeks to complement the government’s efforts at eradicating forced and child labour, which is seen as an abuse of human rights that is potentially harmful to the wellbeing, development, and health of victims.

Child labour and forced labour are pervasive issues that affect millions of children worldwide. As of the most recent data available, an estimated 1.9 million children in Ghana are engaged in child labour, with approximately 21% of children between the ages of 5 and 17 in the country affected.

In the cocoa industry specifically, around 1.5 million children in Ghana are involved in cocoa production, facing hazardous working conditions and deprivation of education and basic rights. In the mining sector, children are also found working in hazardous environments, often subjected to exploitation and abuse.

Child and forced labour have been long-standing issues in the cocoa and mining communities in Ghana, particularly in the Atiwa East District. However, in recent times, cocoa and mining companies have been making significant commitments and taking action to address this problem with the support of the Rainforest Alliance and its partners.

Speaking during the event, Gabriel Kwame Boadi, Head of Social Welfare and Community Development at the Atiwa East District Assembly, highlighted the collaborative efforts between governmental bodies, NGOs, and other stakeholders in tackling child labour.

He emphasized the positive impact of the project on reducing child labour cases and enhancing child protection mechanisms through the establishment of child protection committees and toll-free reporting lines.

Deputy Director in Charge of Guidance and Counseling at the Ghana Education Service, Mawuli Worgu, commended the project for its role in increasing school enrolment and educating communities on the dangers of child labour.

He stressed the need for continued support from NGOs and other organizations to further address child labour issues effectively.

Director at the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Joseph Agbeko Yadoglah, acknowledged the persistent challenges of child labour in the district but highlighted the project’s positive influence in raising awareness and engaging community volunteers in combating the issue.

Eunice Amuzu, a Detective Woman Police Inspector from the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit, noted the significant improvements in tackling child labour since the project’s inception in 2022.

She attributed the rise in school enrolment to the project’s interventions and the dedicated efforts of project monitors and volunteers.

The Chief Executive Director (CEO) of Lotus Group Limited (Mining Division), Thomas Larbi, outlined the company’s corporate social responsibility initiatives, including infrastructure development, health screenings, and educational support, which residents of the Nanapa community are directly benefiting from as a result of his presence.

In her speech, Mrs. Joyce Poku-Marboah, Senior Project Manager at Rainforest Alliance, emphasized the importance of forming alliances to combat child labour, forced labour and other human rights abuses.

She highlighted the collaborative efforts between farmers, forest communities, companies, government entities, and other stakeholders in transforming production and consumption practices as the Rainforest Alliance’s way of solving climate, forest, and biodiversity problems and promoting human rights and livelihoods.

She stated that due to the magnitude of the problem, the same approach is being used under the NORAD project by working together with all relevant stakeholders as a shared responsibility.

While conveying pleasantries from the new Rainforest Alliance Country Director, Nicholas Jengre, to all, she encouraged stakeholders present to prioritize the issue of child and forced labour so vulnerable adults and children will have a better future.

In ending her speech, she charged the cocoa and mining companies, including the district assemblies, to always endeavor to include child labour and child protection issues in their medium-term plans and commitments captured in their long-term plans and ensure they are made available to communities at no cost.

Mrs. Poku-Marboah also appealed to NCCE and other stakeholders to keep communities informed about opportunities such as scholarships and free apprenticeship training.

She stressed the need for stakeholders to always keep community members aware of where and who to contact whenever they need such help.

Calling all stakeholders to action to end the menace, she said, “Let us remember that for every child that is exploited to work, an adult is denied an income, and the future of a child is made bleak.”.

“We cannot trade the future of our children for our immediate financial gains and conveniences. Our children are our future. It is a shared responsibility; together, we can. Thank you.”

The event served as a testament to the impactful partnerships and initiatives led by the Rainforest Alliance and other stakeholders in the Atiwa East District, showcasing the progress made in combating child labour and fostering a community dedicated to safeguarding the rights and well-being of its most vulnerable members.

Through the Norad-funded project, measures have been implemented to prevent, identify, and address forced and child labour in cocoa and gold mining communities.

Source: Joseph Kobla Wemakor

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