The Rainforest Alliance, a non-governmental organisation, and its implementation partners have trained over 50 community volunteers on the need to enforcing the eradication of child and forced labour in various communities.
Participants were led through advocacy, prevention, and detection with the help of the partners – Edmark Rescue and Ark Development Foundations, funded by the Norwegian government through NORAD.
Participants were drawn from government agencies such as the Ghana Education Service, Social Welfare, the Ghana Health Service, and members from the Atiwa East Assembly.
In a presentation, Mrs Joyce Poku-Marboah, the Project Director, noted that the consolidated gains in child labour over the last two decades have been hit by a downturn of events, with alarming figures indicating an increase of 8.4 million children in just over four years, as published by the International Labour Organization and UNICEF.
She indicated that, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures throughout the world, the number of cases of child labour increased to over nine million.
She emphasised the distinction between child work and child labour, noting that not every work done by a child was considered child labour.
She described child labour as the positive participation of children in economic and non-economic activities that are not harmful to their health or mental and physical development.
“The line is crossed, however, when children perform hazardous work that is likely to harm their health or limit their education,” she said.
Mrs Poku-Marboah said a lot had been done by stakeholders and government officials to stop child labour, particularly in mining and cocoa farming communities, highlighting that producing and consuming countries have raised numerous concerns about the menace and are working hard to prevent, identify, and eradicate child labour.
She announced plans to launch a US $5 million Africa Cocoa Fund to support farming communities in Ghana, adding that a portion of the funds would be used to establish community-based child protection systems across the Ashanti region, with a focus on protecting local children from hazardous farm work and assisting them to stay and succeed in school.
She emphasised the need for institutions to collaborate with NGOs, the government, and community members to win the battle against forced and child labour owing to its complexity.
The meeting brought together representatives from the Atiwa East District Assembly, Ghana COCOBOD, Olam Food Ingredients, and Federated Commodities, as well as religious leaders and educators who are all duty-bearers in the fight against forced and child labour.