Children, not workers: community based responses to child labour in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic
This new report of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative explores interventions to tackle child labour in three Commonwealth countries – Ghana, Sri Lanka, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Despite national and international efforts, child labour remains one of the biggest challenges to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG Target 16.2, which seeks to ‘end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children’ by 2030.
In 2021, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found that 160 million children in child labour stood at 160 million globally. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the vulnerability of children to become victims of child labour, primarily due to disruption to schooling, a disruption in family income, and reduced access to child protection services.
Despite these bleak statistics, there have been some positive developments to tackle the scourge of child labour. In various parts of the world, communities, civil society organisations and governments have stepped up with innovative solutions to tackle the problem. Recently, Commonwealth States reaffirmed at the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) their previous commitment to achieve SDG Target 8.7, specifically, to take effective measures to ‘...secure the prohibition and elimination of all forms of child labour by 2025, including the recruitment and use of child soldiers…’
About the Report:
Although the case studies reflect initiatives implemented in different countries, with their own social, cultural and political contexts, they share several common success factors:
- Community ownership and bottom-up approach to social change: The case studies presented in this report outline practical methods to engage the community and build trust with its members, including women, children, families, and community leaders. Local sensibilities and traditional customs and practices that hinder access to some members of the community - such as women and children - were recognised and addressed.
- Importance of multi-stakeholder collaboration: As a complex social issue, child labour can be tackled effectively through cross sectoral initiatives involving all relevant stakeholders, including government authorities, frontline responders, civil society organisations, multi-lateral agencies, unions, private actors, and others.
- Institutionalising a collaborative response: Establishing permanent institutional structures to implement initiatives was highlighted as a means to ensure collaboration, inclusion, and sustainability of programmes and outcomes. A formal memorandum of understanding between government departments and with international agencies is a way to institutionalise cross office commitment, foster mutual cooperation, sharing of information, and promote a coordinated response to child trafficking and child labour.
- Prioritising preventative as well as responsive measures - sensitisation and capacity building: As well as responsive measures, preventative measures such as sensitisation and capacity building initiatives have been successful to reduce the number of reported child labour cases.
- Valuing children’s voice and using digital media tools to increase engagement: The participation of children and young people in processes which inform policy and practice improved implementation outcomes. Social media and other digital platforms can be leveraged to maximise outreach and promote engagement with children and young people, seen to be particularly effective in COVID-19 times.