Source: daily Monitor – With more than two million children in Uganda engaged in child labour, the government has called for the formulation of policies and programmes to eliminate the practice.
The Minister of Gender, Labour and Community Development, Ms Zoe Bakoko Bakoru, made the call to stakeholders during the official opening a five-day Interregional meeting on ‘Hazardous Child Labour in Commercial Agriculture and Role of Employers’ at Ridar Hotel in Mukono on Monday. “Child labour should become a priority that we must address with all commitment. Government cannot do it alone but need cooperation of all stakeholders,” she said.
Use of children, especially in the agricultural sector, is likely to attract negative reaction from European Union consumers who adamantly condemn the use of children in agricultural production. Agriculture contributes up to 36.3 percent to the Gross Domestic Product in Uganda and is the largest provider of employment.
It has been argued that use of children in agriculture undermines the quality of products but most importantly, denies these children the opportunity to concentrate on studies as well as exposing them to health hazards.
Bakoru singled out the tobacco, coffee and sugar as the main child labour abuse. She, however, said the HIV/Aids scourge which has seen over two million children orphaned with no food, clothing and school fees, has forced many children into plantations to work.
Ms Anne-Brit Nippierd, the Project Manager Bureau for Employers’ Activities at the International Labour Office in Geneva said: “We have been focusing on hazardous child labour in the coffee sector alone but now we are changing our force to handle the agricultural sector in general because it’s a big challenge.” She said globally, 186 million children aged 5-14 years are involved in child labour.
The meeting was organised by the ILO Bureau for Employers Activities and the Federation of Uganda Employers and attracted heads of Employers Organisations from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Lesotho, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Ethiopia, Swaziland and Azerbaijan.