Malawi to eliminate child labour in agriculture, says JB

Malawi fully recognises agriculture as a key area to curbing child labour, said President Mrs. Joyce Banda who has said there is political will from her administration to eliminate all forms of child labour.

The President said on Tuesday that there shall never be a win-win situation when child labour is condoned.

Mrs. Banda launched the National Child Labour Conference in the capital Lilongwe, saying government through various tools protects children from labour exploitation, revealing 80% of Malawians depend on agriculture, where most children are forced and coerced to work.

“Child labour requires a multispectral approach therefore all stakeholders are being called to combat child labour,” she told guests at the launch, including international delegates and UN agencies led by ILO, a strong advocate against child labour.

Tens of thousands of children in Malawi work harvesting and processing tobacco.-Photo credit: Oliver Reinhardt

 To combat child labour 

Child labour is common in tobacco farms where Plan International investigation revealed children who are forced to work as tobacco pickers are exposed to nicotine poisoning equivalent to smoking 50 cigarettes a day.

Tobacco provides seventy-percent of Malawi’s foreign exchange earnings. The President said the practice was evil and had to stop.

“It is the desire of government to conduct a comprehensive survey into child labour for meaningful monitoring. We believe the gazetting hazardous labour for children. Some cultures and traditions that promote child labour should be avoided,” she said at Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe.

The theme of the national conference is ‘End child labour in agriculture, our children our future.’

The Elimination Child Labour in Tobacco Growing (ECLT) Foundation based in Geneva, Switzerland, is funding the national conference.

Child labour prevalence drop

According to the Ministry of Labour, the prevalence of child labour in Malawi has dropped from 37 percent of children aged five to 17 in 2002 to 29 percent in 2006

Principal Secretary in the ministry James Kalirangwe said a 2002 national survey on child labour showed that there are 1.4 million child labourers in the country and agriculture is found to be the single biggest employer, with 53 percent of the child labourers.

Kalirange said the conference in Lilongwe will “demonstrate to the world that the Malawi Government is leaving no stone unturned in the fight against child labour, particularly in agriculture.”

The ministry said government has put in place measures to intensify the fight against child labour in agriculture, including the tobacco, tea, coffee and sugar sub-sectors.

Malawi ratified the core International Labour Conventions on Child Labour, namely Convention Number 138 on Minimum Age and Convention Number 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labour in 1999.

In 2000, government enacted the Employment Act which incorporated key provisions of the two conventions.--(Additional reporting by Wanga Gwede, Nyasa Times)

Martin Clemensson, Director, International Labour Organization, making his statement at the National Labour Conference at Cross.-Photo by Malawi News Agency
President Mrs Banda inspecting exhibition Tuesday evening mounted by stakeholders in the Labour Industry before she opened the-.-Photo by Malawi News Agency
Ex child labourers taken back to school posing for a photo with President Banda after she opened the National Labour Conference.-Photo by Malawi News Agency

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