The report is an important one coming as it does at a time when there is so much talk about human rights. It is essential that we start with looking at the rights of those who are the most vulnerable within our society- children. Child labour is a major impediment to the fulfillment of the best interest of the child and the creation of stable societies. With the solid indication of where the nation stands with regard to the fulfillment of our legal obligations to protect our children, the recommendations of the report cannot be ignored or given only rhetorical commitment.
However, it must be recognised that this is not a menace that affects only The Gambia, but one that has assumed global proportions. According to statistics by the International Labour Organisation, there are 168 million children worldwide who are working as labourers. According to a child labour expert, the figures have improved compared to the last two years when the figures reached 215 million. Looking at these figures, it is heartening that we have made a little improvement in that area. Considering the fact that most of these children work in hazardous conditions which is detrimental to their health, we need to work harder and faster to provide a safer world for our children.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), a document that was endorsed by almost all the countries of the world, heralded with its ratification an unflinching demand to make the world a child-friendly place, and made it a requirement that the best interest of the child is guaranteed at all times. However, the rights of most of these children are abused almost on a daily basis. Many children work in cocoa and tobacco fields, exposing them to hazardous health risks. At the expense of their well-being and progress, children are working to feed families around the world, when they should have been in school and developing their mental faculties.
The Gambia has come a long way in ensuring that children are safe and protected and that their best interest is guarded and guaranteed. This country is a signatory to the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. In 2005 an Act was passed which further reinforced these international instruments. The Children’s Act, 2005, was a great achievement for the child rights movement and serves as a reminder that the government really cares for the well-being of children.
However, in The Gambia we also witnessed how children are seen on the streets either selling water and nana or being used by their parents to beg. Therefore, the report might as well is not just an abstract reality for most of us, because we see these children every day.
It’s an overt reality that none of us can avoid. It’s apparent in our streets and car parks, and these are children who should have been in school and not on the streets wasting their lives away. The government and all relevant stakeholders are called upon to make moves towards this end and endeavour to redeem these children from the streets by enforcing the laws that govern their protection and put in measures to prevent any further exploitation by those who wish to keep these children as labourers.]]>