Our founder, Elsie, has been done an interview on Child Labour. Here is the transcript!
1) A lot of children are seen on a daily basis on Nigerian streets, hawking wares for their parents and guardians or working despite the government's ban on child labour. Can you tell us some of the causes of child labour?
Some of the causes of child labor in Nigeria are poverty, limited access to free education across Nigeria, large family size, illiteracy, female-led households (i.e. when the male dies or is unemployed), poor working conditions, heavy debt burden and limited prohibitions on child labor.
Nigeria signed the U.N convention in 2003 and incorporated its provisions into federal law, but it was not adopted by all of Nigeria’s 36 states. Only 24 of the 36 states House of Assembly passed it into law.
Despite the convention, child labor is prevalent because only a few states in Nigeria, like Lagos and Delta State, have marshals who catch guilty parents or guardians whose children are seen hawking during school hours. The other states do little or nothing to enforce the law. There has also been little persecution by NATIP. (U.S. Department of State. "Nigeria," in Trafficking in Persons Report- 2013. Washington, DC; 2013)
The MOLP is responsible for ensuring the enforcement of federal labor laws. The MOLP’s Inspectorate Division employed about 500 inspectors in 2012, 100 fewer inspectors than in the 2011.( U.S. Embassy- Abuja. reporting, February 7, 2013.) Labor inspectors are deployed across 36 regions as well as the Federal Capital Territory (including Abuja), and are responsible for investigating all labor law violations, including those related to child labor.( International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). June 2011) But the number of inspectors employed appears to be inadequate to address child labor issues sufficiently, given the size of the country
Also, in Nigeria, parents see their children as their personal property (Burke 2007: 334). Children are subjected to their parents’ binding decisions, so when a parent decides that a child should go work for an unknown person or in a strange town or city, they cannot refuse. Nor can the child refuse to hawk or beg in the street if their parent orders them to.
2) How can child labour be minimised in Nigeria?
Each state government should make a huge commitment to enforcing child labor laws by allocating enough resources. They should have well-funded and staffed inspection offices and social welfare offices that can provide assistance to exploited or at-risk children.
We as individuals also have responsibilities as citizens to stop child labor and child abuse. We cannot leave it all for the government or turn a blind eye or pretend it is not happening. As Seneca said: “He who does not prevent a crime when he can, encourages it.” We must speak out and report people who hire or use under-aged children for work. We should also refuse to buy items from under-aged children.
3) Since you live outside Nigeria, do parents engage their children and wards in child labour in the United States of America?
Yes, sadly enough, child labor exists in America. The United States labor law, which dates back to 1938, allows children 12 years old — and, depending on the circumstances, even younger — to legally work in agriculture.
I once read about a Central Valley migrant labor camp where a typical day starts at 4:30 a.m and a 15-year-old who was interviewed said he had been working on the farm from when he was 8 years old. Another young girl described working so hard when she was 11 that her fingers bled.
Also, though against the law, under-aged children work as babysitters or work long hours in the family business during summer holidays or weekends.
4) As the founder of Deltawomen Organisation, what is your NGO doing to stop child labour in Nigeria?
We talked to NATIP about working together to create awareness. Also, we use our radio program to create awareness. We run skills awareness programs and plan to run workshops and reproductive rights education during the latter part of the year.
5) Can you tell us some of the disadvantages of child labour in a society?
When you put a child to work, you are taking the short-lived time out of that child's life when they should be getting a good education and having fun with their peers. Street hawking or begging is dangerous work and this could lead to death, rape and kidnapping.
They sometimes work for hours out of a day and are often abused if they are slow doing their work or do not make enough sales. Some girls naturally make up for it by having sex with customers so they would not incur the wrath of their masters. They get paid little to nothing for all the hard work they do, and there isn't any advantage, only disadvantage.
6) Some of the parents and guardians that send their children to work always give excuses that they cannot meet their needs without their children working or selling wares to augment their income. Do you agree with them?
There is no justification for child labour. Every child has the right to a childhood without undergoing hard labour. Child labour is social malice and wanton subjugation. No reason is sufficient enough to justify it. Children should be entitled to their childhood. Why should children be made to suffer or punished because their parents are poor? It is their duty to protect their children, not abuse them, or allow others to abuse them or get them killed. As a parent I would rather remain poor than subject my child to abuse or sacrifice their lives for money. All the money on earth is not worth my child’s future or happiness.