Africa may need to rethink the way it raises children: Malawi’s Minister of Labour

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Africa with its own unique circumstances may need to rethink the way it raises its children if it is to win the fight against child labour.  

Delegates from around the world have gathered at the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour taking place at the Durban International Convention Centre in Durban, which aims to share good practices and to push for accelerated action towards the elimination of child labour as well as to assess progress made towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) regarding child labour. 

However, Africa with its unique customs of raising children might run the risk of having its children classified as child labourers by definitions that may not be wary of such traditions. 

In such instances, Vera Kamtukule, Minister of Labour, Republic of Malawi and Chair of the SADC Employment and Labour Sector, representing SADC, agrees that Africa might need to rethink the way it raises its children. 

“We may need to rethink the way we are raising children. What I am saying is that there has got to be a difference. What’s the end gain? Are you involving your child in labour because you want to bring them up a responsible citizen or to teach them some values that they are going to use to stand up as adults later or are you engaging that child into labour because you want the outcome of that labour to supplement your income or even support whatever it is that you are doing as a parent?”  

The International Labour Organisation describes the child labour as work that “deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development” while Unesco describes working children as child labourers when they are either too young to work or are involved in hazardous activities that may compromise their physical, mental, social or educational development. 

Africa has the largest number of child labourers, with ILO estimating that 72.1 million African children are estimated to be in child labour, while Saulos Klaus Chilima, Deputy President of the Republic of Malawi says two million children are in child labour in Malawi. 

Kamtukule says there is hope that Africa will eventually overcome the child labour predicament and other socio-economic challenges. But she was quick to point out that the level of will and determination to achieve that would need to shoot up.