Harare, 3 July 2018. As a country relying heavily on agriculture to help re-build its economy and assure foreign currency investment, Zimbabwe additionally faces great challenges in the fight against child labour. Though the US Department of Labour reported in 2016 that moderate advancement has been made, there is still child labour in many sectors, including agriculture, mining, and domestic work. The problem is exacerbated by the HIV/AIDS pandemic that has left over a million children as orphans.
In this light, and following the recent Human Rights Watch Report on child labour in tobacco growing in Zimbabwe, ECLT Foundation staff were invited by the Zimbabwean Government to join in a critical and timely discussion on child labour in tobacco agriculture. The meeting was convened by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare in Harare, and attended by the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Health, national trade union representatives, employers’ organization representatives, national farmer associations, tobacco companies and the regulatory Tobacco Industry Marketing Board of Zimbabwe.
Representatives from various United Nations agencies were also in attendance, including from the ILO, UNICEF, UNDP, UNESCO, IOM, and the WHO FCTC country representative, offering needed perspective and key contributions to this defining multi-stakeholder dialogue.
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Mr Ngoni Masoka, officially opened the day’s multi-stakeholder meeting, and reiterated the Zimbabwean Government’s commitment to increasing the level of work to address the issue of eliminating child labour and noted that it was both a cross-cutting issue, and the lack of statistical data on the issue from the country’s tobacco industry. He thanked ECLT for their participation.
"Today is not about problems, but more importantly, coming together for solutions," explained David Hammond, ECLT Executive Director, during his introductory speech to an audience of over forty attendees, before going on to outline that: "Child labour in tobacco agriculture is a complex issue, and one which should not just be reserved for being addressed by the tobacco industry, but one which intimately touches on surrounding and complementary crops that are being grown in the same communities, on the same farmland and tended by the very same growers, all of whom are attempting to make a legitimate living and a better life for the next generation.”
The meeting was aimed at building consensus among the key stakeholders responsible for eliminating child labour and enforcing children’s rights, and which on the day produced provisional proposals from amongst the audience to commence addressing the issue through a Government lead.
The multi-stakeholder dialogue resulted in several key recommendations to the Government, including a call for an in-depth study or survey of child labour in tobacco agriculture in Zimbabwe to correspond with the upcoming growing season (October – March); a strengthening of sectoral collaboration on this issue; enhancing education, advocacy, and awareness raising on child labour; and of the utmost importance, a call to revive the National Steering Committee on Child Labour, to take up and advance these recommendations and support stronger coordination across all initiatives currently addressing child labour throughout the country.
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