Sunday, June 16, 2024

ILO censures Botswana for failing to protect children

The International Labour Organization (ILO)  Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations Report of 2023 accuses Botswana of failing to curb child labour.

This follows the June 2019 submission by Botswana to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, in which government officials explained that they are unable to carry out effective implementation and evaluation of the National Plan of Action for Children 2006-2016 due to lack of resources.

Botswana also pointed to the inadequacy of existing pieces of legislation in addressing the problem of child labour in the informal economy as well as failure to streamline child labour elimination and prevention strategies into relevant national policies.

The Committee of Experts has indicated in a new report that they have noted from the project document of the National Action Plan for the elimination of child labour,2021, that child labour exists in Botswana, particularly in the commercial agricultural and cattle sectors.

“Moreover, the Committee notes that in its concluding observations of November 2019, the UN Human Rights Committee on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights expressed concern about reports of forced child labour in cattle herding particularly affecting children of the San community,” read the ILO report.

The report notes that upon following up on what government did in response to the committee’s previous concerns and observations with regard to the application of the provisions of the Employment Act of 1982 to all forms of employment including in the informal economy, it emerges that the ILO was told that the issue was a subject of ongoing labour law review which was due for presentation before Botswana Parliament.

Currently, the existing protections to children engaged in carrying out economic activities extends only to those having employment contracts, hence the ILO’s call for expanded protections to all children engaged in economic activities even without employment contracts, particularly children working on self -employed basis or in the informal economy.

 Consequently, The Committee has asked government “to take the necessary measures to strengthen the capacity and extend the reach of labour inspection services to better monitor the work performed by young persons in the informal economy, particularly in the agricultural sector and cattle herding, and to provide specific information on actions taken in this regard.”

One of the concerns previously raised by the ILO Committee is that whilst the Employment Act,  prohibits night work and hazardous underground work for children, it fails to prohibit other types of hazardous work including work with dangerous machinery, equipment and tools. To this end, Botswana promised that a draft list of hazardous occupations prohibited to children under 18 years of age was incorporated in the ongoing labour law review which was yet to be approved.

The Committee of Experts also spoke about the need to revise the Education and Training Act of 1967 so that it provides for free and compulsory basic education up to the minimum age for admission to employment of 15 years.

Francis Ng’ambi, Project Manager at Humana People to People argued that, in a situation where education is not compulsory and out of school children aged 14 are legally permitted to engage in light work it would be problematic to enforce legislation and strategies aimed at preventing children from entering detrimental work or removing them from an environment where they are at risk of abuse and exposed to worst forms of child labour.

“Thus, government’s move to review the Education and Training Act of 1967 is certainly a positive development in creating an enabling environment for enforcement of the fight against child labour,” said Ng’ambi.

Sunday standard has  established that the ILO Committee has also punched holes in the National Plan of Action for Orphans and Vulnerable children, the Botswana National Youth Policy and the National Action Plan for Youth querying that they do not incorporate child labour elimination and prevention strategies. The Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs has not responded to a questionnaire  sent to them three weeks ago. The Sunday Standard wanted to establish the status of government’s response to issues under contention, and the extent of the problem of child labour in the country.

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