The head of the Village making a speech
On 9th March 2020, the new Child Labour Free Zone (CLFZ) system came into effect in Ghana. The system will be used to monitor, verify and certify that areas have eliminated child labour and have the mechanisms in place to continue to protect children from hazardous work, as well as safeguard other fundamental children’s rights. Eligible areas are to be certified as CLFZ and the system is set to be expanded nationwide.
The concept is not in itself new, however, until now there have never been standardised rules on how to determine an area as child labour-free, who has the authority to do so, and how it would be maintained. Ghana has now officially established the CLFZ system guidelines and incorporated them into their National Action Plan II. It is the first time a country has, as a nation, established and systematised specific operating rules in the fight against child labour. This is a key moment in history in the fight to protect children from hazardous forms of work. ACE collaborated with the Ghanaian government to provide our technical expertise and field experience running the SMILE Ghana project, in the formulation of these national guidelines.
Child labour arises from a combination of various problems meaning that resolving it is not a simple matter of building a school, for example, and as such the guidelines are complex and detailed. However, the fact that these guidelines are equal to institutionalisation, means that: "the stakeholders involved in child labour are no longer working separately, rather they are all working together to certify and expand the number of CLFZ areas and ultimately eliminate child labour from Ghana.”
Child Labour in Ghana
According to the most recent report on the state of child labour in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, there are 770,000 child labourers in Ghana as of 2018/2019 (University of Chicago 2020). 710,000 of those children are involved in dangerous work. This is definite progress compared to the last comprehensive report in 2015, in which there were a reported 920,000 child labourers. However, this means there are still over 700,000 children either being forced to work far away from their families, carrying cocoa fruits weighing more than 20 kilograms, performing dangerous tasks with sharp tools, and sometimes being trafficked for labour. These are called "the worst forms of child labour" and are robbing children of their future.
Of course, the Ghanaian government is not doing nothing. A number of efforts have been made to eliminate child labour and work toward the achievement of SDG Goal 8.7, in particular, to "end all forms of child labour by 2025”. Back in 2017, the government announced their National Action Plan for the achievement of the SDG Target 8.7, and one of its strategies was to establish and disseminate the Child Labour Free Zone.
A closer look at the Child Labour Free Zone
The system literally names an area as "child labour free." Does that really mean that, 1. There is no cases of child labour in the area, and 2. If an area is found to not have cases of child labour at a certain point in time it can be named child labour-free?
The simple answer to both questions is no. A certified CLFZ means an area is verified as having sustainable, comprehensive, and consistent interventions in place to protect children from dangerous work and ensure their rights and welfare. Just because an area does not have any cases of child labour does not make it child labour-free. Similarly, an area with several cases of child labour which has the mechanisms in place to address them should not be discounted. An area that has a well-functioning system in place to protect children from hazardous work and sustains a safe environment that enables them to live in peace of mind is a child labour free zone.
The CLFZ system includes the operation of:
• A routine child labour monitoring system (at community & district level)
• A system that manages school enrolment and attendance (for compulsory education)
• A system that monitors workplaces and prevents children’s involvement in dangerous work
• A system that cracks down on and tries illegal cases in accordance with the law
• Municipal institutions that provide financial support to vulnerable families and farmers
• Local government-level policies, yearly plans, and ordinances for the elimination of child labour
Only the Ghanaian government has the authority to grant the certification.
ACE activities contributed to the establishment of the Child Labour Free Zone system
In fact, the Child Labor Free Zone initiative was adopted following the collaboration of numerous stakeholders and in particular, ACE, the Ghanaian government, trade unions, and the ILO. Child labour is a problem involving numerous components including poverty, education, labour, human rights, health, agriculture, and business. Since child labour free zones involve a "region", it was often difficult for everyone from different political positions, such as the community, local government, and central government, to work together – even though it is necessary to fully address the problem. In spite of this, until now, NGOs and organisations have been working independently to eliminate child labour, and calling an area "child labour free" could mean many different things.The fact that Ghana has, as a country, overcome these difficulties and began institutionalising an approach to, and procedures for, realising the Child Labor Free Zone is an extremely momentous event.
With the cooperation of Deloitte Tohmatsu Consulting, ACE worked for over a year and a half in 2018-2020 with the Ghanaian government, the ILO, the Ghanaian Agricultural Workers Union, and CRADA (our local partner of the Smile Ghana Project), to establish this system. The first National Stakeholder Dialogue (National Stakeholders' Meeting) was the first step in the process and saw the coming together of 80 people from various fields related to the cacao industry and child labour. However, at the event ACE Managing Director Tomoko Shiroki stressed that, "Many people from various different sectors have been working toward achieving the elimination of child labour, but efforts have not seen much success. After all, success cannot be realised without a national budget. A lot of people already know that. "
At the same time, our experience operating the Smile Ghana project has taught us the importance of involving the community in order to eliminate child labour in the area. We also know that, with some ingenuity, utilising existing local systems and strengthening corporation between stakeholders can produce results without a huge budget. Efforts such as reforming schools and PTAs, restoring trust in schools, supporting productivity improvement, supporting poor families, and addressing labour shortages must all come as a set package. On top of that, a support system for these communities, schools, and households at the smallest administrative unit - the District- is crucial. These were key lessons that ACE inputted in the creation of the Child Labour Free Zone system.
Creating the system is not the final goal
Since November 2018, ACE staff have gone to Ghana five times. During this time, the rules and procedures for realizing the Child Labour Free Zone were discussed in detail and carefully formulated. Finally, on March 9th, 2020, the official document, Establishing Child Labour Free Zones in Ghana: Protocols and Guidelines was completed. Now that the guidelines have been completed and have come into effect, all future activities to eliminate child labour in Ghana will be required to refer to these guidelines.
It was a very valuable experience for ACE to be involved in the creation of the national system for the first time. However, the establishment of the guidelines was not our final goal. The next step is to ensure the guidelines are implemented properly and the villages that have graduated from the Smile Ghana Project are soon set to be assessed and certified as Child Labor Free Zones.
Our longer-term goal is that the Child Labour Free Zone is functioning nationwide, and Ghana is able to become a child labour-free country. The SMILE Ghana Project has been vital to working toward these long-term goals. Thank you to everyone who continues to support such important work.
County-level consultation meeting in July 2019
At the National Conference in January 2020
The launch event was held in March 2020 in Ghana
The Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations
The head of the Village making a speech