Accra, Nov. 24, GNA - About 1.27 million children in Ghana aged between five and 17 years are engaged in activities classified as child labour, Mr Emmanuel Otoo, an International Labour Organization (ILO) representative in Ghana said on Tuesday.
He noted that currently about 1.031 million children in child labour were under the age of 13 years.
Most of them are involved in activities such as prostitution, drug peddling, domestic work, farming, fishing, street hawking, stone breaking, sand winning, forestry, animal rearing, Trokosi and "kaya kaya" and are working in very dangerous and hazardous working environments.
Mr Otoo, who is the Country Programmes Coordinator (Capacity Building Project) of the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) of the ILO, said this at the opening of a two-day Child Labour Workshop for 30 chief fishermen, drawn from the Greater Accra and Volta Regions to sensitise them against child labour.
The workshop, jointly organized by IPEC and the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council (GNCFC), is the first in a series of similar forums planned for fishermen, farmers, the Police Service, Parliamentarians and civil society organisations involved in child labour issues, to ensure that the fight against child labour was on course.
Mr Otoo said the workshops were planned to enhance the capacities of relevant stakeholders to adequately contribute meaningfully towards the progressive and sustainable elimination of child labour, through legislation, law enforcement and peer sensitisation.
He said according to the 2001 Ghana Child Labour Survey, 2.47 million Ghanaian children aged between five and 17 years were economically active.
Mr Otoo said Ghana had ratified a number of international protocols against child labour, including the ILO Convention and the African Union (OUA) Charter on the Rights of the Child.
In addition, the 1992 Constitution and the Children's Act of 1998 also guaranteed the protection of children's rights.
"Our focus and resource must now be on the operationalisation of the details of those conventions and laws. This is the responsibility of all stakeholders including the GNCFC."
Mr Otoo said experiences of IPEC-funded action programmes as well as research reports have cited several reasons as causes of child labour. These included poverty, loss of a parent or both parents, inability to pay school fees, working to gain experience and children being forced to work.
He noted that IPEC was assisting four civil society organizations in Accra, Kumasi and Tamale to physically withdraw 2,000 child labourers and reintegrate them into school by the close of the year.
This, he said, was being done in collaboration with their parents and guardians, who would benefit from micro-credit loans from ILO to undertake income-generating activities.
Nii Abeo Kyerekuanda IV, Executive Secretary of GNCFC and Chief Fisherman of the Ga State, cited poverty and the need for children to gain working experience at an early age as the reasons for child labour in the fishing industry.
He noted that in the past it was not illegal to send children fishing on the high seas, as fishing was seen an occupation for illiterates. Moreover the high seas were not as turbulent and unsafe for children as they are now.
"Now the high seas are very turbulent and fishermen fight on the high seas, which is not safe for children. Moreover children's education and health have become paramount these days so we need to sensitise our people to stop engaging their children in fishing at that tender age." Nii Kyerekuanda said as chief fishermen, "we can only advise our members to stop abusing the rights of their children but the Government should ensure that laws against child labour are properly enforced so that when we catch any of our members violating the law and send him to the Police, he would be dealt with."