Lusaka, 16 June 2020: In reflecting on the commemoration of World Day Against Child Labour on the 12th of June 2020, Panos Institute Southern Africa calls on governments and stakeholders to put in place measures to ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic does not roll back the country’s gains in the fight against child labour.
On 12th June 2020, the world observed the World Day Against Child Labour under the theme COVID-19: Protect children from child labour, now more than ever! This year’s commemoration came at a time when Zambia, like many other countries around the world, is fighting to contain the spread and socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on lives and livelihoods.
The outbreak of the disease in the country has disturbed many economic activities, resulting in huge job and income losses. Panos is concerned that this situation may push thousands of vulnerable children into child labour. Already, the number of children involved in underage employment is high and the pandemic may push it even higher. It is estimated that 28.1% (about 992,000) of all children between the ages of 5 and 14 years in Zambia are engaged in child labor, according to the 2018 Findings on Worst Forms of Child Labor, United States Department of Labor.Most likely, the COVID-19 pandemic induced economic hardships in many low-income households and will make the situation worse as families try to survive the hard times. Some families may use any available means to earn a living including involving children in economic activities. And due to escalation in poverty and hunger in many households, some children will on their own venture out to find employment to survive.
It is imperative that the current economic hardships in households are not allowed to worsen the child labour problem in the country, because they have the potential to create far-reaching implications for Zambia’s long-term development goals. Children represent the country’s future labour force and human resource and their exposure to hazards, abuse, and illnesses by virtue of being involved in economic activities undermines their physical and mental development into productive adulthood. Children pushed into economic activities to work as prostitutes, domestic workers, farm labourers, and other jobs will not only be robbed of their childhood and dignity but will also be deprived of an economically empowered future because they will not have a chance to attend school.
Panos, with the support of Winrock International and through funding from the United States Department of Labor (USDOL), implements the EMPOWER project, which is addressing the problem of child labour in Eastern province by raising awareness in communities and stimulating families, traditional leaders, and other actors to take action against the vice. In the face of COVID-19, Panos has intensified this campaign against child labour to ensure that the economic hardships households may face are not used as an excuse to involve or let children involve themselves in economic activities. Specifically, Panos, through EMPOWER, is working with community radio stations to raise awareness about child labor and COVID-19.
With support from Save the Children and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), Panos is also working to enhance the participation of children in decision-making for the realization of their social, economic, and cultural rights.
Panos is of the view that COVID-19-related social and economic safety nets targeting low-income and vulnerable households will help mitigate the impact of the pandemic on child labor and realization of children’s rights.
Funding for the EMPOWER project is provided by the United States Department of Labor under cooperative agreement IL-29964-16-75-K.
This material does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the United States Department of Labor, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the United States Government. One hundred percent of the total cost of the EMPOWER project is financed with Federal funds, for a total of $5,000,000 US dollars.
Executive Director, Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf)
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