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Child labour robbing millions of health, education and growth, UNICEF says

ACCRA, Ghana, 12 June 2013 - On the World Day Against Child Labour, UNICEF today called attention to the millions of children around the world who are engaged in some form of hazardous or exploitative work, usually at the expense of their health and education, and overall wellbeing and development.

According to the organization, millions of children work to support their families, but child labour becomes unacceptable when it is carried out by children who are too young and who should be in school. In addition, there are many children who are doing work unsuitable for anyone under 18. In the worst forms of child labour, children are exposed to health hazards and to physical danger, their development is threatened, and they are subjected to exploitation.

In Ghana, the 2012 UNICEF State of the World’s children report indicates that 34 per cent of children, boys and girls, between 5 and 14 years are engaged in child labour. This year, the focus is on children in domestic work.

“We know that children engaged in domestic work are often amongst the most vulnerable. Hidden away from the public eye, behind closed doors, child domestic workers are at high risk of violence and abuse, including sexual abuse. Away from their own families, we know that these children often have very few adults around them who are willing to come to their defence and safeguard their interests and protection,” Chief of Child Protection Johanna Eriksson Takyo said.

The Government of Ghana’s approach to tackle child labour along with other child protection concerns is through system-strengthening, supported by UNICEF Ghana.

“A system-strengthening approach requires three things: Firstly, we need good laws and policies that clearly stipulate what are acceptable actions and what are criminal actions. Good laws and policies that protect children from harm, including exploitative forms of child labour," Ms Eriksson Takyo said.

“Secondly, we need a strong social welfare and justice system. A system that has the resources, capacity and appropriate structures to respond when a child is in need of care and protection while at the same time effectively prevents more children from becoming victims of violence, abuse and exploitation, including child labour.

“Thirdly, we need processes of social change. Processes that challenge norms, attitudes and behaviours where these continue to violate children’s protection.”

Domestic workers are among the most exploited and abused workers for a number of reasons, including discrimination, exclusion from labour laws, isolation, and its hidden nature. Children are at even greater risk, due to their young ages, lack of awareness of their rights, separation from their family, and dependence on their employer. While not all child domestic workers suffer abuse or exploitation, children working as domestics are particularly vulnerable to trafficking, forced labour, and the worst forms of child labour, making child domestic work one of the most widespread and potentially exploitative forms of child work in the world today. 



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