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In March, 2019, the Government of Ghana under the leadership of the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations (MELR) with support from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), launched the Establishment of Child Labour Free Zones (CLFZs) Protocols and Guidelines as part of recommendation in the National Plan of Action Phase 11 towards achieving Target 8.7 of the Global Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs), to reduce Child Labour to the barest minimum by 2025. 

After the launch, the National Steering Committee on Child Labour (NSCCL) commissioned a Technical Working Group (TWG) to draft, design and develop assessment tools and relevant documents for the implementation of the CLFZ process.

Series of technical workshops were organised for the TWG, however, the one organised between 9th February and 11th February, 2022 at the Timber and Wood Workers Centre, Kumasi led to finalisation of the assessments tools and relevant documents for the implementation of the CLFZ.

As part of efforts to operationalise the CLFZ process, the JICA Study Team together with ministry representatives and the Child Labour Unit staff agreed to commence the piloting of the protocols and guidelines to prove its efficiency and effectiveness.

In line with the move, the JICA Study Team since February, 2021 up to date, April 2022, has embarked on a study to test the protocols and guidelines developed by the country towards the implementation of the CLFZ.  Typically, the essence was to test the indicators in the protocols and guidelines and to see how realistic and feasible the findings will be to measure up to standard.

The indicators  for the study were as follows : regular awareness raising activities on Child Labour in the community at least one in a quarter, formulation of community regulation on Child protection including child labour,  establishing community register  in the community and continuous update at least a quarter, setting up of CCPC in the  community with regular monthly meetings and school workplace monitoring with report, training and or technical supports for CCPC members , formulation of CAP contributing to the eliminate child labour and or protection of children’s rights, community accessible to referral,  provision of remediation package and conducive technical and learning environment.

Several other activities undertaken during the period also included training of data collators and conduct of assessment, actual assessment procedures, main assessment (sampling, data collectors, data analysis, report writing and finalisation of assessment book. In addition was the actual assessment procedures, grading and scoring, preparation for conduct of data collection for the assessment, selection of the community and   finalisation of assessments tools (questionnaires).

Consequent to limited time and financial constraints, JICA limited its study to 2 communities each in AMBAand BABMA. These are areas where the project has interventions, namely Atwima Mponua District Assembly (AMBA) and Bibiani Anhwiaso Berkwai (BABMA). 

Accordingly,  out of over 500 communities in AMBA, the study chanced on  110  Epic Centres and limited  the study to  only 11  communities for close marking because they met the criteria under which there were selected. Also out of the 11 communities, only 2 communities namely Nsuoatem – Agennia and Pataboaso were selected for the pilot activities and sharing of experiences. In the case of BAMBA, 84 communities were identified, where the study was limited to 10 communities and further zeroed on to 2 communities only for experience sharing.  The 2 communities in BABMA were Botorampa at Agogo and Atuntuma at Adobewura .

Following the findings and results from the study, and in order to promote and facilitate the implementation of CLFZ in Ghana as possible, the MELR in collaboration with JICA organised a two day experience sharing workshop for regional, Municipal Metropolitan, and District Assemblies (MMDA) stakeholders on the testing of Child Labour Free Zone (CLFZ) in Ghana.

The workshops, held on Thursday, 21st April at the Methodist Church and   Friday, 22nd April, 2022 at the Catholic Church in Atwima Mponua District Assembly (AMBA) andBibiani Anhwiaso Bekwai Municipality Assembly (BABMA) respectively in the Ashanti Region, was aimed among others to share the findings from the pilot activities at the MMDA, communities as well as district levels and further to share the result of the testing of the assessment and to discuss the way forward.

In her presentation, the JICA representative, Madam Akane Totani indicated that the pilot activities at the MMDA Level was intended to help the participants understand the current situation of the system which is required to be functioning and identify bottleneck against the smooth implementation of CLFZ,   and also to provide technical inputs for the line agencies to conduct pilot activities at community level.  

The Second presenter of JICA, Madam Yuki Akahori also revealed the pilot activities at the regional and district levels were aimed at raising awareness on compilation of community registers, enactment of Community Regulations, Referral systems and functionality of Child Community Protection Committee (CCPC) and   Remediation Packages.

 Additionally, it was geared at educating stakeholders on the understanding of Child Labour and how to eliminate it, strengthen community structures like Child Community Protection Committee (CCPC), School Monitoring Committee (SMC) and Parents Teacher Associations (PTA).  Others were to ensure regular monitoring and community surveillance, school monitoring and workplace monitoring, adherence to designed Community Action Plans (CAP), improvement in referral systems and supporting access to remediation packages among others.

Again, the awareness was further to take way the misconception and myths that Child Labour is a way of collapsing the farming activities of their ancestors, that child labour is not occultism but backed by the Law and thereby draw the attention of the communities on how the Government through an integrated Area based approach is trying to collaborate with stakeholders at the local and district levels to help handle issues of Child Labour holistically.

The two Municipalities represented by regional and district line agencies  also presented for and on behalf of the municipality, while  field consultants  from JICA Study team also  presented their findings, results and recommendations for the way forward.

According to findings at the community and district levels, community surveillance, school monitoring and workplace monitoring revealed that out of 110 communities, 23 cases were found to be in child labour, between October and November, 2021, representing 2%, while 87 cases representing 7% were at risk.  In terms of those compelled to go to school through the counselling of CCPC, 62 cases representing 56% were reported and those who promised to back to school and enrol stood at 5 cases, representing 4%.

The report said after the study that about 202 pupils have returned to school within the AMBA district as well as the BABMA District with 155 returned to school. It was also realised that several changes have taken place in the communities. Some of the changes are there is currently the formulation of CCPCs and reactivation of defunct ones, community regulation has been formulated, school enrolments has increased tremendously as a result of  monitoring community register, improvement in the referral systems by line agencies, communal labour revived,   supporting access to remediation packages identified , among others.

However, at the MMDA level, the under listed were found such as: coordination among relevant line agencies and with development partners highly recommendable. Also, District Assembly is highly expected to issue district bylaws and allocate necessary resources especially for operating referral system properly, and there was no regular meeting called to share information and discussion among line agencies. Further, although several stakeholders are supporting communities in AMDA, information is not well shared with district officials and approaches and tools were not well standardized as well as continuous monitoring and technical supports for CCPCs are required.

On the whole, while JICA conducted the study to assess their preparedness to declare their intervention areas as CLFZ, the ministry looks forward to using the findings to determine its preparedness as a nation going forward to expand to other areas thereby leading to the achievement of target 8.7.

On Tuesday,  April 26th and Wednesday, 27th April, 2022  a national workshop on same sharing experiences on the piloted study will be held at the Coconut Groove Hotel in Accra.

The writer is the Head of Public Affairs Unit of the MELR & a staff of ISD.

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