Sustainability – Together Against Child Labour

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Sunbeth Global Concepts through its sustainability department recently embarked on a rural impact campaign. The primary goal of the engagement was to sensitize the local communities on child labour which is quite common in those areas and to discourage the trend. 

The sensitization activity took place for a duration of five days, commencing on Monday, May 14th, and concluding on Friday, May 19th. The team which consisted primarily of sustainability department members visited 15 communities and spoke to over 400 adults some of which are cocoa farmers registered with Sunbeth Global Concepts, and a few prospectives who desire to join Sunbeth’s cocoa farmers’ group.

The communities visited include Owena, Kajola, Wasimi, Elemosho, Laje, Laagba, Ago Igbo, Ajetomide, Iwori, Awaye 1&2, Bolorunduro, Soko, Ayadi, Paadi, Sasere, all of which are situated in the Ondo East and West local government areas of Ondo State. 

The team did a commendable job of ensuring the child labour sensitization message was adequately received in every community they visited. They engaged in several educational and entertaining activities to drive the point home.

The team would commence the campaign in each camp with a cross-community parade. This involved going around the community displaying the child labour sensitization banner and sharing fliers to invite people to the event venue. The processions always featured upbeat music to get the attention of the community members. 

Members of the team during a sensitization procession.

After getting a sizable audience together at the venue, a representative anchor talks about what child labour entails, its risks, and potential repercussions for the children, the parents and the community as a whole. The lectures usually begin with a description of who a child is according to the law.

Lecture details

The Nigerian constitution regards any individual who’s below 18 years of age as a child/minor. And it holds the parents liable for the upkeep, safety, and training of such an individual unless, by an event of death, chronic ailment, imprisonment or other similar undesirable situations, the parents are incapacitated from fulfilling said responsibilities.

Per the provisions of the law, a child has the right to Food, Clothing, Shelter, and Education as basic needs. As such, it is a punishable offence for any parent to willfully deny or make the child work for any of these necessities. Parents apprehended for doing such may get prison sentences or be made to pay fines as determined by a law court.

On child labour and its prevalence in local communities visited it was noted that many parents often withhold their children from going to school. Instead, they make them go to work on farms, run errands, or work as lackeys and load carriers in the local community markets.

Delivering child sensitization lectures to community members

Community members were warned of the dangers of making children engage in physical activities that are beyond their capabilities. Children are not hardened enough for the rigours of strenuous farm work and do not have sufficient strength for the heavy lifting they’re forced to do as load carriers in the marketplaces. 

Forced hard labour can have a negative effect on a child’s development. For example, it may result in back, neck, or shoulder injuries since their physiques are underdeveloped to bear the burdens.

It’s also commonplace for farmers to make children undertake cocoa harvesting, pod splitting, and bean extraction. However, these are dangerous activities that may have dire consequences. For example, a cutting mishap may leave ghastly wounds on the children which they may never fully heal from. 

Another common child labour instance involves children being made to apply harmful chemicals on farms using knapsack spray pumps. This act exposes the children to dangerous organophosphate (Cholinesterase) compounds that can damage their health in the long run.

More on the child labour sensitization lecture

The lectures also touched on the repercussions of denying children quality education. Children who do not get formal education get exposed to vices early and often grow up to be miscreants who will terrorize their communities. Instead of building upon whatever their parents left to them, such individuals often end up destroying everything and may harm others in the process. Even in the best of scenarios, such children will grow up to become uneducated adults who can’t match up to their mates or make much of themselves due to their lack of literacy.

All the lectures ended with a charge to parents to ensure their children receive quality education up to a senior secondary school level at least. Community members are encouraged to work together in ensuring that no child in the environment is denied formal education or subjected to labour.

Parents are also encouraged to seek help if they do not have the financial capacity to get formal education for their children instead of subjecting them to forced labour.

Primary Points

Overall, the primary message of the child labour sensitization lectures is summarized in the following points.

Getting the audience involved in the conversation.

  • Children should not be forced to engage in strenuous work at home, on the farm or in marketplaces. 
  • Children should not be made to handle dangerous tools.
  • Children should not be exposed to dangerous chemicals through their participation in farm activities.
  • Children should be given formal education up until senior secondary school level.
  • Children are not slaves and should never be made to work like slaves.
  • Children should never be engaged in any work during school hours.

The team also entertained and educated the audience with a specially composed song and staged drama based on the importance of sending children to school instead of using them as slaves.

To further incentivize the participants and encourage them to prioritize children’s education, select members were given gifts including books, pens, water bottles, and bags. In addition, registered members of the Sunbeth cocoa farmers’ group were all given branded T-shirts while all attendees got refreshments.

The team also visited primary schools in the communities to encourage the children to prioritize their education and do what’s best for their futures. The children were given books, pens, branded water bottles and bags as well.

The team visited a school bearing gifts for the children.

It’s worth noting that the team encountered some challenges during the sensitization. Primarily, the journeys to and from the communities were largely unpleasant due to the poor condition of the road infrastructure on the routes leading to the areas. Nevertheless, that did not deter them from fulfilling the mission they set out to do.

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