Gov’t launches policies to combat child labour, workplace accidents

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The Government of Guyana on Friday in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched its first national policy on child labour to eliminate all forms of child labour by 2025.

“The child labour policy marks an important milestone in the fight against the worst forms of child labour in Guyana,” Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally said in her remarks at the launch held at the Marriott Hotel, Kingston, Georgetown.

According to an assessment report on child labour published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 2017, in Guyana, 18.3 per cent of children 5-17 years are forced into working.

The report said the affected children engage in mining and in commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking.

Ally said the exploitation of children must not be tolerated under any circumstances or for any reason as she called for a multi-sectoral approach to tackle the issue.

Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally

Present in the room were members of various trade unions and civil society bodies.

“Whether we are talking about trafficking of children for sexual exploitation or for purposes of forced labour in dangerous, abusive circumstances, the outcomes are the same. These children are robbed of their childhood, robbed of their education, robbed of their future and as a consequence the cycle of poverty is perpetuated,” she noted.

According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative, Sylvie Fouet, the rate of child labour in Guyana is higher than rest of Latin America and the Caribbean which stands at 9% for the 5-14 age group.

As such, she is calling on the Government to ensure that in its next National Budget, provisions are made for programmes which give persons a second chance.

Child labour covers children under 17 years who are engaged in some forms of economic activities for hours. Lorene Baird, Permanent Secretary at the Social Protection Ministry explains that this does not include providing assistance to families outside of school periods.

The policy incorporates improved access to education, child labour inspections, advocacy and awareness campaigns.

It targets the:

  • establishment of a child labour prevention and elimination committee
  • creation of a child labour office within the department of labour
  • development of a national action plan
  • full legal protection of all children under 18 years form engaging in hazardous work
  • criminal prohibition of the use of children for illicit activities
  • criminal prohibition of the recruitment of children by non-state armed groups
  • legal protection of victims of human trafficking from being charged for committing crimes as a result of being subjected to human trafficking
  • develop and implement child-sensitive investigation and prosecution procedures for child victims

The formulation of the policy was undertaken after meetings with key stakeholders in Berbice, Georgetown, Linden, Mahdia and Bartica, according to the document.

The Government also launched an updated version of the National Policy on Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) –something which was welcomed by the various trade unions since it is the first time the policy is being reviewed after two decades.

The OSH policy is set to be reviewed every five years or as deemed necessary based on changes in Legislation, technology, international standards or other conditions.

“It seeks to create safer and healthier work environments through the development of a positive national culture of prevention of occupational accidents, diseases and dangerous occurrences,” Minister Ally said.

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