ECOWAS moves to eliminate child, forced labour in sub region

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By Joyce Remi- Babayeju

The ECOWAS Commission has adopted the Regional Action Plan on Decent Work as it moves to eliminate child labour and forced labour in West Africa.

ECOWAS Ministers of Labour and Employment Relations made this decision at a hybrid meeting held on March 3rd, 2023.

Chairman of the meeting, Minister of Employment, Labour and Social Security of the Republic of Guinea Bissau, Mr Cirilo Djalo said that the objective of the meeting was a platform for the Ministers to adopt the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on the Elimination of Child Labour and Forced Labour ( 2021- 2022), and for approval for of the extension of the implementation period of the ECOWAS Decent Work Regional Programme , EDWRP, to 2026.

Cirilo Djalo, in his keynote address said that available data shows that the lives and development of millions of children in West Africa continue to be at risk as nearly one in four children in Sub-Saharan Africa is exposed to child labour.

The Minister, while highlighting the key progress so far made by the Republic of Guinea Bissau in promoting and protecting the rights of the child through a number of legal and policy instruments, expressed optimism that the five priority areas outlined in the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on the Elimination of Child Labour and Forced Labour (2021– 2030) are achievable because they are aligned to the goals of the SDGs and the AU Agenda 2063, to which all ECOWAS Member states are already committed to implementing.

The Commissioner of Human Development and Social Affairs, Professor Fatou Sow Sarr, in his welcome address commended
the initiative and noted that child labour and promoting decent work are important considering the high unemployment rates, high levels of informality, continuous growth in precarious jobs, especially among the self-employed in the informal sector in the region.

Sarr stated that despite the challenges are enormous, they are surmountable and that the narrative could be changed through cooperation, as well as building an ECOWAS of the people where there is peace and prosperity for all.

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