Labour Minister Cllr. Charles H. Gibson has said that children of Liberia have been neglected when it comes to regulations to protect them against child labour, force labour and through other exploitative means. In so doing, Liberia has fulfilled her legal international obligations by promulgating and signing into regulations a hazardous work list and light work list.
He stated that these instruments are vital in that they clearly defined work children below the age of 18 are allowed to do and those not allowed, noting that “What we did not do is to attach penalties and fines for violators”.
Minister Gibson was speaking at the opening of a two-days symposium for the review and validation of the draft Child Labour regulation for Liberia held at the Royal Ambassador’s Hotel in Unification Town, Margibi County.
Speaking further, Minister Gibson who is also the Chairman of the National Commission on Child Labour said that the purpose of the symposium is to find a way to domesticate recent ILO Conventions on child labour into local law.
“After Liberia acceded to several ILO instruments such as, Convention 138 which speaks to Minimum Age to Work, the Country did not take further actions to ratify this convention since before the civil war.
This government understanding the important of children to maintaining our future, thought it wise to work with the legislature to ratify this Convention and recently it was deposited with the ILO in Geneva” during which meeting Min. Gibson told participants at the two days event.
He said that though potion of the Convention has been domesticated into the Decent Work Act of 2015, being ratified poses on the country an obligation to execute it to the fullest.
“This law does not only address the issue of child labour, it also builds upon issues where children are left to fend for themselves, which placed them at risk of harming their lives. putting themselves in harm way, their lives in danger, are exploited in workplaces such as, in the agriculture fields, machinic shops, workshops, factories and other places of work. Child is not just a family thing. We feel as a government and people that it is time that certain abuses should constitute a violation of the penal code, in that it will not be settle through social dialogue, but have certain jail sentence and fines to serve as deterrence” he added.
Minister Gibson maintained that in as much the Government of Liberia came out with the amendment to the Trafficking Law, it will be important that Liberia be the first Country in Africa to come up with a law on child law. He assured the participants that Liberia will build on the ILO Conventions ratified, signed, and approved by the President deposited in Geneva to develop a child labour law for Liberia.
Also speaking, Rivercess County, Representative and Chairperson for Women and Children in the House of Representatives, Rosana G. D. Schaack expressed that issue of children is of utmost important to the government and people of Liberia.
She said that children in Liberia have suffered for many years which has been taken for granted and as this government has come to put the issues of women and children on the frontline, “I want us this time here to wisely look at the draft child labour law and put ourselves into it.”
Hon. Schaack hopes that the draft law should not just be a document to add to the many good laws that had been crafted but not realistically implemented so that the children can have the right benefits that they deserve so that they can become an integrate part of the society, having their rights and welfare with a legal framework to back every activity of children in Liberia.
For his part, the Winrock International/ATLAS Project Country Manager, Mr. James Yekeh thanked the Government of Liberia for giving his institution the space to operate and to work with the government to solve problems of children in Liberia especially in the areas of child labour, force labour and human trafficking.
He give special thanks to the Minister of Labour for signing the hazardous work list and light list in support of ILO Convention 138. He noted that the Minister has ensured in a very short time the document will be signed by the President and deposited at the ILO. He used the occasion to express his institution willingness to working with the government to make sure that things are better for children in Liberia.
In remarks, the ILO Country Coordinator, Mr. Salif Haji Massalay commended Minister Gibson for ensuring that the six Fundamental Conventions of the ILO has been ratified by Liberia.
He said that recently ratified Convention 130 on the Minimum Age to work was deposited with the ILO and is now in operation and binding on Liberia for enforcement.
The ILO Country Manager to Liberia told participants that the drafting of a child labour law is key step towards to the domesticating of this Convention and a great achievement on the part of Liberia in the fight against child labour.
The two days symposium which was sponsored by the Ministry of Labour in collaboration with Winrock International/ATLAS Project brought together members of the Labour and Justice Committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate, members of the National Commission on Child Labour, civil society organizations, local and international partners, and legal consultants on the drafting of the law.