Ghana’s Code of Conduct against Child Labour

In Ghana, the production of palm oil is both
profitable and potentially dangerous. Chemical fertilizers, sharp cutting tools, exhausting heat and reptile bites all put workers in these vast agricultural
operations at risk. Children have long worked alongside their
parents in the palm oil fields, exposed to some of the worst dangers. The problem is especially widespread in the
numerous family farms and small holdings that are an integral part
of the palm oil supply chain. Families depend on everyone to earn money,
even children. But challenging old traditions can be successful. The key is raising awareness of the dangers
of child labour. [Emmanuel Kwame Mensah]
The GEA has been very instrumental in dealing with child labour in the oil palm sector. Because of the work they do, the oil palm industries are very vigilant, to ensure that the outgrowing farmers do not
engage the services of children in the wrong manner. The G-E-A, the Ghana Employers Association, working with management of the plantations,
smallholders, outgrowers and representatives of the local
trade union, developed a code of conduct to eradicate child
labour. The code was translated into local languages and then introduced throughout the GEA members’
supply chains. One of the most enthusiastic adopters of the
code has been “Norpalm, Ltd.” which produces crude palm oil for industrial
use and the domestic soap market. Norpalm organized sensitization and awareness
raising programs not only on the farms but in the surrounding
villages, in cooperation with village leaders. [Joseph Akwesi Bawuah]
We feel good about the result we have achieved. The sensitization on child labour issues has
gone down well with the communities. It has also created a good corporate image,
for our company. At first, many villagers felt no one had a
right to tell them what they could do with their
own children. But that attitude changed after the sensitization
training. [John Ocran]
What the ILO and the Ghana Employers association were saying, they understood it and they accepted the challenge. They later accepted the fact, that their children
are their own, and therefore they should not misuse them. Farmers who violate the code of conduct’s
rules on child labour get a warning. If there are further problems, the agreement
between the farmer and the employer is terminated. Company field staff members visit the farmers
on a regular basis to ensure the rules against child labour are
being followed. So far eleven members of the G-E-A are actively
following the code, which was developed with their full cooperation. According to the GEA, all told about three million informal workers in Ghana’s vast oil palm sector are affected. The G-E-A also made a compelling case for
its members, explaining why child labour is bad for business. [Alex Frimpong]
Employers must come to a clear understanding that anything that happens in the supply chain
will be attributed to them. [Joseph Akwesi Bawuah]
Child labour has become an international issue. So if you are an employer and you want to
remain in business, you must be anti-child labour compliant. The GEA sees its role as a “storehouse”
of information about child labour, sharing best practices about eradicating child
labour with its members. And the GEA is taking an active role in shaping
Ghana’s national policy on child labour. [Alex Frimpong]
We have a unit in the secretariat that advises employers on child labour and how they have to develop their own policies. Other social partners and the IPEC offices
in Accra work together with the Ghana Employers Association shaping
the child labour policies in the country. The key to the GEA’s successes has been
social dialogue, working together with the ILO. [Emmanuel Kwame Mensah]
Social dialogue is getting the partners together to negotiate labour issues in such a way that
is a win-win situation. Up to now social dialogue has been used more
on salaries and wages and conditions, but now we want to use it as a way to fight
child labour, and ILO Ghana is facilitating this process. For the Ghana Employers’ Association, eradicating the worst forms of child labour
is clearly linked to a prosperous and productive future. [Alex Frimpong]
For those who are the future leaders of our country, we must make sure that we also contribute
to make sure they do not engage in child labour. By using a code of conduct to define child
labour and its inherent risks to its members, smallholders
and out growers, the Ghana Employers Association has been successful
in changing attitudes about child labour, and eradicating it from
its members’ supply chains.


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