Written By: Mac Samah
Nimba County – Child labor is a common practice in Liberia which according to international conventions is a violation of thousands of Liberian children’s rights.
Many of these affected kids are often seen selling sachet of water, peanuts and other items while schools are in session. Some of these kids in urban communities across the country claim that their parents depend on them to help provide food for the family.
Parents and guidance are heavily blamed for its persistence while others claim government is doing little to curb the situation.
Several international partners are working to protect the rights of children in the county, one of which is Windrock International.
Windrock launched a three year project known as ‘Actions to Reduce Child Labor’ (ARCH), and the projects focuses on preventing child labor on rubber plantations in Liberia.
The project is piloting in three counties: Montserrado, Margibi and Nimba where children labor is reportedly taking place on several plantations.
Implementing partners of the ARCH project, African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect ( ANNPPCAN ) and the General Agriculture Allied Workers Union of Liberia ( GAAWUL ) have been working with children between the ages of five and seventeen and their parents.
There are historic traces of child labor as far back as the 1920s when the Firestone Rubber company in Margibi County started cultivating rubber in the country.
Children were mostly used by their parents to help them on the plantation in order to earn more money for the families. As rubber cultivation spreads to the leeward counties, child labor also increased.
To help minimize child labor, the ARCH Project says it is providing uniforms, stationeries and training to children mostly recruited from the communities or on the streets to educate them to be useful in society.
School authorities and parents are also been trained and empowered to enhance local food production which will help generate funding to ensure children remain in schools. The project is also providing grants for rearing livestock.
24 farming groups of 480 parents in Gbannah Chiefdom, Nimba County were recently trained in vegetable, cassava and livestock productions which intends to augment the agriculture skills for parents to generate finance and maintain their children in school.
At the close of the training, participants’ received farming toolkits and ARCH Project Coordinator, Mulbah Yorgbor cautioned them to be proactive in using their skills and tools to promote and sustain their children’s educational sojourn so as to make them useful citizens.
Speaking on behalf of the beneficiaries, Paye Y. Kilay, assured the project that nothing will remain untouched until child labor is reduced in their community.
One of ARCH’s implementing partners, ANNPPCAN, committed to continue working with the graduates until beneficiaries of the project are fully prepared.