Local not-for-profit organisation, Social Support Foundation has partnered the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to help address the issues of child labour in mining communities in Ghana.
Apart from cocoa farming, the artisanal and small scale mining sector has also been as encouraging more children in highly injurious work.
The two parties are working on a project called, Caring Gold Mining Project, which is under the pilot phase in four communities in two districts in the country.
As a pilot, the project is being run in Adansi Adumanu and Abadwam within the Adansi North District of the Ashanti Region and Mohyekrom and Serwam in the Aowin district of the Western Region.
The project seeks to empower the community and citizens, build their capacity so that they will be able to identify these child labour issues within themselves.
It expected to instinctively compel them to withdraw these children from engaging in the act and send them to the available social services that are within the districts.
To achieve this, the Social Support Foundation and its partners have managed to train and form what they call the Community Child Protection Committees within the project areas.
These committees are made up of community leaders, unit committee members, assembly members, teachers, whose objective as part of the project, is to help the community to identify, monitor and provide surveillance on child labour related issues within the sector.
The stakeholder engagement
Social Support Foundation has been meeting with key stakeholders within the artisanal sector and small scale gold mining sector and dealing with child labour related issues.
Mining companies, Miners associations, district assembly, representations from Aowin, some teachers, community representatives, some businesses, some teachers, and traditional leaders were all represented.
Speaking at a stakeholders' seminar at Obuasi, Executive Director of Social Support Foundation (SSF), Louis Acheampong, reiterated the need for government to enforce child welfare and social protection laws effectively.
He wants institutions charged with the protection of children’s rights and welfare must be provided with adequate logistics and resources to enable them to discharge their duties efficiently.
Poor parenting and neglect, poverty in mining communities and ignorance among parents, took a centre stage of the discussions, which were said to be factors that pushed children into mining activities.
Mr Acheampong explained that the dialogue meeting which focuses on how to collaborate to create linkages to support the communities with the available social services within the assembly and districts.
He says it the measure is important to sustain it beyond its project timelines and identify the collaborative factors or the institutions that are available and providing different services so that they link up to manage the situation.
“So that it will serve as a sustainable factor to extend and sustain the project even after the funding component has ended.
Which means the community and district ownership will take control of the issues of concern and the needs of the community in addressing the child labour issues.”
The Caring Gold Mining Project is in a pilot phase looking at how the targeted communities can be supported to build their capacities.
The success of the project is intended to be replicated across the country and that is why Social Support Foundation is working closely with the social services support sub-committee of the assemblies.
But we are hoping that the assemblies take it up and expand it to cover most of the communities within the assembly.
“We are working with them so that they as a mandatory institution with the assemblies will take the plans and outcomes of these interventions and carry it through for the benefit of the broader district”.
Anthony Appiah, with the Child Protection Committee in Adumanu in the Adansi North District of the Ashanti Region, explains that the project has had a great impact on the people there.
He adds that the project first sensitized the people that their children must be prevented from working in the mining areas at a tender age at the expense of their education.
“it is highly injurious to their health. So we have trained parents and sensitized them to take away their children from the mining so now when you go to the galamsey (small scale illegal mining) sites, you hardly see children there.
Now we can count some of the children taken from the galamsey sites now entering schools and continuing their education”.
The project also seeks to tackle the poverty level of the parents because of that, the Business Advisory Centre (BAC) came in to give support, teach them, and guide people to build their capacity on how to work and make money and how to retain the money they earn, love their children and protect them.
Assembly’s Effort to Replicate Project Gains
Meanwhile, the District Chief Executive, Eric Kusi says bye-laws have been put in place in the bid to sustain the gains being chalked from the project.
“We have put some bye-laws to address the menace. If you are a parent and you fail to control your ward and a child who is supposed to be in school is found on galamsey site, you the parent can go to three months imprisonment”, he revealed.
He says the assembly is, therefore, putting in plans to replicate the gains from the Caring Child Mining Project to other communities in the district.
One of the head teachers present, Frederick Zotor, explained that because of the intervention, parents are now helping the teachers by encouraging their children to school.
“Now because of the intervention, the parents are helping the teachers. And the community too is helping because when they find a child less than 18 years on galamsey site they arrest them and bring them to school.
Habitual absenteeism and school dropouts, about 90 per cent of them are now back in school. A few sneak and go to mine but it is mostly during the weekend and that is what we are working on”, he added.