By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
Child labour, according to Wikipedia, refers to the employment of children in any work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, and that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful. This practice is considered exploitative by many international organisations.
Child labour is now a common trend both in the developing and industrialised world. It is estimated that there are 215 million child laborers in the world and half of them are engaged in extremely hazardous work.In Nigeria, Child Labour is the employment of children under the age of 18 in a manner that restrict or prevent them from basic education and development.According to statistics, in 2006, the number of child workers was estimated at about 15 millions. Poverty is attributed to a major factor that drives child labour in Nigeria.
In Abia efforts have not been spared by Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu-led administration to protect the vulnerable, especially checking the menace of child labour. Last November when the current commissioners in the state came on board, a set of new ministries were introduced. This includes the Ministry of Special Duties, Vulnerable Groups/ Women headed by Mrs. Precious Achumba.
Since the establishment of the ministry, Mrs. Achumba has put up unrelented efforts to ensure that the plight of children in Abia, especially on child labour is adrressed. There have been several interventions in this area and more are expected to roll in the days ahead. One of these efforts is the enlightenment programmes mounted by this ministry across the 17 local government areas of the state to discourage child labour. Another is the setting of a special committe which part of its responsibilities is to address this trend.
The vulnerable in the society deserves a special place in the society.Vulnerable groups are groups who for some reasons weak and vulnerable to human rights abuses. These groups are structurally discriminated against. And for this reason, the groups require special protection for the equal and effective enjoyment of their human rights. The groups are women and girls; children; refugees; internally displaced persons; stateless persons; national minorities; indigenous peoples ;migrant workers; disabled persons; elderly persons; HIV positive persons and AIDS victims, among others.
The ministry is not unaware of these challenges the vulnerable are facing and is deploying frantic efforts to address this.One of such steps is to discourage the flight of young girls to overseas for exploitative sexual missions. To achieve this, the ministry has mapped an intensive mass media campaigns that would manifest in the forms of billboards, radio and television jingle, newspaper commentaries, talk shows, seminars and workshops, among others.
The ministry is not hesitating to employ interantional legal instruments and treaties such as the UN Charter and the International Bill of Human Rights which proclaim equal rights for men and women and ban discrimination on the grounds of sex to achieve these goals. Also, in addition to instruments relating to discrimination in general, a series of instruments have been developed specifically for the protection of women, the elimination of discrimination against women and the promotion of equal rights. These serve to create a broad, international framework for future developments and the establishment of general norms for national policy.
Unfortunately, negative widowhood practices are still upheld in some communities in our modern society which Abia is not an exception. Few months after burial of the deceased, relations of the widow’s husband spring into action and contend the deceased property with the widow. Little or no thoughts are accorded to the survival of the widow and her children. Even lingering litigations are experienced when the widow opposes the confrontations from the husband’s relations. In the 21st century, widows are still subjected to treatments such as shaving of hairs, which the proponents of this treatment claim that it is done to accord customary respect to the late husband.The ministry has strongly promised to reverse the alleged inferior status of women is entrenched in history, culture and tradition, and through the ages through advocay and enlightenment campaigns.
Indeed, the Ministry of Special Duties, Vulnerable Groups/Women headed by Mrs Achumba, deserves the support of all Abians in this onerous task of protecting the vulnerable in Abia.
Ukegbu writes from Aba, Abia State