Speech by former child labourer Thato Mhlungu at the Opening Ceremony

15 mai 2022

Speech by former child labourer Thato Mhlungu at the Opening Ceremony


His Excellency, the President of South Africa MR CYRIL RAMAPHOSA; The Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu with her colleagues The Premier or Kwazulu Natal - Mr Sihle Zikalala The DG of the International labour organisation Mr Guy Rider Most importantly, the children I am representing.

Standing Before you is Thato Mhlungu, the 2019 Speaker of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament as well  as the child ambassador of the  Gauteng Province.

We are very grateful to be part  of this opening of the 5TH global conference on the elimination of child labour representing children. Welcome to our country  and the beautiful  Province of KwaZulu-Natal.

Unfortunately,  we have, from April, been trying to averse the devastation caused by the floods and we would like to give gratitude to our Government that has been working.

Tirelessly to provide social  relief for victIms especially children.

South Africa  is the first and only country in the history of this conference to include children in the conference.

As children representatives we are very happy and would like to applaud the government of South Africa for giving us the platform to express  our views not only to express but to also present the solutions to the issues we face as children.

This shows that as a country we are one step ahead when it comes to the implementation of Article 12 of the United nations convention on the rights of the child which is child participation.

This is a clear indication that South Africa values the principles of child participation.


Ladies and gentleman, child labour is not a rumour.

It is real as it is happening throughout the world.

As  a child rights defender, I stand here to emphasise that children are forced into harmful working conditions in our country.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please allow me to speak from personal experience on this brutality that my fellow young brothers and sisters endure and have  had to endure on a daily basis.

The social issue of child labour has a deep place in my heart as I have witnessed a close friend of mine being forced to work and fend for his family at a young age and that whole situation robbed him of his childhood.

As child protection approaches, I cannot emphasise this enough that may we as a country, strengthen the instruments that protect children not only during child protection week or during Covid 19 but 365 days.  

May this green ribbon I am wearing, be a constant reminder and commitment for you to continue to protect children everywhere you go.

In closing as children we request to be included in the panels and in discussions that are going to be held throughout the entire week.

Please give us the opportunity to lend and ear as I am not alone, I am with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament Ambassadors together with children that are badly impacted by child labour, not just nationally but internationally.

We humbly request that we ensure where there is child parctipation.

These five principles be followed:     

1.    Transparency,     

2.    Respect and inclusiveness     

3.    Where all children clearly understand the implications of their choices     

4.    The environment of the conference is child friendly and safe     

5.    We, as children have access to key stakeholders and have the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback on their participation

We look forward to the conference and hope that as children we will show the world our ability to articulate our views which are indeed solutions centred.

We invite you to the children’s forum  which will take place on 19 May 2022 where we will be having critical discussions.