On Sunday, 15 May 2022 the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour started at the Durban ICC in South Africa. The goal of the event is to raise awareness about child labour and accelerate progress to elimination. It will run daily until Friday, 20 May 2022. The main hashtag of the event is #RaiseYourHandForKids.
Notable speakers included ministers and government officials from South Africa and beyond opened the conference. African cultural performances including traditional dancing and a high school choir were also part of the agenda.
The event marks the first time that the conference was held in South Africa, and is the first time that children were included in the event activities.
During the opening plenary, Thato Mhlungu, an 18-year-old delegate from the Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament, called on attendees to recognize the persistence of child labour around the world today.”We, the children, will continue to fight for our rights,” she said. “We look forward to the conference and showing the world our ability to articulate our views, which are indeed solutions centered.”
Numerous Honorable spokespeople used their voices on the topic at hand. Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, who attended the first conference in 1996, remarked upon the significance of holding the conference in the “land of Nelson Mandela.” He noted that the number of children in child labour has increased in the past few years.
In fact, 160 million children are in child labour today, according to the latest ILO estimates.
“This is a challenge for us,” he said. “And we have accepted it. Only collective and asserted action can protect the children that are the foundation of our future.”
“Africa is an incubator for approaches to tackling child labour that the rest of the world can learn and benefit from,” he said. “And this is the right time, because the worldwide movement for child labour has received a wakeup call.”
The President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, called on all attendees to adopt the Durban Call to Action, the forthcoming document that will outline the practical steps that need to be taken to make a difference for children. It will be released at the conclusion of the conference.
“They are denied the opportunity to be learners, explorers, to have the opportunity to play, to just be children,” he said of children in child labour.
“Child labour perpetuates the cycle of poverty, denying young people the education they need to improve their circumstances.
He also noted that the Constitution of South Africa provides the right for children to be protected from ill treatment, neglect, or abuse. South Africa is also a signatory on the ILO convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour.
Later in the day, attendees heard from local children formerly in child labour. They voiced their powerful and emotional stories, which included experiences of physical and emotional abuse.
To end of the day, Leymah Roberta Gbowee, Nobel Peace Laureate and Founder and current President of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa (GPFA) spoke candidly about her continent as a whole.
“When the lights and the cameras go off, there is no sustained action,” she said. “Corruption in government is one of the key drivers of child labour. It’s time for our continent to come together and make a real change.”
Throughout the week, panels and discussions will be held to accelerate action on ending child labour.