Rainforest Alliance with funding from the Norwegian government through NORAD has partnered with Community Based Organizations (Edmark Rescue Foundation and Ark Development Foundation) and community volunteers to meet with government agencies and cocoa companies in a bid to discuss commitments made by them towards eradicating forced and child labour in their local communities.
This judicious step of bringing together government and stakeholders in cocoa and goldmining with community representatives, is the first in a series of joint quarterly dialogue to take place in the project districts of Atewa East, Wassa Amenfi West, Bibiani-Anhwiaso-Bekwai and Atwima Mponua in the Eastern, Western, Western North and Ashanti regions respectively.
At a day’s dialogue held in the Atewa East District capital of Anyinam, in the Eastern Region, participants discussed amongst other things observation in the past four months about fulfillment of the various commitments in their communities.
Dr. Albert A. Arhin, a consultant on the project, revealed that 34% of community members interacted with in the project communities feel that though government and especially cocoa companies are supporting with implementation of interventions, they are not doing enough to tackle the root causes of child labour in their communities.
He added that 57% of community members surveyed do not believe that child labour or forced labour will ever be reduced in the communities if commitments are not fulfilled and communities are not engaged in discussions about the interventions that will benefit them most.
The Senior Project Manager, Forced and Child Labour at Rainforest Alliance, Mrs. Joyce Poku-Marboah, said that when government, cocoa and goldmining companies are able to fulfill their commitments, it would make it easier to achieve the objective of eliminating child labour from cocoa, agriculture and goldmining.
She added that prior to this first dialogue meeting, capacities of CBOS and community volunteers were built to do their own advocacy towards government and companies on interventions that are being implemented to eradicate child and forced labour in their communities.
She opined that it’s imperative that community members are always consulted by stakeholders about the kind of interventions that will best serve their needs towards eradicating the menace.
In a plenary after group discussions, Government representatives and cocoa companies, committed to continue with awareness raising and other interventions including remediation of children involved in or at risk of child labour.
It is anticipated that these engagements will enable government and companies to act and commit to their own plans, strategies and activities designed to eliminate child labour from these communities.
It was expected that by the next quarterly meeting, more would have been done at the community level by government and stakeholders in cocoa and goldmining.
Government, cocoa and gold companies need to be the friend that the communities would rely on as partners for solutions to this menace.
Both Dr. Albert Arhin and Mrs. Joyce Poku-Marboah stressed the need for collaboration among institutions and the communities as no single institution can win the war against forced and child labour due to its complex nature that makes it a shared responsibility.
They also laid emphasis on the fact that there is a difference between child work and child labour and not every work a child gets involved in is child labour.
The meeting brought together representative from the Atewa East District Assembly, COCOBOD, Olam Food Ingredients (Ofi), and Federated Commodities (FEDCO), religious leaders and educationists who are all duty bearers in the fight against forced and child labour.