Govt dismisses lobby claims of rampant child labour in tobacco farms

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By Staff Reporter

GOVERNMENT, through the Labour and Social Welfare Ministry, has dismissed claims by rights lobby group, Human Rights Watch (HRW) here was rampant child labour in tobacco farms throughout the country.

Speaking at the Multi-Stakeholder Discussion on Child Labour in tobacco farms Tuesday, the ministry secretary Ngoni Masoka said government continued to deploy labour inspectors to different parts of the country to ensure compliance with national labour laws.

“The department of Labour Administration has Labour Inspectors who enforce labour laws by checking compliance through random checks in their inspectorate function,” he said.

“This is designed to deal with cases where worker rights are violated which include checking for incidents of child labour.

“There has not been any dedicated study which has shown the evidence of the phenomenon in tobacco farms.

“Therefore, the prevalence of child labour in tobacco farms cannot be determined with certainty.”

Masoka said government has demonstrated commitment to observing child rights as shown by that it has rectified all key international and regional instruments which relate to the welfare and rights of children. 

He went on to say government has also put in place various programmes to protect children from economic exploitation and ensure that they remained in school in light of that the fact that “the proper and responsible upbringing of children is a direct contribution of the country. 

“From the studies that the government has undertaken, it has been noted that the root cause of child labour is poverty.

“Children are forced out of school; the HIV and AIDS pandemic in recent years has resulted in the result of emergency of children headed family.”

“And to fight this, government has put in place the National Action Plan for vulnerable children which is a community-based child protection programme that uses multi-sectoral approach that protect children.

“The ministry of labour implements the food mitigating deficit programme whose key objectives is to mitigate the impact of drought among both labour and non-labour constrains households.”

HWR in its report said the government was failing to meet its international human rights obligation to protect children’s rights and also failing to tackle other workers’ rights abuses in the tobacco industry.

In its report, it said most of the small scale tobacco farmers interviewed said children under 18 worked on their tobacco farms either as family members or children hired to work on their farms.

This has also contributed to continued absenteeism from school, making it difficult for them to keep up with schoolwork.