There has been a recent upsurge in official commitment to combat child labour in Southern Africa, with Botswana and Namibia formally endorsing national plans of action.
Representatives of several Botswana Ministries, organised labour and business, and nongovern- mental organisations, gathered in Gaborone to approve the country’s National Programme of Action for the elimination of child labour. This included a briefing for permanent secretaries of all key Ministries with responsibilities to implement this programme, hosted by the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs Bruce Palai.
Botswana’s National Labour Force Survey of 2005/6 established that 9% of all children aged from 7 to 17 years were in employment and more than one-half of these were in the 7-year to 13-year age group.
Rapid assessment studies and consultations with informed organisations revealed that some of the worst forms of child labour are practised in Botswana, including commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of children, using them as instruments in the commission of crime, and exposing them to hazardous work, especially in the mining sectors and agriculture.
“Dedicated groundwork is now bearing fruit,” commented the Inter-national Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Pretoria director, Judica Amri-Makhetha. “If a solid bloc of Southern African countries has clear strategic direction on how to address child labour, then we will have made strides towards protecting Africa’s children from work that undermines their health, their schooling and their hope of a better future. One child in child labour, especially in one of its worst forms, is a child too many.”
Botswana and Namibia are two out of five Southern African countries that entered into an agreement with the ILO to create the technical support structure known as the programme Towards the Elimination of Worst Forms of Child Labour. In terms of this, they have under- taken to put in place a series of time-bound measures to tackle the worst forms of child labour by the end of 2008, and to have eradicated the worst forms of child labour by 2015.