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The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MoLSA) launched a National Action Plan (NAP) on Tuesday, which is due to substantially contribute to the elimination of the worst form of child labor. Many children in Ethiopia are believed to be involved in the worst form of child labor, which results from massive demand for cheap and flexible labor; with some sources indicating that up to 60 percent of children work to supplement their family income, half of them in hazardous situation at that, for an income of less than a dollar a month. Globally, there are over 250 million child laborers, and according to some studies, Ethiopia’s child laborers are believed to number around 7.5 million. In fact, child labor is regarded as quite normal in the country, with many failing to distinguish between child work and child labor or child exploitation. As a result, a concerted effort to create awareness among the society has been recommended, with many international and local organizations operating in the country to participate in the endeavor. The Minister of MoLSA said: “NAP will be used to create awareness among the public about child labor and its consequences. Afterwards, it would be pretty fair to go ahead with legal actions on those who are involved in children exploitation.”  Aware of the misunderstanding among the public about child work and child labor, the Minister continued by saying: “What we are up against is the practice of children who work extensively, but are paid very little. Children need to go to school to shape their future.” The Minister said the launching of NAP, together with other steps taken by the government including the protection of the rights of children by the constitution, the implementation of laws and regulations,  addressing the problems of protecting children from child labor, mainstreaming the awareness program on child labor into occupational safety and health programs, the ratification and integration of principles of international instruments and the inclusion of children’s issues in the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP ), is a demonstration of the commitment of the government, civil society and international organizations to work together in the fight against the worst form of child labor in the country.
World Vision Ethiopia has financially contributed to the preparation leading to the launch of the NAP program through its E-Face project: ‘Ethiopians Fighting Against Child Exploitation’.
The project is designed to reduce child labor in Gamo Goffa, Southern Ethiopia, by using an integrated approach that utilizes the expertise of key stakeholders. Launched at the cost of USD 11 million obtained from the US government’s Department of Labor, E-FACE will play a prominent role in addressing child labor, mostly in the traditional weaving industry, over a period of four years. Traditional Weaving is a complex cottage industry involving the trafficking of children from Gamo Goffa to Addis Ababa to work in the trade.
According to Margaret Schuler, National Director for World Vision Ethiopia, the project will identify children or families who have subjected their children to such atrocious conditions and assist them in various ways like getting them to go to school and get their families involved in other income generating activities that would insure them a sustainable livelihood. Schuler said child labor is bad for kids in particular and the society in general as it often prevents them from attending schools. “If kids are taken out of school or are prevented from attending, they won’t receive the education they need to see into their future,” she said.
According to MoLSA, two out of five working children in Ethiopia are under the age of 6 years. They work in tea, coffee, sugarcane, and cotton production for long hours and for low wages, exposing their lives to environmental toxins, diseases and other hazards.