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Launch of West Africa Network

West Africa Network for the protection of children launched
Accra, Sept. 22, GNA - Mr Enoch Teye Mensah, Minister of Employment and Social Welfare, has called for stronger partnership among various sectors to comprehensively address the challenges facing children.

He said the issue of child protection was gradually becoming an issue for all stakeholders as it brought attention to violation of child rights including trafficking, child labour and called for all hands on deck to prevent and protect the vulnerable from further harm.

Mr Mensah made the call at the launching of West Africa Network (WAN) for the protection of children and young migrants on the move in Accra.

It is a network formed under the Research and Counselling Foundation for African Migrants (RECFAM) based in Ghana.

He said the launching on the theme: “Protecting the Child- Everybody’s Business”, stressed the need for collective responsibility from government, civil society, local government and the community as a whole towards the protection of children’s basic rights.

Mr Mensah said the institution of WAN with funding from Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, European Commission, ECOWAS and various private and corporate sponsors, further placed strong emphasis on ensuring that adequate protection measures were in place for children, especially the vulnerable children on the move.

He explained that RECFAM had worked with the Swiss Foundation of the International Social Service (ISS) over the past years in the frame of returnee assistance, irregular migration, prevention and child protection and therefore the launch of WAN was an added effort to promote safe migration as a tool for development and protect vulnerable children.     

Mr Mensah stressed that though a lot of grounds had already been covered, there was still much more to be done and the need to extend the theatre of operations beyond the country’s borders unto the ECOWAS Regional level was critical as West Africa had a lot of movement of people, including minors and young adults across its borders in search of a way out of poverty or seek access to basic services such as security, education and health.

He said it was important that as a society “We develop the capacity to keep a close eye on these minors and ensure the protection of their basic human rights”.

The Sector Minister commended Swiss Foundation of the International Social Service (ISS) for launching the initiative in West Africa in 2005 for the development of appropriate response to the increasing problem of child rights violation.       

Mr Mensah said Ghana had already taken various important steps over the past two decades to ensure the holistic protection and promotion of the rights and wellbeing of children through legislations, policies and initiatives such as the ratification of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, leading to the launch of an ambitious child development programme called “The Child Cannot Wait”.

He pointed out that the Human Trafficking Act (Act694) in 2005 as well as the Children’s Act (Act 560) of 1998, which was a comprehensive children’s policy, and its associated legislative instrument, the Child Rights Regulation, had guided the nation’s practical efforts at ensuring the realisation of the pillars of children’s rights such as their survival, development, protection and participation as well as protection from child labour.

Mr Mensah explained that even before the International Labour Organisation (ILO) adopted the Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, Ghana had some provisions that related to the engagement of children in hazardous work.

He said strenuous efforts were underway to review the Children’s Act to bring it in full resonance with ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, including a thorough revision and expansion of the section on hazardous work.

Mr Mensah stated that after sustained support from the ILO since 2001, initially through piecemeal sector-focused projects in trafficking, commercial agriculture and skills’ training, through the more comprehensive Time-Bound Projects support approach, the country was proud to have finalised the development of its own National Plan of Action (NPA) for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2015.

He announced that Cabinet had approved and adopted the NPA and had  been integrated into the National Medium Term Development Policy Framework called the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA) and had reference in the national budget.

Mr Mensah said development of the NPA was a rare collaborative effort of all stakeholders in the fight against child labour, adding “At the end of the process, national ownership was evident through the participation of government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) including metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies, workers, employers’ organisation and civil society groups including the vibrant Ghanaian media.

The Sector Minister acknowledged the diverse support the country had received from the international community over the years to press on the fight against child labour.

He pledged government’s support to ensuring a favourable atmosphere to bring the different stakeholders together within a coordinated framework to create the focus and the dynamic impetus needed for the effective and timely realisation of these important transitional goals.

Mr Alfred Mbinglo, WAN-Ghana Coordinator, explained that the vision was to establish cooperation among all 15 ECOWAS Member countries on the basis of harmonisation procedures, standards and common methodology of intervention as well as strengthen local and international cooperation between stakeholders to support displaced young individuals who were in difficult situations in another country far from their home and families.

He said the Network had integrated over 1,700 children on the move into a family setting with an individual reintegration project which include schooling, vocational training or income generating activities and a follow-up to two years minimum ensured.

Mr Mbinglo said the launch in Ghana would allow better assistance for both national and transnational children and young migrants on the move and further enhance knowledge sharing and multilateral partnerships.

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