Gender discrimination, race or religion, irresponsible parenthood, poverty and ignorance have infringed the rights of children, giving rise to the prevalence of child labor and violence against children.
In Cameroon, like in most African countries, children are seen heavy-laden with items to sell around parks, markets and streets. They are made to work hard labor and long hours which in some cases extend late at night, and above all they are brutalized — in the guise of correction. These children are being exposed to rape, violence, drug abuse, and prostitution.
The issue of rape has also become predominant not only to women and girls but even to babies as young as nine months. It is also common to see older men gallivanting with younger girls in the name of "sugar daddies," while some teachers exchange marks for sex.
According to the fact sheet, "Today's Fight for Tomorrow's Freedom," some types of work make useful, positive contributions to a child's development. Work can help children learn about responsibility and develop particular skills that will benefit them and the rest of the society. Often, work is a vital source of income that helps to sustain children and their families.
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However, across the world, millions of children do extremely hazardous work in harmful conditions putting their health, education, personal and social development, and even their lives at risk. As stated by Kofi Annan, former U.N Secretary General, "child labor has serious consequences that stay with the individual and with society for far longer than the years of childhood. Young workers not only face dangerous working conditions, they also face long-term physical intellectual and emotional stress; they face an adulthood of unemployment and illiteracy."
Evaluating the problem, the fact sheet published by Anti- Slavery International UK states that:
- The International Labor Organization (I.L.O) estimates there are 246 million working children age between 5 and 17.
- 179 million children are estimated to work in the worst forms of child labor – one in every eight of the world's five to seventeen years old.
- 111 million children under 15 are in hazardous work and should be "immediately withdrawn from their work ".
- 8.4 million Children are in slavery, trafficking, debt, bondage and other forms of forced labor, recruitment for armed conflict, prostitution, pornography and other illicit activities.
- Child domestic work in the houses of others is thought to be the single largest employer of girls worldwide.
As action against child labor, the International Law forms the basis of Anti – Slavery Internationals work against the worst forms of child labor. The conventions of the International Labor Organization, the 1926 and 1956 Slavery Conventions and the U.N Convention on the rights of the child are the major tools protecting children's rights. Article 32 of the U.N Convention on the rights of the child (1989) stipulated thus, "State Parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child's education or to be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development"
The Convention 182 of the International Labor Organization (1999) states that its main aim is to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. It stresses that immediate action is needed to tackle the worst exploitation of children and that measures taken by the authorities should start as soon as the government is able following ratification. The main provisions of the Convention are to clarify which situations could be classified as the worst forms of child labor, and to specify what government must do to prohibit and eliminate them.
We should not forget children are our future generation. Today some children have form their own organizations and movements to stand up for their fundamental rights such as, that of the African Movement wanting the realization of twelve rights, amongst which are health care, education and freedom of expression.
Listen to the voices of our children, "help us preserve our physical and mental integrity and the purity of our hearts and thoughts, stop violence against children, child labor and child abuse." If we listen to this appeal, then we must have paved the way for posterity, better prospects and continuity.