Economic empowerment of tobacco growing communities and environmental conservation are crucial in addressing child labour.
This was disclosed during a social marketing event of cook stoves that are made by Women Agribusiness Groups (WAGs) and Youth Producer Clubs (YPCs) at Chitekwe Village in Traditional Authority Chimutu in Lilongwe District.
The event was organized by Winrock International and JTI Leaf Technicians under the Achieving Reduction in Support of Education (ARISE) project which is funded by the Japan Tobacco International (JTI).
Launched in 2011, the ARISE project is jointly implemented by Winrock International and the International Labour Organization (ILO) and uses an integrated approach that addresses the social and economic challenges that drive small-scale farmers to employ children in hazardous work through increasing access to quality education, raising awareness on child labour and improving the livelihoods of the tobacco growing communities.
The project is implemented in 28 communities in Traditional Authority Chimutu in Lilongwe district and Traditional Authorities Ganya, Kwataine and Kambilonje in Ntcheu district as well as recently in Traditional Authorities Kayembe and Dzoole in Dowa District.
Speaking during the event, Assistant Labour Officer for Lilongwe District, Patricia Lembo hailed ARISE project for using innovative approaches to address child labour among smallholder tobacco farming communities.
“ARISE is empowering communities to use viable and environmental friendly technologies to address child labour. These cook stoves will generate income for the women and also help to conserve the environment, hence tobacco farmers will not be sending children to fetch firewood for curing tobacco.” She said.
In his remarks, Program Director for Winrock International in Malawi Dalitso Baloyi said that ARISE project is aimed at fostering change and ensuring that tobacco farming communities are empowered to appreciate and address the child labour problem.
He hailed the communities for embracing the production of cook stoves and encouraged them to make sure that all of their children are going to school.
“We believe that behaviour change and improving household incomes of communities are crucial in addressing the child labour problem. We are witnessing positive changes in most of the communities we are working in and we will continue to work together with various stakeholders to sustain the change,” continued Baloyi.
Group Village Headman Chiponde said that the ARISE project has facilitated a drastic decrease of child labour cases in the area citing that before the ARISE project, some children were engaged in tobacco farming and molding of bricks and now the situation is completely different.
Apart from the cook stoves, the project is also among other interventions; promoting mushroom production and marketing, fostering equitable gender and power relations through the Gender Action Learning System (GALS) methodology, improving literacy and numeracy of smallholder tobacco farmers through the REFLECT methodology, creating child friendly schools through supporting teachers, empowering and mobilizing tobacco farming communities to come together to address structural and emerging causes of child labour and finding solutions to addressing them as well as fostering child labour mainstreaming and integration in key community and district planning instruments. Statistics indicate that about 52 percent of child labourers are in the agriculture sector.
The Malawi Government has included child labour reduction and elimination as one of the key priority areas in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) II.