Protection of Children’s Rights – Who are you employing?

Photo credits :- UNICEF Uganda

When I was growing up, it was mandatory that we got work done, If we were lucky we had a house maid that sometimes got to do the ‘heavy’ work. And sometimes these never got to do what needed to be done either in good time or the way that they
wanted it done. And truth be told some of these ‘house maids’ brought from the village to help out were very young. Some would come looking for school fees to enable then go back to school after a while, the rest would be looking to just make a living instead of staying home and getting married or even going to the garden to dig.

The norm still remains. Majority of these young girls and boys that we have given very many names like: house boys and house girls or even house maids. Some of us will call them house helps. Some homes will have about 5 or so depending on how much work has got to get done and by work here I am refereeing to cooking, washing, cleaning – doing all the household chores. Do we know who it is that we are employing? Do we know how old they are? And the truth is while some try to assimilate them into our families – the easy thing is to let them become outcasts.

Many of these young girls or boys have not yet made the age of 18. This situation presents a ‘business’ ring to it – reason being that the young people we have in our homes are there on a business arrangement.

On 15th September the Ugandan business community signed up to the implementation of international principles to respect children’s rights, eliminate child labour, provide young workers and ensure the safety children. These are very huge tasks if undertaken; they require a lot of supervision and intolerance.

Business affects children in so many ways – they include: Dangerous work/commercial sexual Exploitation, Child Labor, time off for school and play amongst others. As a business entity; are the children in your confines and under your jurisdiction listened to? I think that this is very important. Do you as a business manufacture goods that are easily used and understood by young people?

These business principles are a reminder of the kind of young people that we have in our homes, communities, work places etc – that while they may be young and fragile – this does not mean that they should be ignored. They too have a voice. For example; Young
people in Zambia suggested that businesses should confirm the age of a child through a birth certificate before they employ them.

A 12 year old from Bangladesh said “We will respect those companies who followed proper policies for young workers… provide proper working guidelines and maintain proper respect to children.”

It is not that they do not understand what is going on: – They actually do. But like many of us – are looking to be heard and to see the rhetoric get into action. The core business principles that are to be followed are:

Respect of children’s rights, elimination of child labor, provision of decent work for young workers, parents and caregivers, protection and safety of children, ensuring products and services are safe, using marketing and advertising that respects and supports children’s rights, the environment and land.

Business in Uganda and business owners need to recognize that respect for the rule of law and the use of responsible business practices, including the payment of taxes to generate revenues, are essential for governments to meet their obligations to protect and fulfill children’s rights. It is important to invest in children because they are the future, they are human beings and they too have minds of their own.I think that it is important to bring these situations home and place them into context. We are employers and business owners as long as we are paying someone to do something. House helps continue to suffer at the hands of employers – it is time they are accorded the right respect.

The report in Uganda was launched and made public by both UNICEF and Save the Children Uganda.





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