On this World Day Against Child Labour – 12 June 2022, the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) calls upon the Federal Government of Somalia to prioritise and protect its most precious resource – its children by aligning theory and practice, and enacting legislation with implementation with regards to child labour.
Across all regions of Somalia, Children continue to be used as pawns and soldiers in armed conflicts by security forces as well as militant groups. Somali children too often fail to experience the joys and innocence of childhood, engaging in street work, feeding their families and becoming victims of horrendous exploitation and sexual abuse.
Even at the legislative level, the country can be found wanting: there are currently no laws that contain provision for criminally prohibiting child trafficking for labour, commercial sexual exploitation, or the recruitment of minors by non-state armed groups.
The current economic climate with slow growth and high unemployment exacerbated by manifold crisis facing the country, leaves many families vulnerable and tempted to use child labour to supplement household income. Coupled with this is the severe drought facing Somalia where loss of crops and livestock, increase risk of disease and malnutrition are leading many to adopt negative coping mechanisms, including child labour. The devastating experiences our children are enduring detours their natural developmental paths.
“Loss of childhood is something we are unable to get back,” says Omar Faruk Osman, FESTU General Secretary. “The consequences for their educational, physical, psychological and emotional health are severe. Children have the right to basic needs, including a life free of violence and exploitation. There are ample international labour standards and frameworks which we can utilise, sign and ratify to make these rights a reality. Anything short of this amounts to failing our children and it is unacceptable.”
FESTU will continue to campaign for Somalia to domesticate and implement the ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour which Somalia ratified in 2014. In addition, FESTU will be supporting a nationwide campaign for the swift ratification and domestication of ILO convention 138 on Minimum Age Convention as this Convention commits Member States to pursue a national policy designed to ensure the effective abolition of child labour and to raise progressively the minimum age for admission to employment.
To address the structural conditions that lead to child labour and effectively champion the integration of these internationally legally binding conventions into national laws and policies, FESTU will be working with the federal government, federal member states, employers / private sector as well as like-minded partners, who are all critical to ensure rights are enjoyed, childhood is preserved and no child is left behind.