On March 5 2o13 the Nation Publications though its correspondent Lloyd Chitsulo came up with a touching story entitled ‘Towards children-free tobacco production’. In the story Lloyd showcased the life of a 12-year old boy who wakes up as early as 2:30am in the morning to help his father work in a tobacco field.
A touching story indeed it was, that disclosed the consequences of child labour in tobacco estates, a fact that is contributing to the poor performance of children in school.
To date Malawi has been using child labour statistics of 2002 and the data cannot be reliable because it is outdated and there is may be an increase in child labour in many industries. Child labour is an infringement to children rights because as we have seen with the 12 year-old boy he is unable to go to school.
Malawi`s economy is agro-based with tobacco contributing more than 70 percent of total foreign currency earnings, Child labour is also believed to rampant in the agriculture industry with tobacco and tea industries topping the list.
Child labour in tobacco industry has been so rampant that is also worrisome to buyers. Child labour has a negative impact on the country because buyers refuse to buy tobacco in a country where the conduct is at a highest peak.
While government, non-governmental organizations and buyers are finding ways of combating child labour in tobacco estates, Japan Tobacco International(JTI) Leaf Malawi one of tobacco buyers came up with Achieving Reduction of Child Labour in supporting of Education (ARISE) program that is aimed at combating child labour in tobacco estates.
JTI`s ARISE program has come to redeem children like the 12-year old boy from Machinga district and other many unknown children in tobacco estates. The program is expected to rescue 6000 children in 15 districts across the country from the hazardous work in tobacco fields.
According to the JTI managing director Neville Young, the company takes the issue of child labour seriously hence it has come up with the program. It is one of its social responsibilities to eliminate child labour in areas and communities where its business is being done.
“The prime objective behind the ARISE program is to come up fresh survey of child labour and from there work with government and other international partners to eliminate the child labour”, said Neville young.
The ARISE program was launched on February 22, 2016 at Mchema primary school in Lilongwe and it will run for four-years, in collaboration with other countries like Malawi and Brazil. Among other things the program has been designed to promote access to quality education, to raise awareness of child labour, social mobilization, and economic empowerment in tobacco-growing communities and to improve the relevant regulatory framework.
JTI Leaf which is a third largest cigarette manufacturer in the world has been implementing a lot of social responsibilities aimed at benefiting Malawians, last year in August it launched what is called Philanthropy program aimed at assisting the elderly.
JTI works in collaboration with Wnrock International (WI) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), International Programs for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPECL), governments, the private sector and local communities, contributing towards the eradication of child labour in tobacco farms in Malawi.
BY ROBERT ZINGANI
The Express News