Somalia builds consensus on ratifying fundamental ILO Convention on child labour

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Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) in partnership with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conducted a two-day awareness-raising workshop on the importance of the ratification of ILO Convention 138, which is recognised as a major step in the fight to eradicate child labour and advance decent work and social justice in Somalia, the only country in Africa that is yet to ratify this fundamental international labour convention on child protection.

Forty-five participants who attended the workshop that brought together representatives from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MOLSA), the Somali Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), the Federal Parliament and FESTU, were in unison calling for the ratification, domestication, and implementation of ILO convention 138, as a way of combatting the scourge of child labour in the country. Among other provisions, ILO Convention 138 sets a minimum age for entry into all forms of work, committing signatory states to protect minors from exploitation and mistreatment in the labour market.

“It is because we share a common sense of urgency on the need to eradicate the menace of child labour that we have all come together as representatives of government, parliament, employers’ and workers’ organizations, to deliberate and agree on the concrete actions and strategies needed to fast-track the ratification and implementation of this fundamental convention that is key to tackling child labour in Somalia,” said Omar Faruk Osman, FESTU General Secretary.

“FESTU has a long and proud history of campaigning for the rights of workers in Somalia through the successful ratification of ILO conventions. The ratification of Convention 138 will demonstrate that Somalia is playing its part in upholding and implementing important international labour standards that protect children against abuse and exploitation, and have the potential to deprive them of mental, physical and psychological development,” added Osman.

While discussions focused on the relevance of the convention to Somalia and how it can help tackle child labour as well as the different roles played by the social partners, the federal government and the federal parliament, the compatibility of the convention to Somalia was confirmed and affirmed to be in consonance with the interim constitution. Ratification would also bind Somalia to strictly comply with its international human rights obligation. Stakeholders expressed their support for ratification.

“As an employers’ organisation we support the ratification of ILO Convention 138 because it is not only a fundamental convention but very pertinent to our quest for a fair labour market and demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that the future of Somali children is secured through guarantees of their access to quality education and protection against child labour, including being employed as soldiers, which constitute the worst form of child labour” observed Abdi Abshir Dorre, the Managing Director of Somali Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI).

The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MOLSA) explained that the government shared the desire and commitment of the trade unions and employers’ groups, in battling child labour and ratifying ILO convention 138. “We have come to realise that the ratification of this very convention is essential to the development of a national child labour policy without which no such policy can be developed. I want to assure our social partners and the ILO that we are determined to ratify this vital convention at the earliest opportunity” said Suado Abdullahi Moallim, the Director of Legal and Labour Relations of MOLSA.

Honourable Mohamed Abdirahman Nadif, the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Sub-committee for Labour, commended the harmonious and complementary efforts of the trade unions, employers and the government, and pledged that the parliament will encourage the Federal Government to expedite the ratification of the ILO Convention 138. Honourable Nadif informed the workshop that FESTU has been engaging parliamentarians in a bid to get them to take the ratification of Convention 138 as a matter of urgency.

“Children represent the future, and so it is very important that we provide them with a secure foundation and protective legal environment as well as the opportunity to access quality education that will enable them to develop their mental capacity to become productive and responsible citizens in their adulthood,” Honourable Nadif added.

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