Malawi has been rated as one of the poorest countries in recent years and proudly the country chairs a group of least developed countries. Both the president and his vice have recently been in the media for Malawi’s role in advancing issues of the least developed countries. Being a least developed country is not something that Malawians should be proud of, let alone when 74% of the population lives below the poverty line. Something is terribly wrong especially when we boast of this after 57 years of independence.
Malawians, in particular the youth, need to engage in thought-provoking discussions to see what has gone wrong with the affairs of the country over the years. As YONECO, we are aware, that immediately after mentioning this, we will be referred to Vision 2063. However, be reminded that we had Vision 2020 as a blue print and we never moved. Thus, thinking seriously and acting would give us a solution. How have we wasted the 57 years of our independence to remain one of the least developed? We have received developmental aid annually for so many decades but we have remained poor. Can we comfortably say that aid is not working for Malawi?
The sad reality is that a lot of projects have been implemented with evaluations showing positive results. Can we start to question these projects? These are reflections of the sixth month of the year. We need very serious reflections as a country. We need to unpack why we remain very poor and yet we have not been a war torn country. As Malawi joins the world in commemorating the International Day against Child Labour on 12 June 2022 under the theme “Universal social protection to end child labour” with the International Labour Organization (ILO) calling for increased investments in social protection systems and schemes to establish solid social protection floors and protect children from child labour. We applaud the Malawi government for establishing social protection systems.
However, we need to seriously revisit the programmes to ensure that they are addressing the needs of the target groups and are sustainable. The question we ask is whether we will continuously be giving handouts. Malawi has very progressive laws when it comes to children programming, for which, we have seen the development and enactment of Child Justice, Care and Protection Act (2010).
Malawi has also gazetted the worst forms of child labour in line with Convention 181 and 182. Sadly, despite enacting the law in 2010, the guidelines for implementation of the same law have remained a mystery. The failure to develop the guidelines poses a great challenge in implementation of the good laws that we have. Recent meeting of the National Child Justice Forum clearly demonstrate a huge gap due to failure to develop the subsidiary rules. This poses a threat and in the end, what we see are children who are engaged in child labour, child prostitution, and domestic work that predisposes them to dangerous situations.
Children are working in private homes as child labourers and these are more or less mini-prisons for the children. There are no proper guidelines and systems to monitor the welfare of children in domestic settings and these have become very abusive environments as children are never given the opportunity to be heard.
Children have been seen in many public entertainment places and the communities have happily branded them “tima Yoneco” with no proper mechanisms of supporting the children. These children work long hours and are abused in the process.
The Pan African Symposium on Ending Violence Against children will be meaningless if there are no efforts to address these challenges that child labourers are facing. As we commemorate the International Day against Child Labour, let us look for solutions and skills so that children should not be employed before attaining the age 14. At the same time, we also need to ensure that those who are legally working between 14 and 17 years of age are not in hazardous work environments. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that children are protected.
Hey! June 16, 2022 is yet another day to commemorate the Day of the African Child (DAC). Malawi joins the international community in commemorating this amidst a number of challenges in particular relating to issues of child sexual abuse, responding to education as a tool for empowering the girls and mobilizing support for the engagement of boys in protecting girls.
Finally, as the world celebrates the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on June 26, 2022, there is need to reflect on how these are affecting the situations in Malawi. We have seen the emergence of “Banyamulenge, Boko Haram in Mzuzu and the Zomba Golf Course slowly degenerating into some drinking joints for young people. As YONECO, we bemoan poor regulation of alcohol use and inadequate reinforcement mechanisms. It would be imperative as well to reflect on how the new legislation on cannabis is changing the dynamics in responding to drug and substance use.