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Our impact, their voices

Out of the mines and into school

An ILO project in Ghana’s artisanal mining communities is helping to reduce child labour and open up opportunities for education for vulnerable children.

Feature | 12 June 2019
ACCRA, Ghana (ILO News) – Vincent, Theresa and Isaac stopped going to school so they could help support their families.

With no other options available, they worked in Ghana’s small-scale mining sector, a dangerous occupation for adults let alone children.

Working all day or night left little time for their education.

Artisanal and small-scale gold mining accounts for 15–20 per cent of annual global gold production and provides employment to an estimated 10-15 million miners throughout the world.

It is associated, however, with a host of labour and social issues, such as child labour, trafficking, exposure to toxic mercury and environmental destruction. Much of the gold ends up in jewellery sold to consumers around the world.

The national minimum working age in Ghana is 14 years. Any person below 18 years old is prohibited from hazardous work, including unhealthy environments, excessive hours or the use of dangerous machinery.

In order to tackle child labour and improve working conditions in the artisanal and small-scale gold mining industry, the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) provided USD$5 million in funding to the International Labour Organization to implement the Caring Gold Mining project in Ghana and the Philippines.

The project is part of a broader effort by USDOL to address child labour in the mining sector worldwide, with USD$20.75 million in projects being implemented in Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana and the Philippines.

Working with local communities, the project works with community-driven child protection committees to raise awareness about the hazards of mining and the need to get children in school.

The project also supports the formalization of mining operations through social protection and livelihood programmes. In addition it helps families access cash transfers through a local government programme so that they can afford their basic needs. It means that children can go to school instead of to work.

Vincent, Theresa and Isaac were removed from work in the mines by the community child protection committees and are now attending the local school. They have joined the school’s Children’s Club, which promotes children’s rights through the ILO’s SCREAM programme, which supports children though education, visual arts, media and music.

To date, 100 schools have benefited from these activities. The project is likely to be extended to other communities, with the aim of reaching more vulnerable families.