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Unique campaign to end child labour

As cases of child labour continue to rise, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has this year identified soccer as the best vehicle to sensitise the masses about the evil effects of child labour
Benedict Tembo

In the heart of Kanyama, a densely populated shanty township in Lusaka, Zambia, a child aged seven wakes up from a deep sleep, oblivious of the fact that he is lying by the wayside. He has been spending cold nights outside the walls of his mother's ramshackle, and the mother does not seem to worry because she has three more children to look after.

Wearing strings of rags, he walks up to a man who is feeling bubbles of air in a bicycle tube and asks if he could be of any help. The man casually asks him to hold the tyre as he pumped it. Later the man hands out a mango to him as payment and rides away.

This and many stories of this nature characterise the average home in Lusaka's densely populated areas. The elimination of child labour, especially in its worst forms, is a major topic in the world today. People all over the world are forming alliances and partnerships to find ways and means of eradicating the vice from the face of the earth.

The National Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour implemented under the auspices of the International programmes on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) and the ILO launched an initiative that takes advantage of the popularity of football to convey the message aimed at eliminating child labour.

In Africa, the fight against child labour will be waged during the three-week Nations Cup soccer tournament in Mali where soccer stars from the continent will be expected to speak against the vice. "As you may well be aware, soccer is the number one sport not only in Zambia, but the would over. It is for this reason that each and every one of us wants to be associated with it and you the heroes in this sport," Zambia's Labour permanent secretary Alec Chirwa told Zambia national team players during the send off of the country's national team for Mali.

Said Chirwa when he officiated at the farewell dinner held in the team's honour in Lusaka:"We are interested because there is a special message which my ministry wants to share with the soccer fraternity as they go to Mali. This message is about the fight against child labour." Chirwa said the fight against child labour belongs to every one in government, employers, trade unions, international organisations, civil Society and various celebrities such as soccer stars. "You all have a special role that you can play," Chirwa told the players.

He said ILO has taken up the opportunity during the Mali CAN 2002 tournament to campaign against child labour and has consequently funded advertisement that will be exhibited during the whole period. Zambia is among the countries that have qualified to participate in the 2002 African Cup of Nations to be held in Mali. "Therefore we found it very imperative that before the national team, its fans and administrators leave for Mali, they be sensitised on issues of child labour and their consequences," he said. ILO hopes the CAN2002 will help promote the national teams' understanding of their roles in combating child labour.

"As celebrities, you as footballers can be an effective vehicle though which the general public could be sensitised on such vices of involving children in exploitative forms of labour. You in particular should be appraised of the National and International legislation on child labour and strategies being used to combat it," he said. The Zambian Government through the Labour Ministry is coordinating a number of activities that are aimed at eliminating child labour in the country.

So far, there are a number of implementing agencies that have managed to withdraw more than a thousand children in the programmes pilot phase. Apart from just talking to players, Chirwa's ministry will also obtain a statement from Kalusha Bwalya, the 1988 African footballer of the year and record a video message from him which will be aired on the national television. Other programmes designed to sensitise the Zambian public where child labour is rife include a march past involving 200 children who have been salvaged from child labour.

Football matches between different schools where some star football players will be invited to officiate upon their return from Mali will also be organised. "As you arrive in Mali, you will not be strangers to the adverts that will be displayed around and that you will be able to articulate issues on child labour since you would have come with prior knowledge from back home," Chirwa told the players.

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