Child labor remains a grave issue in various parts of the world, including in the cobalt mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo - DRC. These cobalt mines, playing a significant role in producing essential components for electronic devices, electric vehicles, and renewable energy technologies, often employ child labor. Children as young as four years old endure hazardous working conditions, and long hours of labor, with no education, healthcare, and no childhood. They face health issues, physical injuries, psychological trauma, and their future is compromised. Child labor can also “ lead to slavery and sexual or economic exploitation.” UNICEF.
Beyond the mines of the DRC, and around the globe, child labor rages on. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF, the number of children engaged in child labor has risen to a staggering 160 million worldwide, marking an increase of 8.4 million children in just four years. Disturbingly, this trend reverses the previous downward trajectory that witnessed a decline of 94 million child laborers between 2000 and 2016.
Child labor in cobalt mines and beyond is a consequence of various factors, including poverty, limited educational opportunities, and the demand for cheap labor. Child labor also perpetuates a cycle of poverty, hindering the socio-economic progress of affected communities.
Recognizing the urgency to address child labor, international organizations, governments, and advocacy groups have taken steps to combat this tragedy. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has set global standards and conventions to eliminate child labor. Various initiatives, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Responsible Cobalt Initiative, aim to promote responsible sourcing practices and ensure supply chains are free from child labor.
Ending child labor requires collective efforts and a commitment from all stakeholders. Governments, corporations, consumers, and individuals must play their part in driving change.
Governments should enact and enforce stringent laws against child labor, invest in education and social welfare programs, and provide economic opportunities for families. Companies should implement responsible sourcing practices and conduct thorough supply chain audits. Consumers can make informed choices by supporting ethically produced goods and demanding transparency. Individuals can contribute by supporting organizations working to eliminate child labor and raising awareness about this issue.
Mamiwata’s Cobalt team has initiated a petition to ask all United Nations members to enact anti-child labor laws as the first step to abolishing child labor. It is still possible to imagine a world in which all children are allowed to dream. Demanding the end of child labor starts with this petition