Tuesday, September 24

Directory to reduce risk of child labour in Sabah

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KOTA KINABALU: Earthworm Foundation (EF), in collaboration with Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), Avon, Nestlé and Wilmar International (Wilmar), has developed a directory of social services to help businesses improve the welfare of children living in or near plantations, in conjunction with the International Youth Day on August 12, 2019.

The Children in Plantation (CiP) Directory is the first publication of its kind in Malaysia – one of EF’s efforts to improve children’s education, health and safety on-site and to encourage businesses and palm oil suppliers to collaborate with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other stakeholders.

With approximately 1.55 million hectares of the total 5.8 million hectares of oil palm planted areas in the country located in Sabah (2018), the directory contains four priority areas: Education, Community Engagement, Birth Registration and Other Child Protection-related services for children and youth living in rural areas in the Sabah.

“Available in English and Bahasa Malaysia, the Children in Plantation Directory establishes easy access to service providers contact details, their programmes overview and geographical location in maps. We hope palm oil companies including small and medium sized suppliers who may be grappling with child protection issues would benefit from the publication. Our target readers are also parents and community members that work for these companies, who have a vital role to play for the wellbeing of their children. We believe that collaboration between stakeholders could help reduce the risk of child labour in palm oil supply chains in the long-term”, said Natasha Mahendran, Social and Human Rights Manager of EF Malaysia.

An estimated 40,000 children and young persons live in plantation areas – some assisting their family on smallholder plots; others are documented or undocumented children of migrant workers or local communities. Factors that contribute to their participation in plantation work include remoteness of plantation sites; low income of parents; lack of access to education; limited opportunities in rural areas and lack of enforcement, among others.  They primarily participate in plantation activities such as collecting loose fruit, filling poly bags and weeding at nurseries, stacking palm fruits, harvesting, manuring, spraying, stacking palm fronds and slashing.

The CiP Directory’s solid database was produced after EF organised two multi-stakeholder consultations in Sabah in 2017 and 2018 to strengthen collaboration between stakeholders on the situation of children in the oil palm plantations in Sabah, which include businesses, government agencies, academic institutions and civil society.

The first consultation was convened in September 2017 by EF in partnership with Earthworm members Nestlé, ADM and Wilmar, and was attended by 50 participants from palm oil companies. The second EF consultation was held in July 2018 and was co-hosted with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) and was attended by nearly 100 participants from key government agencies, government-linked companies, a foreign consulate, academic institutions and civil society in Sabah.

Natasha added that the CiP Directory is designed to facilitate collaboration with stakeholders for companies seeking to improve the welfare of children living in or near plantations.

“There are businesses who have proactively formulated and implemented initiatives to support children and their parents, and we want these good practices to be scaled up along supply chains. Given the complexity of eliminating child labour at plantations, we believe collaboration between civil society, business and government is needed to order to protect children and young persons from risks and hazards in the palm oil supply.”