In danger at the mines from dawn until duskIn the Ségou region of Mali, 16-year-old Bourama wakes up early to start work at the Sérékeni gold mining site. He begins his work day just as the sun rises at 6:00 AM, and he spends his entire day going down to the bottom of the shafts, transporting rubble back up, and washing it to find gold. He goes home at 5:00 PM, just a little before sunset.
In Nigeria, a young girl named Precious, also 16 years old, works at a gold mining site in Ashata. She carries around a worn-out pan, which she uses to carry and wash the ore in the hopes of finding precious gold. “If you are lucky, you get it. If you are not, then you get nothing… We are only doing it because there is no other work. There is nothing at home. It is with this that we are able to pay some school fees, eat at home, and buy soap.”
The artisanal small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector provides livelihoods to over 40 million people across low-income countries, including Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Nigeria. Many of them live in rural and poor areas, just like Bourama and Precious. In conditions of extreme poverty, their parents sometimes have no choice but to send them to the mines in order to make ends meet.
Fousseyni, a miner in Mali, explains, “Many dropped out of school hoping to make their fortune in the mines. Young children are not allowed to work on our sites, but because of the precariousness and poverty of their parents, they are forced to come and work here to support their families.”
Many dropped out of school hoping to make their fortune in the mines. Young children are not allowed to work on our sites, but because of the precariousness and poverty of their parents, they are forced to come and work here to support their families."Fousseyni, Miner in Mali
Conscious of the many dangers that children face at the mines, ACCEL Africa put in place a number of interventions to address the root causes of child labour in Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Nigeria. This includes working with the entire ecosystem of actors involved in the ASGM sector, including the government, the private sector, the communities, and the workers themselves.
Strengthening legal frameworks and business environments to eliminate child labour
In the three countries ACCEL Africa implemented the CRAFT Code (Code of Risk mitigation for Artisanal and small-scale miners engaging in Formal Trade) to enhance the formalization of the ASGM sector, by promoting its sustainable social, environmental, and economic development through the implementation of due diligence practices targeting both upstream and downstream actors in the supply chain. Taking into consideration both international regulations and national laws, he Code allows producers and workers to assess and manage critical social and environmental risks including those related to money laundering, environmental pollution from the use of mercury, occupational safety and health, and violations of human and labour rights such as child labour and forced labour. In doing so, artisanal miners become empowered to improve their practices, create better working environments and access better trading conditions. Mrs. Koffi Ama Cécile from Côte d’Ivoire’s General Directorate of Mines and Geology, shares, “I think that this training will allow us to raise awareness once again among artisanal miners about the risks associated with artisanal and small-scale mining… As such, I think the CRAFT Code will allow us to ensure compliance with mining regulations on our artisanal and small-scale mining sites.”
I think that this training will allow us to raise awareness once again among artisanal miners about the risks associated with artisanal and small-scale mining… As such, I think the CRAFT Code will allow us to ensure compliance with mining regulations on our artisanal and small-scale mining sites.."Mrs. Koffi Ama Cécile from Côte d’Ivoire’s General Directorate of Mines and Geology
In Nigeria, trainings carried out on safety in mining were key to empower artisanal miners and enhance their awareness on occupational safety and health at the mining sites. Yusuf, a member of the Mai Jangaru cooperative in Kuchiko, Nigeria, shares, “There are things that a gold miner should have, like a helmet, hand gloves, boots, shovel, digger and face mask. However, most of our miners do not have it. The ILO has made us aware and we are working towards getting it.”
Yusuf is one of the beneficiaries among the twenty-two cooperative members, six Government parastatals/agency, the Cooperative Federation, and the Mine Workers Union that were trained on the role of cooperatives in eliminating child labour in the ASGM sector in the Niger state of Nigeria.
In Nigeria, ACCEL Africa also collaborated with the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) to produce and launch a “Child Labour Guidance Tool for Businesses” > and a “Code of Conduct” > aimed at guiding companies to strengthen their interventions towards the elimination and remediation of child labour in their operations.
Empowering children to return to school and promoting youth employmentWhile strengthening the legal and business framework to prevent child labour, ACCEL Africa also facilitated the return and reintegration of child labour victims into school. In Mali, the project supported the National Ministry of Education in implementing the Accelerated Schooling Strategy or Stratégie de Scolarisation Accélérée Passerelle (SSA/P) >, a viable alternative for removing children aged 8 to 12 years old from artisanal gold mining sites and reintegrating them into the formal circuit of education after 9 months of learning.
Bafouné, a 12-year-old former child labour victim in the village of Bouassa in Mali, is one of the beneficiaries who benefitted from ACCEL Africa’s initiative: “I was a former child worker on a gold mining site. In the past, I was doing gold mining in order to financially support my parents. Currently, I quit since I go to school.”
In neighboring Nigeria, ACCEL Africa is also empowering children to return to school by providing books, uniforms and school kits, which many of the families struggled to purchase. Beyond schooling, the project is also promoting youth employment through vocational training. According to Zakari Shekarau, a traditional community ruler from Kuchiko, “Over 80% of our children that dropped out have gone back to school as a result of the assistance received. Others who also dropped out were enrolled in skills acquisition, like carpentry, tailoring and so on.”
Jabir Abubakar, 18 years old, is one of these fortunate children. He is a former child labour victim who used to work at the mines from morning until night. Through ACCEL Africa, he learned tailoring and received a sewing machine and he is now empowered to support himself.
ACCEL Africa has helped me with many things… I now know my rights. They have given me a sewing machine, placed me in a shop, and made me like school. Now I am in school and I am also earning decently."Jabir Abubukar, 18 year old former child labour victim from the Kuchiko village, Nigeria
Parents are equally thankful for the change ACCEL Africa had brought to their families and communities. “We are truly very happy… The change is unquantifiable. She is now a complete student. Even before I wake up, she is already awake getting ready to go to school,” shares Abdullahi, Maimunat’s father, showing beyond doubt his renewed hopes for a brighter future for his children.