Since 2022 the International Labour Organization [ILO] has championed a World Day Against Child Labour, to raise awareness of child labour and to foster worldwide cooperation in the fight against child labour. This year it fell on Monday 12 June. Mavuto Banda, whose doctoral thesis focuses on the issues around child labour in the tea and tobacco plantations in Malawi, has just returned from a conference in Cologne, where he considered the effectiveness of banning children from working in Malawi. In this short blog he reflects on his experience of the conference.
From 31 May to 3 June 2023, I attended and presented a paper (on 1 June 2023) co-authored with my first supervisor entitled, 'Child labour bans in Malawi's commercial agriculture: Implications for future interventions' at the European Conference on African Studies [ECAS] in Cologne, Germany. The paper comes out of my PhD thesis.
Our session was ‘Beyond Failure: Exploring the Heart of the Malawi State and its future trajectories.' Preliminary results suggest that the ban on 'child labour' from commercial tea and tobacco estates has yet to achieve its intended protection of children's rights. Children still engage in work that falls within the ILO's definition of child labour. Future interventions related to the ban on children in tea and plantations should focus on empowering children, families, and communities for sustainable child rights protection. All the sessions I attended were insightful, with presentations from academics of diverse backgrounds. It was a humbling experience meeting and networking with inspiring minds, most of whom I extensively cite in my thesis writing. I’m now at the writing up stage, and I badly needed the motivation I got from ECAS to keep writing 😊! Thanks to funding from Doctoral College at the University of Hull, Faculty of Science and Engineering, and Sir Philip Reckitt Education Trust, who contributed much of my conference budget, making it easier for me to foot the shortfall. I also thank my supervisors, Dr Elsbeth Robson, Dr Judith Spicksley and Prof. Lewis Holloway, for the enduring guidance they have been giving me since 2020, and the Wilberforce Institute for hosting me through my PhD journey.
The conference will develop into a journal series on African studies. Draft papers will be submitted in October 2023. Apart from networking, I also gained considerable access to journals and books about development trajectories in Malawi.