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Conference to focus on child labor in Africa

ATHENS, Ohio (June 7, 2005) -- Child labor will be the focus of the Institute for the African Child's sixth-annual conference to be held at Ohio University in June. The conference, "Children at Work: From Farm to Street in Africa" begins on the International Day for the African Child, Thursday, June 16, and continues through Saturday, June 18.

The conference will provide an opportunity for researchers, policy makers, human rights advocates, representatives of non-government organizations and funding agencies, students, educators and others interested in African child issues, to discuss the plight of the African child and seek policies to enable children to develop to their full potential. Featured speakers will come from across the United States, Europe, the African continent and Ohio University.

According to Director of the Institute for the African Child Steve Howard, one of the most exploitable resources families have is labor, yet the contribution that children make to family security and the economy goes unrecorded. "One of the reasons we established the Institute for the African Child is to address issues nobody else is talking about," Howard said.

According to Nana Owusu-Kwarteng, assistant director of the Institute for the African Child, their involvement in the workforce, whether in farming, mining, quarrying, fishing or sales, is an issue which seriously affects the lives of African children. "Instead of getting to play and study, they've been mortgaged into the arena of work," Owusu-Kwarteng said.

He hopes that the conference can help bring attention to the issue of child labor so that it can be addressed and the situation improved for African children. "If you don't seek to resolve challenges that confront them now - 10 or 20 years down the line a lot of them will become dysfunctional and contribute to dysfunctional societies," Owusu-Kwarteng explained.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates there are 250 million working children between the ages of five and 14 in developing countries. Of those, 32 percent (80 million) are in Africa.

The conference will begin Thursday, June 16, at 6:30 p.m. in Walter Hall, room 145, with a keynote address by Carolyn Davis, an editorial writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and graduate of the Communication and Development Studies program at Ohio University. Davis, who recently published a series of articles focusing on children in northern Uganda, will speak on "African Children: The Unreported Media." The organization Doctors Without Borders has recognized the situation in northern Uganda as one of the 10 most underreported humanitarian stories of 2004. Davis has researched and written about children's issues for a number of years as a writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Columbus Dispatch and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. She has also worked on development and humanitarian relief projects in Cambodia, Rwanda and Macedonia.

Howard is pleased to feature Davis as the conference's keynote speaker. "Here we are talking about the children of Africa and trying to get their story out and here she is, an editorial page writer for a major U.S. newspaper, focusing on those under-reported stories," he said.

Conference sessions on topics such as the girl child and labor, education, health challenges, children's rights policies and non-government organization related activities to advance child rights will take place all day Friday and Saturday until 1 p.m. in Walter Hall. Interested community members are welcome to attend workshop sessions. For more information, contact workshop coordinator Nana Owusu-Kwarteng at (740) 597-1368 or view the schedule online at www.ohio.edu/afrchild/farm-to-street.cfm.  

The Institute for the African Child seeks to promote research, teaching and service that consider children in the process of the African continent's socio-economic development. Past conferences of the Institute for the African Child have addressed such issues as malaria, HIV/AIDS, child soldiers, the girl child, and children and Islam.

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Media Contact: Assistant Director of the Institute for the African Child Nana Owusu-Kwarteng (740) 597-1368 or owusu-kw@ohio.edu

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