Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) - "Winning the Stop Slavery Hero Award, in addition to being an important recognition of our daily work in the mining communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo to eliminate child labor - precisely in the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor – gives us the opportunity to shed light on human rights violations and forced labor in the cobalt industry", says Sister Jane Wainoi Kabui, director of the program, to Agenzia Fides, referring to the assignment of the Stop Slavery Hero Award 2021 to the "Bon Pasteur Kolwezi", the program supported by the Good Shepherd International Foundation, a non-profit organization established in 2008 by the Congregation of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, present in 73 countries around the world, to support cooperation and development projects in Africa, Asia and America Latina.
The Stop Slavery Award is an annual recognition offered by the Thomson Reuters Foundation that initially recognized companies that promoted measures and practices to eliminate forced labor from their supply chains. Today it has extended its interest to all those NGOs and organizations that fight against the forms of modern slavery that affect 40 million people in the world. "Modern slavery - the nun continued - is real and widespread, even in the mining sector. In this period when slavery takes lesser known forms of hiding its claws and camouflaging itself under a new garment, it is children and women who need support more than ever, to break free from the chains that prevent them from accessing the most basic rights".
Bon Pasteur Kolwezi, with the support of the Good Shepherd International Foundation, has been working successfully since 2013 to eliminate the most serious forms of child labor affecting the artisanal cobalt mining communities in Lualaba province, Democratic Republic of Congo, integrating human rights and community development, to improve the living conditions of thousands of Congolese in Kolwezi.
Over the past eight years, Bon Pasteur Kolwezi and Good Shepherd International Foundation have achieved important results, through a multidimensional model that includes education and protection of children, alternative economic opportunities for the livelihood of families, social protection and defense of the rights of communities. Among them are 9,000 children from 8 artisanal mining communities in Kolwezi who have found a voice and dignity, more than 3,000 children rescued from the harsh life of the mines who now attend school, more than a thousand girls and women who have started an agricultural activity or obtained skills and abilities to access decent jobs.
Nicodème Kahilu, director of Bon Pasteur's monitoring and evaluation program adds: "Our mission to build hope, peace and justice in these communities in Congo continues. There is no future if children are forced to work to provide for their families affected by extreme poverty, when they are exploited in dangerous jobs in the cobalt mines simply because child labor is the cheapest labor and allows mining companies and companies in the electronics and automotive industries to make profits from this supply system. Seeing hundreds of children digging, crushing, washing, sorting, stacking, loading and transporting minerals for a few pennies challenges our very society and a model of development that is unable to protect them while depriving them of their childhood. We at Pasteur Kolwezi firmly believe that a change is still possible. The fight against modern slavery is effective when the long-term commitment of the mining industry and battery companies to support community development is combined with social programs that protect victims of exploitation and when law enforcement and regulations by the institutions and the government becomes the priority action to end child labor and reduce human rights violations in all supply chains". (LA) (Agenzia Fides, 7/4/2021)