Using social-impact certification to reduce child labor in the traditional textile industry of Ethiopia
The use of social-impact certification as a marketing tool to entice consumers into making purchasing choices that are sensitive to social and environmental issues is a growing trend. The E-FACE1 project's 'child safe' certification is geared towards this trend in an effort to reduce child labour and promote change in the traditional textile industry. Although laws are in place to protect Ethiopian children engaged in labor, enforcement of these regulations is inconsistent, meaning many children and youth are left to be exploited.
E-FACE has assisted a group of designers, retailers, and traders in creating a certification standard and establishing a business model that promotes sustainability in the textile production process. Establishing a child safe certification exposed MEDA clients to a formal and internationally recognized certification system, similar to other popular social marketing programs, such as The World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), Good Weave, and Fair for Life. This exposure created the necessary peer network and support for the promotion of 'child safe' textiles as a competitive marketing edge for E-FACE clients.
In order to create a certification system that can operate as a sustainable and self-maintaining entity, MEDA supported a number of activities, including: the establishment of an association of fashion designers; the development of a voluntary of conduct and an inspection checklist;, the building of a labelling program; and a facilitated commitment among the Fashion Designers Association (FDA) and a mandated government organ, the Bureau of Labour and Social Affairs (BOLSA).
"Safe Threads" is a product label owned and administered by the Fashion Designers Association. The label provides an effective solution for designers and weavers engaged in child safe production. Moreover, it is a guarantee to the socially conscious consumer who purchases traditional textile products as they have some level of assurance that they are not being complicit in exploitive labor practices with children.
The Promise behind the label
The label guarantees the following seven principles are respected.
Principle One: NO CHILD LABOR
All children under the age of 15 years are prohibited to take part in the course of production.
Principle two: NO FORCED LABOUR
No one shall be compelled to work without his/her free consent. Employers cannot impose physical and psychological influence requiring young workers to remain at work.
Principle three: OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY
The employer is obliged to provide decent working conditions and is responsible for the occupational health and safety of the young employee.
Principle four: FAIR WAGES and IMPROVED WORKING RELATIONSHIPS
Employers commit to improving their relationships with each worker in respecting the right and dignity of each young worker. Additionally, wages must be enhanced periodically in order to conform to the market growth and customary practice of the specific area.
Principle five: MINIMUM WORKING HOURS
Employers will comply with international child rights conventions and relevant Ethiopian Laws, including minimum working hours for young employees which are stipulated at 7 hrs per day. It is also prohibited to make a young person work at night after 4pm, overtime, weekends and public holidays as per articles 89-91 of the Ethiopian labor proclamation.
Principle six: ACCESS TO EDUCATION
Employers must commit themselves to making available educational access to young workers with sufficient support and encouragement in accordance with pertinent international legislations.
Principle seven: NO DISCRIMINATION
All employers commit to treating all employees equally as well as give equal opportunity without any discrimination on the basis of sex and disability in light of appropriate international rules stipulated in the UNCRC, ACRWC and Ethiopian Labor proclamation.
Inspection process - Designers and other stakeholders desiring to benefit from the certification scheme have to pass through a series of inspections:
Initial inspection – a first round inspection conducted to check eligibility of the applicant.
Surprise inspection – an unannounced inspection to be conducted once a year to check conformity of the applicant with the voluntary code of conduct.
Renewal inspection – an inspection conducted based on the applicant's request to renew his/her label utilizing licence.
Inspection upon compliant – an inspection to be conducted within fifteen days of receiving a compliant on violation of the voluntary code of conduct.
The certification scheme not only inspects modern workshops of designers and traders, but it goes one step down the supply chain and inspects work sheds and homes of weavers.
Once in place and operational, up to 58 members of the Fashion Designers Association are expected to benefit from this certification.
Getting to this point - where a certification scheme and inspection process is now in place - took long-term facilitation by MEDA and the E-FACE team. Building relations between various stakeholders and putting the required systems in place takes a long-time and is beyond short-term project cycles. In addition, the positive enabling environment and ownership by BOLSA and the commitment and ownership exhibited by FDA are key success factors. The relationship between these two entities is what will sustain this initiative and its implementation beyond the E-FACE project cycle.
"MEDA promotes child safe production"
1 Ethiopians Fighting against Child Exploitation (E-FACE) is a four year project implemented in consortium with World Vision and Mission for Community Development in Ethiopia.