Africa: Young people demand a voice in the call to action against child labor


Durban — Ashley has extensive work experience. She worked the sweat of her brow in the scorching sun on the streets of Guatemala, in open fields on farmland and in the interior, toiling for long hours to the hum of a sewing machine.

Her resume may be impressive to some – street trader, farm laborer and tailor – but she, like 160 million children around the world, is trapped in child labor, working desperately to support her impoverished family. and ensure their education.

“For most working children, it is very difficult for us to express ourselves. All working children have different necessities, and most of their parents cannot provide them: clothing, health and education. The root cause of the child labor is poverty because it makes us as child laborers leave our homes to risk our lives so we can help our family,” she said.

“Working children are not done with formal education. They have not finished primary education because their families have no financial resources. We have to go out and support ourselves economically. In other cases, third parties abuse them,” Ashely told delegates at the 5th World Conference on the Elimination of Child Labor in Durban, South Africa.

“In my country and also in all of Latin America, you will see every day how children are stationed in parks, near traffic lights, doing any kind of work in bad conditions.”

Ashley has taken time out from her job to share her story and join a small group of teenagers and child labor survivors to make history, representing children from 10 countries around the world at the conference, which is taking place in Durban, South Africa until Friday. May 20.

Like Ashley, across the world in India, Amar Lala was born into a poor family and worked as a child laborer before being rescued by Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, a social reformer who tirelessly campaigned against child labor and advocated for the universal right to education. .

“I used to work in the stone quarry breaking rocks every day and putting those rocks in pots. We used to get hurt every day, but we didn’t have a chance to go to the hospital for treatment. I had no idea, and even my family had none.” idea of ​​what education was. I was the luckiest boy to have been helped when the Nobel laureate saw me and saved me. I had the opportunity to study and decided to become a lawyer to defend other children who are like me. Today, I can proudly say that I am a lawyer in court, fighting every day for children who have been exploited and are forced into labor and servitude,” Lala said.

Children affected by child labour, like Ashley, Kabwe from Kenya, Mary Ann from South Africa and survivors like Lala, now 25, shared their stories in front of a group of children standing at united to launch the Children’s Call to Action, at the first global conference, ever, to include a platform for the voices of children affected by child labour. The conference welcomed more than 60 children and young people from different parts of the world, representing Africa, Latin America and Asia. The organizers have withheld the children’s full names to protect their identities and personal safety.

Representatives of the International Labor Organization, including Thomas Wissing of the Technical Advisory Group, Chairman of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, Mikiko Otami, South African Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi and d Other international governmental, business and civil society leaders were present during the session, either physically or virtually.

In their call to action statement, which reflects the expectations of children who attended the conference, they noted that the conference was being held at a “critical time” as the world is witnessing an increase in child labor , especially on the African continent. , where 92.2 million children are trapped, 80% of whom work in the agricultural sector.

In summary, children said they asked:

Social protection and provision of safe spaces for children in emergencies. Governments should make budgetary allocations to support and enrich the development of children, especially in poor and marginalized communities. Initiatives should be formulated, including children’s voices, to ensure that the rights and well-being of children are not violated or overshadowed in emergencies. All states should adhere to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 and nationally adopted policies and laws on child protection.

Budget distribution/allocation. Rich countries should provide development assistance to poor countries, especially in emergency situations. For example, the provision of safe spaces for shelters that can be used to empower children and their parents/guardians on child labor issues. Governments should engage in initiatives that improve ownership of finances to maximize their use to support access to social protection, free quality public education, health care for all children and free sanitary napkins to ensure full schooling. Stakeholders must be empowered to demand accountability and transparency from governments at all times. Corruption and embezzlement will impede opportunities for free access to quality public education for all and diminish the ability of children to pursue their dreams of becoming meaningful members of society.

Ensure the democratic representation of children and young people in making and implementing key decisions that affect them most at all times. Organizations such as student unions, children’s groups and civil society organizations need to engage with children to find solutions.

“We, the children and young people of the world…say ‘no to child labour’. We call on governments and all other actors to respect and consider our voices to eradicate child labor by 2025. We hope this conference will not turn into just words, but actions,” the children said.

Commenting on the children’s participation in the conference, Otami said they helped provide a clear understanding of what the world was fighting for and the need for holistic implementation of children’s rights.

“Hearing children’s voices is very important. We talk about evidence-based research – what children experience and think is part of the evidence,” she said.

Wissing said child participation had been discussed at previous conferences, but the South African government had decided it was ready to give children a platform to speak to policy makers around the world.

“Children’s rights are not negotiated based on local conditions or issues. They are aspirations that must be realised. You look at these conventions (on the rights of the child and the eradication of child labour) , but if you don’t implement them, we’ll be discussing the same thing 50 years from now. We want to eliminate child labor,” Wissing said.

He said the ILO was working with unions to pressure companies to get decent wages and working conditions for parents so their children can go to school.

Report of the UN IPS Office

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