Thursday, June 12, 2014

'World Against Child Labor', 12 June

Today, is 'World Day Against Child Labor'. Thankfully many organizations are working around the world to eradicate child labor in their communities and countries. Progress has been made as 47,000,000 less children were recorded being in forced labor between 2008 and 2012. Much more work is needed, but it is progress for sure.

All efforts that individuals and organizations make, does make a difference. Each child helped is a child whose life is possibly saved, due to the high ratio of work related deaths and disabilities. They will have the opportunity to have a better future and very importantly be able to live and develop as a child and not as an adult well before their time.

In 2012, approximately 169 million children are estimated to be working around the world. Asia has the largest concentration of children working. Just in Asia and the Pacific region, 78 million children are in forced labor, approximately half of the children laboring in the world.

In Vietnam there are many in child labor; mainly working in factories, with the majority producing clothes, but also making other items for export. Organizations here are working to find them, rescue them, and help them re-adjust back to having a child's life. This is very important work.

It is so normal and acceptable here for poor families to get their children working part time, whether at home or in the local community, but they still allow their children to go to school as long as they help with the work. Poverty here and in many countries means that children have to 'work' at home and often take huge responsibilities at home, more than a child should have to take, allowing parents to work. One girl in our sponsorship program has been taking responsibility a lot of the time for her two younger sisters, doing the cleaning, cooking and dishes since she was about 8 years old. Without that help her parents can't feed their children. Some mothers who collect garbage expect their children to help on weekends and in the school holidays. Farmers expect the children to help during harvest time whether it is picking the peanut plants out of the ground and taking the pods off the plants or raking the drying rice. In isolated and mountainous areas work opportunities are few and far between. When I was in the north of Vietnam I saw mountain roads being repaired and broadened; the work teams were predominantly made up of teenagers. Some brick factories I have visited have many teenage workers. None of this is uncommon worldwide.

Not all children and teenagers in factories have been trafficked. Teenagers from poor families who are under pressure from their parents to work, have told me that to get work they lie about their age, falsifying paperwork when required.

Poverty is what makes families get their children working whether on their own farm, working on the roads. or sending them off at 14 or 15 to work in a factory illegally. It is understandable but not right.

Desperate parents give into the lies about well paid work in the big cities for their children with the promise of  funds being sent home monthly. Lies are what traffickers have perfected. They sell them off to work in factories or to bordering countries for prostitution, or to be wives in China.

Aung San Suu Kyi, chairperson of the National League of Democracy in Burma, said in a statement, "The best way to get rid of child labor is to make it unnecessary for the security of families." "If you want to secure the future of the globe, we have to secure the future of our children and let us start by doing that to putting an end to child labor."

Pope Francis said recently, "We all need to to renew our commitment, especially to families, to protect the dignity of every boy and girl and to offer them the opportunity to grow in a healthy environment." " A peaceful childhood allows children to look at life and the future with confidence"

As long as there is poverty there will be children in labor. In the meantime everything that individuals, organizations and governments can do to help reduce poverty and provide support for families facing crushing poverty is crucial. Families, communities and governments committed to and ensuring that children receive an education, is crucial in breaking the poverty cycle.

CEF concentrates on helping children, especially girls from poor families to receive a full education. While they are in full time schooling the amount of labor they are available to carry out in limited to the home or farm . This simple factor is part of the solution to reducing the numbers of children in labor worldwide.

It is a very important factor that a child in school with either a supportive family, community or supportive organization behind them is not a child at risk of being trafficked or forced into any labor. It hugely reduced the financial stress of poor families which CEF has found reduces the emphasis on the child having to work . It is one of the many important reasons that we believe in the importance of  children receiving a full education. Supporting children from poor communities to stay in school until the end and receive tertiary education changes their and their families future, breaking the poverty cycle.

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