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Taking Action Against Child Labor

Taking Action Against Child Labor

June is International Children’s month, designated as such following the ratification of the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Prior to this, in 1857, the second Sunday in June was deemed Children’s Day by Reverend Dr. Charles Leonard, a pastor of the Universal Church.  It was initiated as a day to celebrate childhood and, as World Children’s Day was later proclaimed in 1954, a time set aside to ‘promote mutual exchange, international togetherness, and awareness among children, as well as the improvement of children’s welfare. Many countries around the world followed suit to declare days in recognition of children. 

Today, when we hear about International Children’s Month, we automatically think of the need to defend children from abuse and exploitation. We must join to ensure that each child has every opportunity to grow into a healthy life.  

Of course, it is important that everyone of us takes the time to become more aware of the pressing issues that threaten the young people of the world, but it is just as important to celebrate the joyfulness of youth. We should not focus only on the terrible, but take some time to appreciate the gifts that children present to all of us, and let that guide us in understanding why we need to work to protect them. 

Why is protecting children’s rights important?

Children require our protection. That is clear.  The need for this is so important that it is inscribed in the Convention of the Rights of the Child. This almost moral imperative is taken as an absolute by many of us. A directive to be followed without question, but why? Without universal understanding on how children differ from adults, and why it is important for them to have the space to grow and develop, it will be difficult to put an end to the detrimental practice of child labor. 

It is extremely important for children to engage with their environment and other children in order to grow emotionally and socially. Spending long hours at work, even part-time, prevents children from properly developing relationships.

This type of engagement and growth comes through children’s daily activities, at school and at play. When children are not allowed to be children, and are not given the room to play, they can suffer severe damage. Even older children (late teens under 18) can suffer negative sociological and emotional effects from over-work. 

What is child labor?

June 12 is World Day against Child Labor. Approximately 152 million children are victims of child labor, almost half of them, 73 million, work under hazardous conditions. Although the majority of children are exploited in the agricultural sector, there are significant numbers who are abused in the services and industrial industries as well. Cases of child labour have been documented worldwide – from mines in Ghana to tobacco fields in the United States and Indonesia. 

Generally, child labor involves, at minimum, two concepts: i) Work undertaken by children below legal minimum working age (in most countries around 15 years); and ii) work engaged in hazardous conditions.  

Hazardous conditions have been defined as practices that involve children being enslaved, separated from their families, and/or exposed to dangerous conditions (both physical and psychological), including illicit activities like drug trafficking, prostitution, or the production of pornography. Because their bodies and minds are still developing, children are more vulnerable than adults to workplace hazards, and the consequences of hazardous work can have devastating and long-lasting effects. 

To eliminate this deeply harmful and complex problem of child labor, many organizations and people are finding constructive, multi-pronged and inclusive solutions. 

How do we help children be children?

School And Play 

Common definitions of child labor usually include practices that deprive children of play, something which is crucial to the overall growth of children. Because children are still developing, they have special characteristics and needs, including the need for play and regular interaction with their peers. 

Getting children back in the classroom is one of the major tools in eliminating child labor. The evidence shows that children who go to school are less likely to be in situations that force them to have to work. It is thus critical for stakeholders to work towards improving access to, as well as quality of, education for children, especially those who are most at risk for child labour. 

Corporate Community Engagement 

Engaging with companies to ensure they take responsibility for their workplaces and supply chains can contribute to eradicating this problem. Social sustainability means being involved in the communities in which one does business. 

  • Compensate adult workers fairly and treat them with dignity.  Well-compensated workers will not be forced to push their children into work to help make ends meet.
  • Monitor the integrity of workplaces and supply chains on a regular basis. Be certain that workplaces are free of child labor, and all other kinds of modern slavery. 
  • Work with fellow companies to maintain similar policies, and engage with the community to build a strong safety net for parents. Ensure a healthy workplace for adults, and safe places (schools) for the children. 

NGOs 

Learn how you can support Non-Governmental Organizations like the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Labor Organization (ILO). These organizations work hard to spread awareness and promote transparency.  For instance, the ILO is launching a Week of Action against Child Labor, a collection of events around the globe aimed at spreading awareness and calling people to act. 

We can also support the creation and enforcement of international laws against child labor, and lobby our local national governments to adopt coordinated legislation. 

Technology Solutions 

Leaps and bounds in technology are making it more difficult to exploit children, and are empowering regular people to participate in making a change. 

  • Real-time, on-the-ground workforce monitoring, engagement and assessment.  slavefreetrade’s Libertas™ system is an example of a tech solution that helps organizations look deeper into their operations and supply chains to ensure human rights-compliant goods and services made in freedom 
  • Blockchain is also being harnessed to verify supply chains in a secure and anonymous way, from the automotive to chocolate industries
  • Gathering information and building databases help to power artificial intelligence and machine learning tools which can accelerate the eradication of modern slavery
  • Image recognition software is being used to tackle different forms of human trafficking, such as matching missing people and victims of sex trafficking with sex advertisements. 

Everyday People, You and Me. 

We all have a role to play in making this world a better place to live. We can help by educating ourselves, reading about child labor, and spreading awareness. For example, we can look to the Week of Action relating to World Day Against Child Labor for ideas on how we may contribute.  

slavefreetrade’s Freedomer App, currently under development, aims to give all of us a stronger role in standing up for social change. Providing a mouthpiece for millions, this app will amplify our demands for change as we shine the light of transparency and justice into the darkest corners of illicit activities.  

There are so many accessible ways for all of us to work together to put an end to the evil of child labor.  Let’s start today.

This article was authored by Ray DeSouza, writer at slavefreetrade.