Global March

Global March Against Child Labour Celebrates its 20th Anniversary in Geneva

To mark the 20th Anniversary of Global March Against Child Labour (Global March) as well as the World Day Against Child Labour, Global March and the International Labour Organization (ILO) organised a joint event on 4 June 2018 during the International Labour Conference (ILC) at the Palais des Nations, Geneva.  The event, in the form of a panel discussion, saw the participation of dignitaries and panellists including the ILO Director-General, Mr Guy Ryder; Nobel Peace Laureate, Mr Kailash Satyarthi; the youngest core marcher of Global March Against Child Labour, Basu Rai; former child labourer in agriculture, Zulema Lopez, as well as Sue Longley, General Secretary of the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) and Nazrene Mannie, from the Board of Business Unity in South Africa.

The event began with showcasing a video on the historic Global March Against Child Labour of 1998 along with the 20 years of journey of Global March as well as a Virtual March Against Child Labour that was organised by Global March throughout the month of May 2018 on Facebook and Twitter. The Virtual March raised awareness on child labour to advocate for the universal ratification and implementation of the key child labour Conventions, i.e ILO Conventions Nos. 138 and 182, as well as the achievement of SDG Target 8.7. It mobilised voices across different online platforms through diverse mediums on this issue, engaging stakeholders such as children, youth, employers’ and workers’ organisations, influencers, parliamentarians and civil society, among others and reached 858000 people on Twitter and 206000 on Facebook across 4 continents of the world. The video ended with a strong appeal that only 7 years are left to achieve the SDG Target 8.7 to end child labour by 2025. Following the video of Global March, ILO’s video on hazardous child labour was also played for the audience which set the mood for the event.

The panel discussion started with introductions of all panellists and a key note address from the founder of Global March Against Child Labour and Nobel Peace Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi as well as the ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder.

Reminiscing the global march that received a standing ovation from the delegates present at the International Labour Conference at Palais des Nations in 1998, Mr. Satyarthi remarked saying “It was 20 years ago when for the first time ILO opened its doors to the most vulnerable children in the world.”

The event began with showcasing a video on the historic Global March Against Child Labour of 1998 along with the 20 years of journey of Global March as well as a Virtual March Against Child Labour that was organised by Global March throughout the month of May 2018 on Facebook and Twitter. The Virtual March raised awareness on child labour to advocate for the universal ratification and implementation of the key child labour Conventions, i.e ILO Conventions Nos. 138 and 182, as well as the achievement of SDG Target 8.7. It mobilised voices across different online platforms through diverse mediums on this issue, engaging stakeholders such as children, youth, employers’ and workers’ organisations, influencers, parliamentarians and civil society, among others and reached 858000 people on Twitter and 206000 on Facebook across 4 continents of the world. The video ended with a strong appeal that only 7 years are left to achieve the SDG Target 8.7 to end child labour by 2025. Following the video of Global March, ILO’s video on hazardous child labour was also played for the audience which set the mood for the event.

The panel discussion started with introductions of all panellists and a key note address from the founder of Global March Against Child Labour and Nobel Peace Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi as well as the ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder.

Reminiscing the global march that received a standing ovation from the delegates present at the International Labour Conference at Palais des Nations in 1998, Mr. Satyarthi remarked saying “It was 20 years ago when for the first time ILO opened its doors to the most vulnerable children in the world.”

Reinstating the urgent need for ending child labour and that 152 million children cannot wait anymore, he said “If the children are still trapped in the international supply chains, if the children are still enslaved, if the children are still sold and bought like animals – sometimes for less than the price of animals – to work in the fields and farms, and shops and factories, or for households as domestic workers, this is a blot on humanity.”

ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder in his address to the audience, called for urgent action to tackle the economic root causes of child labour, pointing out that attention needs to be paid not only to global supply chains, but also to unpaid family work in agriculture. He remarked saying “the challenge is not just about globally-traded garments, tobacco and cocoa; it is also about local markets for sorghum, millet, bricks – and it’s about domestic work as well.”

As there has been almost no reduction in the number of children aged 5 to 11 in child labour, and the number of these most vulnerable, youngest children in hazardous work has actually increased, Mr. Satyarthi pressed for coordination between different ministries and departments such as that of education, labour, finance etc across all governments of the world. He further reminded the audience that if we need to end child labour we must invest in education and if education for all needs to be achieved, child labour must be eradicated.

Basu Rai, from Nepal, who had been the youngest of the Global Marchers who reached Geneva in 1998, said it was an emotional moment for him to be in Geneva after 20 years. Recalling his childhood and his plea to the governments he said “I came from a very hazardous background. I am again asking you to please return my snatched away childhood. I am still afraid because today i am a father of a 2-month-old daughter and the world is not safe for her. Still there are 152 million children who are languishing in a kind of slavery. So this is the time to act collectively.”

Several delegates held back tears as Zulema Lopez, a former farm child labourer from United States of America recounted her days as a child labourer in her country.

“I am a third generational farm worker. At the age of seven… it was normal for me to wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning, put on my shoes and my T-shirt and go to work in the hot sun, burning, 20 to 30 pound buckets of cucumbers next to me, trying to make ends meet. Children are the future. The change must start from here.”

Sue Longley, the General Secretary of the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) stressed the importance of keeping a strong focus on agriculture, which is where about 70 per cent of child labour is. She recognised that while most child labour was on family farms, there were still 1 in 4 children are in commercial agriculture. She pointed out “that agriculture was one of the most dangerous industries to work in and that  there was a need to make farms safe for all…. Full stop.”

Nazrene Mannie, from the Board of Business Unity in South Africa, highlighted the difficulty of tackling child labour when it takes place in family farms or enterprises, often hidden from public view. She asserted that much of child labour in agriculture takes place in family farms and it is incredibly difficult to reach these children.

Commemorating this year’s World Day Against Child Labour which also seeks to promote safety and health for young workers, Mariam Kamissoko, of the National Social Security fund in Cote d’Ivoire, as invited to the panel who pointed out that the rate of accidents is higher among youth than among older workers. She established that “to make young workers aware of their rights, we need to contribute to an environment of protection for them. This has helped us to develop a plan for safety of youth at work, i.e. to enhance safe working conditions for young people.”

The panel discussion ended with Mr. Satyarthi’s urgent appeal to all the guests and government representatives and other stakeholders present, that the issue of child labour needs urgent attention. He said that the issue of child labour is personal to him and the same personal attention must be given to it by all stakeholders. Ending child labour is urgent and it is possible.

In the afternoon of 4th June, a Facebook Live was also conducted with Mr. Satyarthi, Basu Rai and Zulema Lopez on what has been achieved since 1998, which was followed by revisiting the historic monument of Global March Against Child Labour placed in front of ILO-Headquarters in Geneva. Mr. Satyarthi was also then invited to unfurl a new installation placed at the premises dedicated to child labourers.

The eventful day of 4th June concluded with the screening of the documentary film on Mr. Satyarthi’s life, a Sundance special Jury award winner, KAILASH.

WATCH the video on 20 Years of Global March showcased at the event here

WATCH a sneak peek of the 20th Anniversary celebrations of Global March in Geneva here

We at Global March Against Child Labour would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude and thank you to all our supporters who have been supporting our work since 1998 as well as those who contributed to the Virtual March Against Child Labour.

Our commitment to end child labour only strengthens with your kind support.

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