Global March

World Day Against Child Labour 2008

Background Note

Alice, her father was unable to afford to educate her beyond nursery school. He was unable to buy paper for her to write on. After nursery school, Alice was free at home. Her friends went to the garbage dump to earn money. She needed money and wanted to be with her friends, so at age 8 she started working at the dump too. She collected bottles, shoes, and plastic bags, and sold them directly to people who came to the dump. She did not report to a boss. She worked 8 hours a day, from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and from 1 – 5 p.m., six days a week ASA. At age 13, she stopped working and came to the center, where she learned the alphabet. She is now in her third year of studies supported by ASA. Her teachers are very proud of her. She even convinced ten of her friends to leave the garbage dump, where they all used to work. Alice would like to work in a non-governmental organization that helps children who do not have the means to realize their potential. She dreams of coming to the United States to continue learning to sew. She would like a sewing machine.

72 million primary aged children, and a much larger number of secondary aged children, are not in school.  82% of out of school children are in rural areas household survey suggest that many children who are enrolled in school do not attend regularly. These children are among the world’s estimated 218 million child labourers. The right to free and compulsory education, at least at the primary or basic level, is enshrined in international human rights law. The international community has also set itself targets of achieving universal primary education, and eliminating gender disparities in education by 2015. An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 children are serving as soldiers for both rebel groups and government forces in current armed conflicts. Children are trafficked for forced labour, domestic work, as child soldiers, as camel jockeys, for begging, work on construction sites and plantations. 2006, the US State Department reported that one million children are exploited in the global trade and are sold as animals. According to   ILO 2006 report there has been some decline in number but still lot have to be done.

In the September 2000 Millennium Declaration, 187 countries committed themselves to making development based on human rights principles a global reality by 2015. This aim was expressed in eight development goals and associated targets and indicators. The links between child labour and many of the MDGs are clear, particularly in relation to poverty reduction (MDG 1), education for all  (MDG 2), gender equality in education (MDG 3), and youth employment (MDG 8). The 2007 progress report on the MDGs observed that notwithstanding some positive trends, the goal of universal primary education by 2015 will be difficult to reach: 57 of the 152 developing countries (38 per cent) for which data are available are considered off track – meaning that they will not reach the goal on current trends. Another 33 countries that lack data are also likely off track.

Education -Right Response to Child Labour

The linkage between child labour and education, though explicitly defined, has not been applied at a policy level either by the international donors or by the developing countries’ governments. Education as a key to ending child labour must come into the centre stage of child labour discussions, mainly because in the past child labour policy has long been based on a biased notion that until unless poverty is eradicated, child labour would prevail, and therefore while poverty exists, the children must be protected in the workplace. This has resulted in certain stakeholders implementing parallel systems of non-formal education, where child labourers are receiving part-time education while they continue to work; or, worse, to supporting the unionisation of child labourers to further deprive them of the rights as children. These approaches differentiate the rights of children of poor families from those of the privileged ones, in the name of their survival.

Whilst poverty still remains as a reason for children being forced into child labour, recent studies suggest that poverty is not merely a causative factor, but also a result of child labour. Other factors contributing to child labour and more widely to its causes, including failing education system, have to be understood and incorporated in wider approaches in ending child labour. Each and every child, without being pre-labeled as a child labourer, poor, or socially excluded, must enjoy an equal right to be free from economic exploitation and to receive free, formal education of good quality.

Quality Education As a Birthright

Every child is born with equal rights. The rights of each human being are non-negotiable and cannot be altered by economic and social status of individuals. When the right to quality education is genuinely considered a fundamental right, which builds then foundation of one’s life, there must not be a debate that any government is too poor to provide education, or to say that some children, who cannot afford education, can be excluded from their obtaining their rights. Only when national governments and the international community realise that their policy and subsequent actions must be based on the fact that quality education is a fundamental and non-negotiable right of every child, can education be guaranteed for all and be a source of building an equal society.

The 2007 EFA Global Monitoring Report indicated that whilst there had been steady but slow progress towards universal primary education there are still 72 million primary school age children out of school- including 44 million girls. The GMR states: “Education for All…requires an inclusive approach that emphasizes the need to reach groups that might not otherwise have access to education and learning”. It calls for policies aimed at “reaching the unreached”, including policies to overcome the need for child labour. Many of the out-of-school population are child labourers.

10-20 per cent – that are the real challenge to achieving Education For All. Only by first examining, and then surmounting, the barriers to education encountered by child labourers, can a meaningful increase in education participation among this group be attained. In many ways, tackling child labourers can be a litmus test of the health of the education system in many developing countries – child labourers (re)entry to the school system can test how inclusive and child-friendly schools are.

The Global March applauds ILO Convention 138 allows children aged between 13 and 15 to engage in light work, provided that the work is “(a) not likely to be harmful to their health or development; and (b) not such as to prejudice their attendance at school, their participation in vocational orientation or training programmes approved by the competent authority or their capacity to benefit from the instruction received” (C138, 7.1). It should be recognised that child labour in the cases described as acceptable by the Convention can still be harmful if it interferes with a child’s ability to participate in his or her education to the fullest possible extent. Attendance at school is not the only factor in ensuring the participation in quality education. The international community must act to ensure that every child has the opportunity to perform at the highest possible level. Every child must be able to learn without undue distractions or duress from work.

Global March firmly believes that ending the economic exploitation of children can only be possible when free, compulsory and quality education is assured for all children regardless of gender, race, religion, and social or economic status. The elimination of child labour and education for all are two sides of one coin. One cannot be achieved without provision for the other. With governments, international agencies and civil society committing not to let education for all fail due to lack of funds, the elimination of child labour becomes a realistic goal. All stakeholders must take this inseparable relationship into account in their policy making, law enforcement, budgetary measures and developmental aid in order for all children to enjoy their childhood with books, not tools in their tiny hands.

Therefore, for the World Day Against Child Labour, this years’ theme Education is the Right Response to Child Labour is the most effective approach that should be adopted by all the stakeholders and social leaders to end exploitation of children. Global March is proposing to organize a campaign with Global March members at regional level as this theme counterpart Global March philosophy and position on child labour elimination.

Global March Calls For Action

Ratify and implement ILO Convention 138 on the Minmum Age of Employment, ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, and the Convention of the Rights of the Child and its two optional protocols, within a timeline;

Amend national laws, if necessary, to comply with the content of the Conventions above, and ensure that the national laws on the age of completing compulsory education and the minimum age of employment correspond with each other;

 Make education compulsory up to the age of 16 years; Make education free for all, including uniforms, syllabus books, school meals, transportation, and any other hidden cost of education;

Give a second chance to child labourers and other out-of-school children who have missed out on their opportunities to begin compulsory education at appropriate age,

 Form a National Committee on Child Labour and Education in order to coordinate efforts to ensure basic education for all and to end child labour, including Ministries of Labour, Education, Finance, Social Welfare and other relevant ministries, law enforcement agencies, civil society and children;

Invest, at least 6% of GNP for ensuring basic education for all children.

The Global March calls on Donor Countries and the International Community to:

  • Commit their programs and policies to ending child labour;
  • Meet the financial commitment made in the Dakar Framework of Action to ensure all children are in primary school
  • Provide debt relief and do away with conditionality on overseas aid, allowing the
  • developing countries with a time-bound and effective national plans to invest more efficiently in their children;
  •  Invest more than 0.1% of their GNP for the overseas aid aimed directly at benefiting children, especially in ending child labour and ensuring education for all

Global March Calls all the businesses to:

  • Ensure that there is no child labour involved in any segment of supply chain.
  • Give minimum wages to the adult workers and ensure that labour laws are upheld in their businesses.

Global March Calls on all people to:

  • Educate themselves on the issue of child labour and report any incidents of such crimes to appropriate authorities and to concerned NGOs.
  • Boycott products and commodities that are likely to be tainted by the sweat of child labourers
  • Strengthen the movement of Global March by participate in the activities organized by Global March partner in your region.
  • Spread the word around.

Millennium Development Goals Report, 2006, p.7
2 EFA Global Monitoring Report 2007, p.67
3 EFA Global Monitoring Report 2007, p.69
ILO,Combating child labour through education 2008, 
Reaching the unreached – Our common language- Global Task Force on Child Labor and Education for All -2007

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