This year’s theme for World Day Against Child Labour “Human Rights and Social Justice......lets end child labour” throws open a larger question and reflects upon the fact whether men and women as adult individuals, parents and others stakeholders like voluntary organizations, local authorities, law enforcement agencies have been able to protect all children against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation in any form whatsoever. Have we been able to ensure that any child shall not be admitted to employment before an appropriate minimum age? Have we adhered to the fact that the child shall in no case be permitted to engage in any occupation or employment which would come in the way of his/her health, education, or interfere with his/her physical, mental or moral development. In the absence of the lacunae created by not accomplishing the goals as set out by the member nations in the UNCRC, achieving social justice for them appears to be a distant dream.
Child labour in agriculture is a behemoth of a problem as ILO estimates that around 60 percent of child labourers around the world work in the agriculture sector – an issue which equally plagues the developing as well as the developed nations. A double whammy here is the fact that Child Labour in agriculture is an area that has not got the attention of the policy makers, law enforcement agencies, child rights’ organizations, trade unions and employers’ organizations that it duly deserves. Turning a blind eye towards an issue of such magnitude would not help realizing the objectives set out in Roadmap 2016, Millennium Development Goals or Education for All objectives in any way. In 2010, findings of a research commissioned by Tulane University under a grant by the US Government showed that a staggering 1.8 million children aged 5 to 17 years work in cocoa farms of Ivory Coast and Ghana at the cost of their physical, emotional, cognitive and moral well being. The report further establishes that about 40% children working in cocoa fields of Ivory Coast are not enrolled in schools and that only 5% of Ivorian children are paid for their work. UNICEF further estimates nearly 35,000 Ivorian children working on cocoa farms as victims of trafficking for forced labour. This is just one of the many instances and therefore could be called as the tip of the iceberg; therefore the fight against child labour in agriculture needs a systematic and global impetus by all the stakeholders involved. The condition of children in Uzbekistan during cotton harvest season when they are forced out of their class rooms to work in the cotton fields has drawn much ire from ILO and the International Fraternity is yet another example of the child right violation amongst many others.
Speaking on the eve of World Day Against Child Labour, Mr. Kailash Satyarthi said “Global March acknowledging the aforesaid and strategically targeting child labour in agriculture as an area of priority is hosting an International Conference on Child Labour in Agriculture at Washington D.C. from 28-30th July 2012 with the support of IPEC, Global Union Federation on Agricultural Workers (IUF) and others. The twin objectives of this conference are (a) High level advocacy for elimination of child labour in agriculture (b) Empowerment knowledge sharing, engagement and networking of civil society organizations to accelerate actions at grassroots and national levels. For more information please log on to www.globalmarch.org”. He further said, “We see this conference and the associated follow up activities after the event to be completely in-sync with ILO’s theme for World Day Against Child Labour 2012. This year the World Day Against Child Labour will provide a spotlight on the right of all children to be protected from child labour and from other violations of fundamental human rights. In 2010 the International Community had adopted a Roadmap for achieving the elimination of the worst forms of child labour by 2016 (Roadmap 2016), which stressed that child labour is an impediment to children’s rights and a potential barrier to development. World Day 2012 emphasizes on the work that needs to be done to make the roadmap a living reality.
Speaking about the core discussions to be held in the forthcoming agriculture conference, Mr. Kailash Satyarthi said that “Concerted actions must be taken for mainstreaming trafficking, forced and bonded labour and slavery across actions to eliminate child labour in agriculture. From a long term benefit for the young workers who have achieved the minimum age of employment everybody’s aim should be to seamlessly transform hazardous child labour into decent youth employment opportunities. Another area that requires special attention is Freedom of Association and Right to Collective Bargaining being conferred to the farmers, so that they could collectively voice out their grievances in order to get them addressed. We have always emphasized that parents enjoying decent working conditions and fundamental rights at work are least likely to send their children to work. Dialogue should be initiated with farmers’ organizations (their national and international bodies) agricultural cooperatives, to eliminate child labour from the contract farming supply chains. Civil Society and Governments must ensure that labour laws are implemented in true spirit and substance to keep a tab on Multi National Enterprises so that their supply chains are free of child labour”.
Aligning with the theme of this year’s World Day Against Child Labour in order to address the issue of child labour in agriculture which has highest incidence, Global March is working with the governments, UN Agencies, farmer and out-growers organizations, trade unions to raise social and political awareness and will on child labour in agriculture; supporting the analysis of the knowledge base including good practices, providing technical assistance and guidance to the civil society organizations and businesses in promoting decent work in agriculture, thereby empowering families, communities and civil society organizations to become active participants in the fight against child labour particularly in agriculture and allied processes to ensure that human rights and social justice could be conferred to the child labourers working in the field of agriculture.
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