Global March Against Child Labour: From Exploitation to Education
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Global March Against Child Labour - From Exploitation to Education

Global Action Week 2006 Update from USA

Day 1: Holton Arms High School Students host child laborers as Ambassadors of children missing out of schools
 
 
   
   
 
   
 

As a kick off to the Global Action Week for Education,starting today worldwide,five former child laborers from India, Mexico and Columbia spend the day with the High School students at the prestigious Holton Arms School in Washington, D.C metropolitan area to share with them the aspirations of children missing out of schools from around the world.

In exiting moments,the DC girls holding the hands of their guests pledged to fight for education jointly to make this world a better place. None of them have ever met any child laborer in their lives. They are visiting the United States to take part in a series of events and hosted by the International Center on Child labor and Education, International advocacy office of Global March Against Child Labor.

The children were able to talk together with their counterparts and ask them to work closely with their elected leaders to ensure that all children are able to receive free compulsory, quality education. Leidy Johanna from
Columbia expressed to the younger girls in the schools the helplessness of girls on the streets involved in vending and selling products. She also explained the support she received from Global March national partner in Columbia changed her life and she could now attend full time school.

16 year old Aly Hernandez from Mexico shared her intense struggle taking care of new born child, baby sitting for long hours and her inability to attend school. She was fortunate to be helped by the local partner organization secure scholarship from the local authorities to attend full time school. She now aspires to be a journalist.

Luz Carime from Columbia worked as a metal scrap picker on the streets wished to become a construction mechanic now.

Mohamad Shamsur from India shared about long years spend as rag picker from age six. Another former Indian child slave Puran, 15, told his story of being a stone breaker. His father borrowed money to pay for the treatement of his grandfather and the entire family was taken as slaves for many years. He shared how he was rescued by Global March partner and his father put in prison. He asked the young girls what can you do to help millions of children like him around the world and also in United States. He asked them how can they fight against the crime of Female Foeticide. He said this is possible only when all are able to receive education, education alone will enable fight lack of knowledge and help open the minds of people who still live in dark ages.

The students and the faculty of the Holton Arms School expressed their desire to continue working with these children in the future and help fight for their rights. They presented gifts to all the children.

The President Global Campaign for Education Mr. Kailash Satyarthi also accompanied these children. He called for globalization of human compassion to counter the increasing global terror. This must be expressed through a collective endeavor to ensure a good quality education for all the children. The youth remain the only hope to exercise their moral power in pressurize the politicians to fulfil their promises for children.

 
Day 2: Satyarthi asks youth at Blair Montgomery High School to demand for education for all children and help spread democracy

Addressing a gathering of about 250 students at the prestigious Blair Montgomery High School, Puran a former child laborer from India exhorted the students to exercise their phenomenal power in the market place by asking simple questions if the products are made without child labor. He also told them about his happiness to be in such good schools here in the United States and how fortunate they are but reminded them about the millions of children who do not enjoy such privilege. He asked them to join him in demanding full time education for all children in the world. He was joined by Carime and Leidy Johanna from Columbia and Ally from Mexico. All of them addressed the youth and shared their life experiences as child laborers and now as child rights activists spreading the message to the youth around the world to join hands to ensure education as a fundamental human right of the children.

The former child laborers from India, Mexico, Columbia are in Washington, D.C at the week long activities related to Global Action Week and are hosted by International Center on Child labor and Education, Northern advocacy office of Global March Against Child Labor. The children were accompanied by the President of Global Campaign for Education Mr. Kailash Satyarthi.

The event was hosted by Academy of International Studies Director Kevin Moose and was attended by hundreds of students and faculty. The child labor advocates were given a thunderous applause by the those present on the occassion. Mr. Satyarthi told the gathering of hundreds of youth that education is the key to sustainable development, social justice, spread of democracy and long lasting security for the human kind. Investing in wars is no solution. The past generations have built a world where millions of children have no freedom, food, or opportunity of learning, now it is the youth which can change the tide in making this world better and beautiful place for all.

Earlier during the day the children called on the legislative staff of Senator Arlen Specter. He is the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and a senior member of the Appropriations and Veterans Affairs committees.
Day 3:  Mock Hearing and Meeting with Congressional Progressive Caucus

The Mock Hearing on April 26 was jointly organized by the Center for Universal Education led by Gene Sperling and the International Center on Child Labor and Education (ICCLE), Washington, D.C, the North American advocacy office of the Global March Against Child labor.

ICCLE also mobilized former child laborers turned activists from India, Mexico and Columbia. There were two children from India: Samsur, 12-year-old former rag picker, and Puran, 14-year-old former bonded child laborer who used to work in stone mining. These children came through Save the Childhood Foundation, India. Another two children came through the national coordinator of the Global March Against Child labor from Columbia, Mundo Mejor Foundation led by Miriam Ines Gomez Gonzalez. These children were Carime, a 14-year-old girl who worked for many years as a child domestic worker, selling and lifting loads on the streets of  Cali, Columbia, and Leidy, a 16-year-old girl who used to do domestic work and sell tortillas on the street. Aly, 16, from Mexico worked as baby sitter and messenger.

The children testified at the mock hearing and shared their life, experiences, and aspirations and brought the messages from all the children globally out of school. Those present on the occasion were  Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (D- NY), Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), and Congressman Spencer Bachus (R-AL).

The mock hearing was sponsored by Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NA), Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Representative Jim Kolbe (R-AR), Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY), and Representative Spencer Bachus (R-AL). During the hearing 15 students from US High Schools all over United States mobilized by CARE, Global Kids and Net Aid made the case for Education for All. These children took the pledge with Senator Harkin (D-IA) to remain in the forefront of the fight for children's rights in the years to come. Those present on the occasion included various policy institutions
from Washington, D.C., and Kailash Satyarthi, Chair, GCE and President, Global March Against Child Labor and Gene Sperling, Coordinator, US Chapter of the GCE.

Congressman Bachus (R-AL) shared his concern that the US, being the largest economy in the world, has not made increased commitments yet to EFA, though UK Secretary of Treasury has made a commitment of GBP 15 billion, averaging
GBP 1.5 billion every year over the next ten years. Bachus said that he would do every thing possible to match this and that the ironyis that UK economy is one-sixth the size of the US.

Senator Harkin (D-IA) mentioned that more is required from the United States to ensure that all the children are in schools, and that we need to ensure that children are withdrawn from work in order to create the necessary pre- conditions for them to attend full-time school.

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) promised that they would do everything possible to ensure that all children are in schools and that they would continue to work for the enhancement of education funding from the United States.

Meeting with Congressional Progressive Caucus

At the end of the mock hearing, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) took the children with her to Capitol Hill, accompanied by her staff officers for a meeting with the 67-member strong Congressional Progressive Caucus, which she co-chairs with the Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA). The child laborers addressed the members and legislative staff of the offices of the members of the Progressive Caucus.

Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey committed to focus not only on women's issues, but also on ensuring that all the children are in school. Woolsey said candidly that she was focusing her efforts on the education of girls and thinks that it is important to work for ensuring that all the children are able to receive good quality education. She agreed that it is extremely important that United States Government lends its full support for Education for All by 2015 and substantially increase the aid for education within the framework of a global compact. The children were then taken for a view of Capitol Hill and also watched the House proceedings

Day 4:  Child Laborers knock on the doors of members of the US House and Senate and the World Bank

The children called on the legislative staff from the offices of Arlen Specter (R-PA), Chair, Judiciary Committee and Member of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL), member of Foreign Relations Committee, Chuck Hagel (R-NA), member of Foreign Relations Committee, and Edward Kennedy (D-MA). At the end of the visit to  Washington, D.C., the children and Mr. Satyarthi addressed various staff members from the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP). This committee is chaired by Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyoming) and the Ranking member is Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA). This meeting was sponsored by the office of Senator Edward Kennedy.

Interface with Executive Board, The World Bank

On Thursday, April 27, the children were hosted by the German Executive Director, The World Bank, Mr. Eckhard Deutsche and the Indian Executive Director Mr. Dheerendra Kumar together with the Social Protection Unit and the Education Unit from the World Bank. The meeting was chaired by German Executive Director Eckhard Deutsche and co-chaired by the Indian Executive Director Mr. Dheerendra Kumar. This meeting was primarily an interface with the Bank Executive Directors and their advisors, and the staff officers drawn from Fast Track Initiative, Education and Social Protection units of the World Bank. The children also met the Senior Vice President of The World Bank Mr. Jamil Salmi.

Puran was then interviewed by BBC World Service from their studios in Washington, D.C.

Day 5: UNICEF and UNDP
On Friday, April 28, the children went to New York to call on UNICEF Executive Director Anne Veneman and Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah. Also present on the occasion were Balagopal Gopalan, Advisor, Child Protection and Dina Craissati from the Education Unit.

Accompanied by GCE Chair Kailash Satyarthi and the Executive Director of ICCLE Dr. Sudhanshu Joshi, the children then called on Mr. Ad Melkert, Associate Administrator and Under Secretary General of UNDP at his office. Mr. Satyarthi shared the update on the Global Task Force on Child labor and Education and informed Mr. Melkert of the critical need for embedding child labor elimination into the PRSPs led by UNDP and looking at the cross-cutting issues of child labor, poverty alleviation, education, girls' education and women's empowerment holistically in order to achieve the MDGs. Ignoring the linkages is a practical and fundamental flaw in the achievment of the MDGs. Mr. Satyarthi encouraged the UNDP to take the lead in this direction as a necessary imperative.
 
 
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