Global March Against Child Labour: From Exploitation to Education
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The Interview with Mr. Dragi Zmijanac M.Sc Newspaper Agency FOCUS, Bulgaria 25 september 2008 Journalist, Suncica Stojanovska
 

First Children’s Embassy in the World is celebrating its 14th birthday

1. Mr. Zmijanac, the Government of the Republic of Macedonia through certain ministries begun to realize action that will take care of the children begging in the streets. How do you evaluate this action? 

The First Children's Embassy in the World understands the need of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia through the Ministry of Labour and Social affairs and the Ministry of Internal Affairs to deal with the abuse of the child labour including begging as societal and social problem with which the wealthiest countries are dealing also. The state has obliged with the ratification of the Convention to Stop the worst forms of child labour abuse to engage in fulfillment of the accepted obligations prescribed with the Convention.  We, as the First Children's Embassy simply wanted and had to point out that the temporary retrieval of the street children and their accommodation in the Daycare centers is with temporary character. Those children after 4 pm are on the streets again and left by themselves. 

The embassy for this long decade problem seeks more serious and bigger efforts from the institutions in dealing with it.  If the families that abuse their children and their labour are not secured only by one employment, roof over their heads and inclusion of the children in the elementary school, these street children will be still victims of the poverty and illiteracy. We asked that for every child on the street to have secured a warm meal, shoes, clothes and school books and props. We recommended to the Ministry for labour and social policy to make more serious efforts so that the youngest children on the streets to involve them into the pre-elementary school centers.  

 2. Will this decrease the begging on the streets? 

 When these children will have a roof over their heads, when their parents will manage with minimal finances that have earn by them and when their children will attend school instead of the streets, the problem of the abuse of the children labour maybe will not disappear but definitely will decrease. If the children from the streets are involved into the school practices they will develop other habits and needs. The will and should fulfill the school obligations. If we insure them a roof over their head and one employment per family than we will have a mechanism that will take these benefits from the families that will put their children on the streets again. The certain monthly income and the roof over their heads for the start is promising a success. 

3. How much the Daycare Center settlement will solve the problem with the children of the street?

The Daycare Centers are with temporary character. They mean a lot for the children. Here they learn the basic hygienic habits, there they take a bath, they are provided with warm meal, they literate themselves, are evidenced in the Register of the book of births, they are vaccinated and receive a free health care. Of course, here they are encouraged to pursue the elementary school education. But, after leaving the Daycare center in 4 pm, they again join the streets and are facing with the existential needs and requests from their parents so they have to work, collect second-hand materials, selling or begging. So, the Daycare centers are not the solution for the problem with the children on the street.  

 4. How is the situation with the exploitation of the children labour and with the sexual abuse of the minors? 

The children of the streets are children excluded from the education. In Macedonia they are 18.500 children that are not attending the obliged elementary education that is guaranteed with the Constitution and the Convention for human rights. Over 2000 children everyday are on the streets crossroads with open hands and norm of earning. That offends the basic children rights that are right for healthy and dignified life, right for education, right for health care and warm home.  A lot of these children are victims of prostitution, children trafficking, distribution and usage of drugs, sexual abuse. We had cases when the parents were selling their children to other adults for sexual services. 

5. According the information of the Firs Children's Embassy in the World-Megjashi, how many children are left without parental care?

 In Macedonia, over 2000 children spend their day on the street under the clear sky in abnormal conditions. 30 % from them are children without parents or parental care.

 The children on the street in Republic of Macedonia are part of every age and nationalities, but the biggest population - 58%, are the Roma people. We are also concerned by the fact that 15,5 % of these children are in pre-elementary age, 64% are in the age of 7-14 years, 88,5% manifest socially unexpected behavior, and 11,5 % have tolerant social behavior (according the  Office for social affairs in Skopje). 

 The abuse of the children labour means work performed by children that are under the age prescribed by the law. We accent here that the abuse of the children labour do not means only physical work, but also commercial sexual abuse (child prostitution and pornography), children trafficking, children solders.
 
6. Your Embassy  for a long time is following the problem with children on the street. Do you have any suggestions how we can solve this problem in a long range? 

The right of the children on the street to educate themselves is the natural right of every human being. This especially has a meaning for the children regarding their presence and future.

If the state provides obligatory, free and per se quality education for every child in Macedonia it will break the vicious circle of illiteracy and poverty. Maybe this is the answer how we can deal with the children exploitation and abuse.  
 
7. If we compare how the children rights are respected (for example in the period of 10 years), when this rights were in the biggest range broken or abused? 

It is difficult to answer this question. Braking of the children rights has its continuity and is from different character. Sometimes, when we are overflowed with cases of pedophilia, we think that this is the period when the most abuses are done.  We have 5% of the total number of the children that are not going to school, also the family violence and the school violence is increasing. We have to have in mind, that for the children rights we used not to talk now the media, constantly inform about this kind of cases. We also have a civil sector, because the adults (sometimes the children too) are empowered to register the violence.  That is why we think that now we have a bigger abuse of children rights than before.  

 8. Does the State respect the Conventions in this area? 

 The Convention of the children rights is a frame of the minimal standards that every country has to respect. Child is every human being that did not reached 18 years and it is not equal and legal person as the adults.  The adults are obliged in every moment to provide support so the children in full can practice their rights. In 2000, the Committee of the children rights of the UN has greeted Macedonia for the accomplished results in decreasing the mortality of the born children in the last years and the success regarding the protection of the children refugees. The same Committee pointed to a several concerning themes for which our State should provide more attention than the last 8 years. It was strictly pointed on the Constitution and other legal acts that were broth before the Convention for the Children rights took place, that they do not reflect in full the principles of the Convention for the children rights and that the principles of this Convention are not implemented in the political and administrative practice. After that it was pointed that there is no mechanism responsible for coordination and assessment of the implementation of the Convention. In that direction a governmental Commission of the children rights was formed, but its activities are consisted only of some 

The First Children Embassy in the World-Megjashi for several years points to the fact that over 18.500 children in Macedonia has endangered their elementary right: the right on education. Beside that, till now there were not taken measures so these children can be included in the elementary education. We have pointed to several problems in accomplishing the children rights, in various forms, but very rarely there are some activities implemented for requisitioning of the state institutions and organizing an adequate measures and responsibility.   There are some exceptions, for example before several moths children by the age of 14 were imprisoned by the policy in a police wan and police station, without consent and agreement of their parents.  There were legal measures recalled for the responsible from this Ministry for this arrest and they confessed that the procedures for arrest were broken. We have collaboration with this Ministry in the trainings for the policy officers about how to deal with a child victim or witness of sexual abuse. The Ministry of internal affairs and the Ministry of justice supported the publishing of the book "I am going to court" aimed to policemen and judges. 

9. How much Macedonia pay attention to protection of the children rights according to other countries?   

It depends how we look over the things. If for example, we begin with a legislative, the institutions, the changes of the laws, conventions, than logically we will say that yes, there is a improvement in respecting the children rights. It is important that Macedonia before 10 years get Ombudsman for children rights, even though we wanted a Ombudsman only for children. In 2001, the Convention of the international community for the worst forms of child labour and The Recommendation for immediate stop of the abuse of the children labour was ratified by Macedonia.  In 2005 the National plan for action for the children rights in the Republic of Macedonia for 2006-2015 was developed. There were some adding and changes of the legislation frame regarding children protection, but generally we are most worried that all this changes are practically very little implemented in the way that is the most desirable. That happens for a several reasons, for example some of the law changes were made without previously consulting the conditions for their implementation, that usually means deficit of human or technical support of the state institutions that should implement this law in practice, not well and sufficiently educated people, isolated acting and lack of collaboration and coordination on several levels as inadequate implementation, for example like this last action of the Ministry of Internal Affairs regarding begging, where the action should have been led by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and the Ministry of internal affairs can be included as a supporting ministry in realization of some aspects.  

Sadly, the condition of the children rights in the neighborhood countries it is not so different also. Bulgaria do not have Ombudsman, but opened a State agency for protection of the children rights. Serbia just get the Ombudsman. In Albania the situation is difficult, because they have around 200.000 that are not attending school. The poverty is difficult problem and minimizes the efforts in realizing of the children rights in all neighborhood countries (with acceptation to Greece). 

 How much one country dedicates attention to the children rights depends of all her citizens, from the all institutions, nongovernmental organizations, media and social corporative sector. Macedonia can do much more with its kids! We need more attention toward children and strategic actions for solving the bitter questions that will not solve through night, but if we approach them comprehensively they will for sure have an impact. 
 
10. What are the results from the SOS phone for children and youth line 0800 1222 in the Embassy of Megjashi? Are children encourages to seek for help? 

 The free SOS phone for children and young 0800 1 2222 is first phone in Macedonia that constantly functions from 1993 in the frame of the First Children's Embassy in the World Megjashi.

There are several reasons why children and parents are calling on the free SOS phone. The children are the most marginalized groups in the society, with small opportunities for informing, support and help when they need it. The free 0800 1 2222  for children and young gives opportunity to the children and young people i order to get help, advice, and conversation for their actual problems in this transitional time when the adults have less time for conversation with their kids. 

For the period of 1993 till 2007 from the SOS phone for children and young people in the Embassy  Megjashi we have received over 17.000 call regarding the problems with violence (physical, sexual and psychological), problems with the family, friends, love problems, personal problems and others.

At the beginning of this 2008 till now, on the SOS phone we have registered over 150 calls from children and young as from parents, teachers, neighbors, etc..повици од деца и малди како и родители,наставници, соседи итн....

According the previous data, we can conclude that the SOS telephone for children and young people has very big importance for the children and young people in Macedonia.

Through constant reactions, requests and public calls that Children's embassy is sending to the institutions through the media, we constantly encourage children and parents to speak for their problem, because maybe only one telephone call divide them from the help and support.

11. What are the future activities of the First Children's Embassy in the World Megjashi?
 
The embassy in the following period will continue to work intensively in the field of children labour, will fights against sexual abuse of the children and the pedophilia. We prepare a guide for prevention and protection of the children-victims of pedophilia.  My associate and spouse Ms. Gordana Pirkovska Zmijanac as the national coordinator of the Global march against the abuse of the children labour just came back from Sofia where she participated on the Pan-European Magreb Conference, Conference of the Global March against children labour, realized from 16-18 of September. That was a historical conference because there was formed new organization of the Global March against children labour, with center in Brussels. This opens the doors to a new and more efficient approach to salvation of the problem with children labour in the region. In Sofia, a Committee of the new organization was selected consisted of the members of the Balkan region in which Emilija Baceva from Bulgaria and Gordana Pirkovska Zmijanac were selected. 

For sure we are continuing with the activities for stopping of the worst forms of abuse of children labour. Every year we are including on the world level in the Global Campaign for education with aim to increase the early child care for education, to provide free and obligatory education for all the children, do increase the literacy and to increase the quality of the education. The fact that in the world there are 73 millions of children and 800 millions of adults with the benefits of the education is disastrous for the all governments in the world. The Education for all is a basic value that provides certainty that people from all ages has the opportunity to develop their personal capabilities in full. Our SOS phone for children and young people 0800 12222 will be further open for conversations and admission of every forms of violence, we will be available through our free juridical service for appreciating the rights of the children and we will continue to care for the children that are accommodates of our Daycare center for street children.   

 Mr. Dragi Zmijanac M.Sc.
Founder and Executive Director of the
First Children's Embassy in the World-Megjashi

 
   
 
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The Global March Against Child Labour is a movement to mobilise worldwide efforts to protect and promote the rights of all children, especially the right to receive a free, meaningful education and to be free from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be harmful to the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.