Starting in 2000, the International Labour Organisation, has declared a specific theme in recognition of World Day Against Child Labour. On this day, June 12, the world focuses its attention on the plight of children who are subjected to work that is harmful and even dangerous to their physical and mental well being. The thematic approach serves to highlight and raise the level of awareness about the impact of child labour, on children who are victims of forced, exploitative and illicit activity. The ILO aptly describes such work, as work which deprives children of their childhood, their potential, their dignity and their rights to an education.
This year, 2013, has been declared as the year for focused attention on “Child Labour in Domestic Work”.
The ILO Global Report 2002 identified gender as a significant factor in determining the types of work done by girls and boys – girls predominate in domestic work, and boys are heavily represented in mining and quarrying. It is estimated that of the 215 million boys and girls engaged in child labour, there is an estimated 15.5 million children engaged in paid or unpaid domestic work in the home of a third party or employer.. These children can be particularly vulnerable to exploitation and their work often hidden from view.
Additionally, some of these children become involved in domestic work before attaining the legal minimum age of employment. Some who have attained the minimum age of employment may be working in hazardous conditions and many may be working in domestic work as a result of forced labour and trafficking.
The Global Report of 2010 also indicates that, of the nearly 115 million children working in hazardous conditions and exposed to the worst forms of child labour, 1.2 million may be trafficked; 5.7 million are either forced into debt bondage or other forms of slavery, 1.8 million are forced into prostitution and/or pornography and an estimated 300 thousand may be recruited in armed conflict.
An estimated 127.3 million (19 per cent) children between the ages 5 to 14 are working in Asia and the Pacific region. In sub-Saharan Africa almost one child in three below the age of 15, approximately 48 million children, are economically active. In the Middle East and North Africa 15 per cent of the children are working. In Latin America and the Caribbean 17.4 million children are engaged in some form of child labour. Children working in mines and in the agricultural sector face higher risk of facing hazardous conditions, due to exposure to chemicals and pesticides.
The ILO Member States are committed to eliminating child labour by 2016. The Hague Conference in 2010, called for upscale and accelerated action to eliminate child labour through the inclusion of area-based and sector- based programmes for increased effectiveness and sustainability, particularly in the current global economic uncertainties.
While we in Trinidad and Tobago may have avoided the worst of child labour issues it is important for us to remain alert to ensure that the situation never degenerates to the levels in other countries. While it is expected that children should do chores and take responsibility for helping in the home we must also remember that these children are our future and they must be nurtured and protected to ensure that they grow into responsible adults and contributing citizens of the country.
To this end, it is important to ensure that children of school age do attend school, that adequate support is given to families to ensure that children do not have to assume the mantle of adulthood before they legally become an adult and that they are allowed to have a well-rounded childhood to ensure that they become well-rounded and responsible adults.
Interestingly, the International Labour Organization and its International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), in partnership with an array of renowned conductors, musicians, musicians’ organizations and music education bodies, will launch its “Music against Child Labour” Initiative in June 2013.
The “Music against Child Labour” Initiative calls on orchestras, choirs and musicians of all genres worldwide to dedicate one concert in their planned repertoire between October 2013 and December 2014 to the struggle against child labour. The first concert in the series will be on the opening day of the Third Global Conference Against Child Labour in Brasilia, on 8 October. The initiative takes its inspiration from the power of music, as a universal language, to communicate to wide audiences. It is hoped that local orchestras could follow the lead of the ILO and dedicate a concert to the struggle against child labour.
In this year of “Child Labour in Domestic Work” let us all focus on improving the lives of children who we may know or who may cross our paths to ensure that adequate support is given to ensure that they are not exploited and that where support is needed by their families that it is sourced and delivered in order to negate the need for children to have to contribute as bread-winners of the family.