Tuesday, June 12

Child Labour and Agriculture (12 June 2007)

"Child labor (or child labour) is the employment of children under an age determined by law or custom. This practice is considered exploitative by many countries and international organizations. Child labor was not seen as a problem throughout most of history, only becoming a disputed issue with the beginning of universal schooling and the concepts of laborers and children's rights." (Wikipedia, 2007)

From Human Rights Education Associates (HREA): Each year the World Day Against Child Labour has often focused on one of the “Worst Forms of Child labour” listed in Convention No.182, starting with the Unconditional Worst Forms, such as child trafficking. This was then followed by child domestic work and then child labour in mining last year. The event is aimed at mobilizing people around the world against child labour and its worst forms, reflecting local cultures and customs, while encouraging the participation of authorities, the media, civil society and the public at large.

FROM International Labour Organization (ILO):

Hundreds of millions of girls and boys throughout the world are engaged in work that deprives them of adequate education, health, leisure and basic freedoms, violating their rights. Of these children, more than half are exposed to the worst forms of child labour such as work in hazardous environments, slavery, or other forms of forced labour, illicit activities such as drug trafficking and prostitution, as well as involvement in armed conflict.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) launched the first World Day Against Child Labour in 2002 as a way to highlight the plight of these children. The day, which is observed on June 12th, is intended to serve as a catalyst for the growing worldwide movement against child labour, reflected in the huge number of ratifications of ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour and ILOConvention No. 138 on the minimum age for employment.

The World Day Against Child Labour provides and opportunity to gain further support of individual governments and that of the ILO social partners, civil society and others, including schools, youth and women's groups as well as the media, in the campaign against child labour.

This year on 12 June, World Day Against Child Labour focuses on the elimination of child labour in agriculture. Worldwide, agriculture is the sector where the largest percentage of working children is found - nearly 70 percent. Over 132 million girls and boys aged 5 to 14 years old often work from sun up to sun down on farms and plantations, planting and harvesting crops, spraying pesticides, and tending livestock.

Child labour, according to International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions, is work that harms children's well-being and hinders their education, development and future livelihoods. When children have to work long hours in the fields, their ability to attend school or skills training is limited, preventing them from gaining education that could help lift them out of poverty in the future. Girls are particularly disadvantaged as they often undertake household chores following work in the fields. Moreover, agriculture is one of the three most dangerous occupations to work in along with mining and construction, in terms of fatalities, accidents and ill health.

However, not all work that children undertake in agriculture is bad for them. or would qualify as work to be eliminated under the ILO Minimum Age Convention No. 138 or the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention No. 182. Tasks appropriate to a child's age and that do not interfere with a child's schooling and leisure time can be a normal part of growing up in a rural environment. Indeed, many types of work experience for children can be positive, providing them with practical and social skills for work as adults. Improved self-confidence, self-esteem and work skills are attributes often found in young people engaged in some aspects of farm work.

The ILO, especially through its International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), is now working with international agricultural organizations on the elimination of child labour in agriculture, especially hazardous child labour. These organisations are currently the:

    • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO);
    • International Fund on Agricultural Development (IFAD);
    • International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR);
    • International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP) representing farmers/employers and their organisations;
    • International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) representing workers and their organizations.
These international organizations represent an important conduit to the national level because of their close contacts with national ministries or departments of agriculture, agricultural extension services, farmers' organizations and cooperatives, agricultural producer organizations, agricultural research bodies and so on.

This new partnership strengthens the global movement for the elimination of child labour and will have a real impact on the ground.

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