Global March against Child Labour
by Timothy James Noonan
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions
Slavery may have been eradicated on paper but in reality it remains a global phenomenon.
August 15th 2000, in a secret raid Kailash Satyarthi, the Chairperson of the South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude (SACCS), rescued nine persons from bondage in villages of Eastern Uttar Pradesh. They all hail from Bihar. Most of them are no longer children and are unaware of what childhood means. Some suffer from anaemia, night blindness and tuberculosis. One of the rescued, Badri had been sold to a carpet loom in Sarai Pitha by the middlemen 13 years ago, and he was made to work for over 16 hours a day. He was only 10 then. Although Badri is now a free man, he is not free from the adverse consequences of being in bondage for over a decade. Now, at the age of 23, he is in a very poor physical state. His visibility at night is poor and he is afflicted by tuberculosis.
This is not the end of Badris misery. SACCS activists contacted his family only to find out that his child bride, losing hope of his return, left him to marry someone else. Badri also discovered his two younger brothers, 13 year old Roudhi and 12 year old Nande, were also lured into bondage by the middlemen promising a bright future and a meeting with their brother. Badri with a touch of sadness told SACCS activists that - We came here empty handed and are now returning home empty handed, with nothing to look forward to.
Kailash Satyarthi expressed that as a symbol of affluent living - Carpets - are being exported to various countries defying all the laws of those countries and sacrificing the childhood of millions of children in South Asia. These children took to work hoping for a better life, but their hopes have been shattered. They have a lost childhood and a marred future. Another rescued bonded child labourer, Nandkishore, 14 years old, said - That after being locked up for over five years, we are totally unaware of the outside world.
Mr. Satyarthi feels that despite all the national and international pressure on the carpet industry there has been no discernible change. He lamented the fact that the issue of identification, rescue, rehabilitation of child labourers is on the back burner. He also said that though some children are identified and rescued, there is no long-term policy either by the state or central government. SACCS estimates that there are at least 60 million child labourers in South Asia alone, a large portion of whom are employed in the carpet industry.
OFFICIALS TURN BLIND EYE TO CHILD TRAFFICKING
Phnom Penh August 2000: According to the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) and Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) trafficking in children for sexual purposes is booming, because of the lack of law enforcement and the culture of impunity. LICADHO and ADHOC said that there were people in the police, judiciary and military making substantial profits from the trade, which is regularly supplied with children from financially desperate parents.
Dr Kek Galabru, the President of LICADHO, said that though safeguards for children were built into the Cambodian constitution, in practice, abused children were being ignored by the legal system and stigmatised by society. A police official from the Ministry of Interior acknowledged that the trafficking in children for sexual purposes is a serious problem and said little was being done to stop it. Lim Mony, the Head of the Women Section of ADHOC points at a noticeable drop in the starting age of prostitutes, with pre-teen sex workers becoming more common.
Sun Vanna, chief of the bureau for prevention of trafficking, from the Ministry of Women and Veterans Affairs, said the exact number of sexually exploited children is hard to discover due to the clandestine nature of the industry. She quoted studies by the Human Rights Commission in 1996-1997 which estimated nearly 15,000 women were involved in the sex industry. Not only was trafficking in Cambodian children for sexual purposes getting worse locally, it had now become an international business, with children being sent to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan.
These are just two stories of the over 250 million child labourers being exploited for profit or are forced to work in order just to survive. Whole generations of children are being deprived of the chance to take their rightful place in the society and economy of the 21st Century. If recruitment of new child workers were to end today, child labour would disappear in a decade.
We cannot afford to turn our backs on child labourers. We must listen to them and help them, so we can help build a better world. Governments, consumers, employers, trade unions, non-government organisations, religious groups, teachers, students and the general public, working together, can end the scourge of child labour.
The Global March Against Child Labour is a movement borne out of hope and the need felt by millions of people across the globe - the desire to set children free from servitude. The Global March movement began with a worldwide march when hundreds of thousands of people marched together to jointly put forth the message against child labour. The march, which started on January 17, 1998, touched every corner of the globe, built immense awareness and led to high level of participation from the worlds peoples. This march finally culminated at the International Labour Organisations (ILO) Conference in Geneva. The voices of the marchers were heard and were reflected in the draft of the ILO Convention against the worst forms of child labour.
The following year the Convention was unanimously adopted at the ILO Conference in Geneva. The movement has published a report on the worst forms of child labour around the world, which states the situation a year after the time the Convention was adopted unanimously.
The Global March movement is involved in assessing and lobbying for the ratification and implementation of the Convention. The dedicated partners of the Global March movement form an effective network around the world. Acting as vigilant observers and lobbying with governments in their region, they form the backbone of the movement.
The Global March International Secretariat is located in New Delhi, India. The Global March movement has now begun a crusade to make education available for all - The Global Campaign for Education, a worldwide movement aimed at education for all, at the earliest possible time. The Global March movement has joined hands with partner associations like Education International, Oxfam International and ActionAid. The campaign soon saw more partner organisation joining in the cause. The new partners are World Vision, Social Alert, World Confederation of Teachers, Save the Children Fund UK and Public Services International (PSI).
Please visit the Global March Against Child Labour web-site and find out more about actions being taken round the world to end the worst forms of child labour.
For further background information and links on childrens rights, refer to ILO Convention 138 concerning child labour and the new ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. International Labour Organisation (ILO) http://www.ilo.org
With kind regards and best wishes,
Head of Campaigns and Education, International Confederation of Free Trade Unions http://www.icftu.org.
Submitted at 8:13pm 11th Jan, 1999
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