June 12th is the 16th World Day Against Child Labour. Created to highlight the plight of the approximately 212 million child workers around the world, and, although the ultimate goal remains the elimination of child labour, the focus this year is on improving the safety and health of young workers.
Child workers are more likely to suffer harm at work. The fact that they are smaller, weaker and have less work experience increases the risks of them suffering a work-related injury, and their youth and lack of status mean that they are more likely to be abused and exploited, and unlikely to voice their worries in dangerous situations.
In order to prevent harm coming to more child labourers, employers, workers organisations, governments and civil society must all work together to eliminate child labour whilst improving working conditions for those children who are currently working and for those children who will eventually enter the workforce as adults.
This work is especially important in Nepal, where around 40% of children are involved in child labour. This is extremely high (the average for the region in 7%), and made even more troubling by the fact that half of these children are in exploitative work and 1 in 5 (over 600,000 children) are in the worst kinds of labour, which includes hazardous labour and situations of extreme abuse such as child sexual exploitation and child slavery. (ILO, 2018)
Kidasha has been working to end child labour in Pokhara, Nepal for almost 20 years. Over the last five years, we have helped to reduce the number of child labourers under 14 years of age by 73%. Our priority is always to remove children from work, especially in the case of the worst forms of labour, children suffering from abuse and any child under 14 years old. Unfortunately, there are some children who are in safe working environments who are unable to stop work, either because they are working off their parents’ debt or because their families are so poor that their life at home would be worse than the work they are doing.
We encounter these children on our workplace monitoring visits and after ascertaining that removal is not the best option, we work with them and their employer to improve their working conditions. We make sure that they get fair working conditions: limited work hours, regular breaks, fair pay and training, that also keep them safe. We work with employers and business associations to implement and enforce new standards for child labourers, and also deliver health and safety training.
With the young people, mainly adolescents, who remain in work, we deliver our services, such as skills and behavioural development sessions, and functional learning classes in the workplace. We also provide them with technical top-up courses so they can develop work skills so they can perform their jobs better and more safely.
The children we work with really appreciate the benefits of this approach. Like Rahul, 13, who was happy to be working and earning money rather than be a burden to his family. And is now very happy that he can learn to read, write and do maths, whilst also developing work skills and earning more money in better conditions. Rahul is ambitious and bright, and can now see a future in which he has a good job and earns a decent wage.
The employers are also very happy with the improvements they see in the children after our training and this has demonstrated to them that better training and theoretical understanding will make these young people better workers who are worth more money.
The employers are also very happy with the health and safety training we have delivered,
The workplace safety training we received was extremely practical and useful for the safety of all our employees. This training should ideally have been organised by our trade association but we had never realised its importance. In future, I hope that we will be able to organise training together.
Working directly in workplaces and with employers, we have improved the working conditions of 851 working children and adolescents in the last year and protected them from abuse and exploitation. But there is a lot more work to be done if we are to eliminate hazardous child labour so that all children are free to realise their right to an education and a real childhood.
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