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Campaigning to End Child Labor

Today, June 12, human rights groups around the world are observing the World Day Against Child Labor. They hope that by raising awareness of the prevalence and devastating impact of child labor on children and on societies they can begin to make a dent in the problem. Stigmatizing child labor creates the kind of pressure that recently prompted the organizers of the Beijing Olympics to cancel contracts with Chinese companies for using child labor.

Child WorkingThe chairperson of the Global March Against Child Labour, Kailash Satyarthi, said in a press release on June 11:

It is unethical to eat delicious food and wear expensive clothes which are produced by half fed, half naked and even enslaved children trapped in agriculture world-wide.

Heavy stuff. The causes of child labor are simple, mainly poverty. Yet eradicating the use of children as laborers is a complex task, involving economic, cultural and other strategies. But as grim as the facts are—for instance, one in every eight children 5 to 17 years old works in the worst forms of child labor—there’s reason for hope. Corporations are increasingly sensitive to their customers finding out they use child labor. Recent surveys show a decline in the global number of child laborers. And there are more organizations and campaigns to advocate for these children and run programs to help them.

One of these programs is run by a social entrepreneur in India previously profiled on PBS who created an innovative model for increasing poor children’s access to education. Groups like UNICEF have long argued that education is “a powerful means of preventing child labour.” Because homeless children are among the most vulnerable to being exploited, Inderjit Khurana set up schools in Bhubhaneshwar, a city in the northeast, on the railway platforms where these children congregate. Khurana founded the Ruchika Social Service Organization in 1985 to bring schools to the children. Watch a short clip of a video narrated by Robert Redford about Khurana’s groundbreaking work with children here.
Or check out a series of photographs of the train platform students here.

Besides learning about child labor, we can each take concrete steps to stop it by removing ourselves from the marketplace for goods produced with child labor. Coop America has created a list of products that are fairly traded, cooperatively produced, or produced in a unionized factory.

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There are so many pressing human needs - it is hard to prioritise them. We need to combat HIV and other epidemic diseases, as well as terrorism, drug trafficking, and military conflicts. We need clean water, sanitation, health care and immunisations, and adequate nutrition - not to mention environmental protection and
an adequate standard of living. The list goes on and is daunting. But, we ought to think of not only how many human rights issues are linked to child labour, but how many of these issues can be
addressed by redirecting millions child labourers to school - for example, HIV education, immunisations, nutrition, etc. Quality education can make an important contribution to a culture of global tolerance and world peace and security.

07 July 2007 (07.07.07) marks the midway to the international community’s commitments for creating a better world for its citizens. What have we achieved is the BIG QUESTION now.

Points of Concern

The first MDG target – to get as many girls as boys into primary and secondary school by 2005 – was missed in over 90 countries. In countries such as Niger and Burkina Faso, only one in three girls go to school at all.

In 2006, failure to reach the 2005 MDG gender-parity target will result in over 1 million unnecessary child and maternal deaths. Educated women have greater knowledge about health issues and greater bargaining power in the household, which has a positive impact on their own health and that of their children.

HIV/AIDS infection rates double among young people who do not finish primary school. If every girl and boy received a complete primary education, at least seven million new cases of HIV could be prevented in a decade.

In many countries, school fees are a major barrier that prevents children – especially girls – from going to school. When school fees were abolished in Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya, seven million additional children – many of them girls –- entered school in these three countries alone.

Well-trained and well-supported teachers are essential to providing good-quality education for girls and boys. However, there is currently a global shortage of two million teachers, and at least 15 million new teachers will be needed between now and 2015 in order to achieve education for all.
Globally, an extra $7-17 billion per year is still needed to enable all girls and boys to receive a quality primary education.

We want to know what you think about this issue

Which MDG do you believe is the most achievable of all?

Can we achieve education for all in 20015?
If no what should be the change is strategy?

sign the petition so that we all can remind the political leaders of the commitments that they have made.
log on to www.globalmarch.org to know more

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