Global Agri Businesses Must Be Held Accountable on Child Labour
Global March Against Child Labour, a world wide movement of child rights group, teacher organisations and trade unions active in 140 countries calls for urgent action to stop child labour in agriculture sector. An estimated 150 million children are engaged in agriculture sector, which form 70% of the total child labour force in the world. It is not just a problem of poor countries but United States of America and other rich countries cannot be given clean chit. Agriculture is considered as a traditional source of livelihood but the hazards in this sector remain unnoticed. The uncontrolled use of harmful chemicals like pesticides, insecticides and working with agricultural machinery damage the tender organs of working children and cause accidents. This also directly affects full time education, school retention and quality learning of these children. Children being the cheapest or free labour results in adult unemployment and low wages, which further fuels poverty. This situation is worsened by absence of legal enforcement or adequate laws, inefficient schooling and health facilities. It is also not acceptable to tolerate the employment of children in agriculture as simply part of the cultural value system worldwide as no parent will allow the children to work at the cost of full time quality education as it is the only hope that offers a way forward to break the cycle of poverty. ’Child labour can and will be eradicated from agriculture and all other occupations. We have to nurture the belief that child labour can be eradicated from the world and it will be,’ said Kailash Satyarthi, Chair, Global March Against Child Labour.
Mr. Satyarthi further said “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. It is time for global agri businesses to do deeper reflection that their growth and profit margins are not built by the sweat of children and endangering childhood”. “For how long so called civilized human beings will continue consuming the earnings of their young children, which is not even practiced by animals?” he asked. He further said that,’global agri businesses must be held accountable’.
Global March Against Child Labour with its partners demands a total eradication and rehabilitation of child labour in agriculture as it restricts education, health, freedom and development of children. ILO Convention on Worst Form of Child Labour (182) and Minimum Age of Employment (138) must be ratified and genuinely enforced by following the recommendations. The civil society should be involved in planning, execution and monitoring of the National Action Plan substantiated with implementation mechanism and resources.
Governments must ensure free, compulsory and good quality of education with special focus on children working in agriculture as they happen to be the hardest to reach in Education for All. Minimum 6% of GDP must be earmarked for education including hiring and training teachers with decent wages. A comprehensive policy has to be worked out by the Governments to integrate elimination of child labour in the Education for All agenda as well as in poverty reduction strategies at country level.
Many industries like chocolate, jute, sugar, flower, silk, coffee, tea, food involve children in the production and distribution. The corporate sector and national government must ascertain the non employment of children in their production. The corporate sector has to take the responsibility of full disclosures of their production facilities and partnerships in poor countries where employment of children in agri-businesses is taking gigantic proportion.
Global March will be observing this year World Day Against Child Labour (June 12th 2007) as “ Stop Child Labour In Agriculture Day”. Through its members and partner organisations Global March Against Child Labour will be conducting rallies, demonstrations, public meetings, in many countries.
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