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Global Civil Society Statement on Child Labour in Cocoa, June 12th, 2021

Today, June 12th, is the International Day against Child Labour. On this day, as a large group of civil society organisations working on human rights in the cocoa sector across the world, we urgently call on chocolate & cocoa companies and governments to start living up to decades-old promises. The cocoa sector must come with ambitious plans to develop transparent and accountable solutions for current and future generations of children in cocoa communities.

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the chocolate industry’s promise to end child labour in the cocoa sector of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, a commitment they made under the 2001 Harkin-Engel Protocol and renewed again with the 2010 Framework of Action. Furthermore, it is the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.

This year should have been a landmark in the fight against child labour in cocoa. Instead, the cocoa sector as a whole has been conspicuously quiet on this topic.

Child labour is still a reality on West African cocoa farms, and there is strong evidence that forced labour continues in the sector as well. Recent reports – such as Ghana’s GLSS 7 survey and the study of the University of Chicago commissioned by the United States government – show that close to 1.5 million children are engaged in hazardous or age-inappropriate work on cocoa farms in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. The vast majority of these child labourers are exposed to the worst forms of child labour, such as carrying heavy loads, working with dangerous tools, and increasing exposure to harmful agrochemicals.

After two decades of rhetoric, voluntary initiatives, and pilot projects, it is clearer than ever that ambitious, sector-wide action is needed, coupled with binding regulations, to address both child labour and the poverty that lies at its root.

These solutions must include regulations for mandatory human rights due diligence for companies operating in all major cocoa consuming countries, including avenues for legal remedy in those companies’ home countries. We note with interest the developments around regulations in the EU, although the announced delays are concerning. We also observe that the United States – the world’s number one cocoa consuming country – is particularly lagging in regulatory developments on this issue.

The industry, however, cannot use a lack of regulation as an excuse not to shoulder their own responsibility. As such, every chocolate and cocoa company should have a system in place that monitors and remediates child labour in all of their value chains with a child labour risk. The impact of these systems must be communicated publicly and transparently in a way that enables meaningful participation and access to remedy for workers and their representatives.

In parallel, effective partnerships between producer and consumer countries are needed to work on the necessary enabling environment. These must be developed in a much more inclusive manner than previous attempts, bringing in civil society organisations, independent trade unions, local communities, and farmer representatives. Adequate resources must be provided to enable these local actors to participate as equals in the development and implementation of solutions.

Child labour can only be effectively tackled if its root causes are also adequately addressed. As such, the cocoa sector must ensure that child labour approaches are deeply embedded into realistic and ambitious strategies to achieve a living income for all cocoa households. Such strategies must include the payment of fair and just remuneration at the farm gate; prices need to be sufficient to provide a living income. There are clear calculations available for Living Income Reference Prices, which are not even close to being met.

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Ending the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers

By Katarzyna Rybarczyk

Katarzyna Rybarczyk

Around the world children as young as ten years old fight in armed conflicts. According to the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 1999, recruiting children as soldiers is one of the worst forms of child labour. Despite the practice representing a horrendous violation of their fundamental rights, however, currently, more than 300,000 children are members of armed groups and forces.

After being recruited by abduction or coercion, children are terrorised into obedience and deployed in direct combat, or assigned support and logistical roles. The recruitment of children under eighteen is forbidden by international law, but regardless the crime thrives in several regions of the world ravaged by war.

The UN’s Children and armed conflict report, released in June 2019, identified twenty countries where cases of child recruitment as soldiers have been verified. The report named the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, the Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen as the states where the problem is the most serious. Amongst them, the highest number of conscripted children could be observed in Somalia with 2,300 child soldiers, followed by Nigeria with 1,947 of them.

Methods of Recruitment

In countries where law enforcement is poor and the political situation unstable, children are vulnerable to forced recruitment. The majority of child soldiers is recruited by non-state extremist groups, which deceive the youth by showing them false images of prosperity and happiness within the organisations’ ranks. These groups specifically target and indoctrinate children because they are easy to manipulate and control.

In societies where children are being recruited as soldiers, they and their families often live in poverty. Lured by the promises of good salaries in militant groups, children volunteer to join to help their loved ones. On top of that, tired of living in conflict zones, children sometimes think that joining armed groups will provide them with shelter, protection and safety. Often, they become child soldiers to escape maltreatment at home or abuses by state’s forces.

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Keeping Teens Safe at Work — Tips for Parents, Employers, and Teens”

Tips for parents, employers, and teens:

While work plays an important role in the development of teenagers, teens and parents should carefully think about prospective jobs that teens are considering and assess possible workplace dangers that those jobs might possess.

Tips for teen workers

NCL urges teens to say “no” to jobs that involve:

  • Door-to-door sales, especially out of the youth’s neighborhood;
  • Long-distance traveling away from parental supervision;
  • Extensive driving or being driven;
  • Driving forklifts, tractors, and other potentially dangerous vehicles;
  • The use of dangerous machinery;
  • The use of chemicals;
  • Working in grain storage facilities; and
  • Work on ladders or work that involves heights where there is a risk of falling.

Know the legal limits
To protect young workers like you, state and federal laws limit the hours you can work and the kinds of work you can do. For state and federal child labor laws, visit Youth Rules.

Play it safe
Always follow safety training. Working safely and carefully may slow you down, but ignoring safe work procedures is a fast track to injury. There are hazards in every workplace and recognizing and dealing with them correctly may save your life.

Ask questions
Ask for workplace training—like how to deal with irate customers or how to perform a new task or use a new machine. Tell your supervisor, parent, or other adult if you feel threatened, harassed, or endangered at work.

Make sure the job fits
If you can only work certain days or hours, if you don’t want to work alone, or if there are certain tasks you don’t want to perform, make sure your employer understands and agrees before you accept the job.… Read the rest

We Remember Iqbal Masih’s Life

Iqbal2

 

By Timothy Ryan

[Tim Ryan of the Solidarity Center is a CLC member, who wrote this piece on  May 3, 1995 for The Christian Science Monitor. Iqbal Masih was murdered on April 16, 1995]

Anyone who knew Iqbal Masih, the 12-year-old boy recently assassinated in Lahore, Pakistan, by someone believed to be a feudal landlord and carpet manufacturer, was struck by his brilliance.

I don’t simply mean his intellectual abilities, though once rescued from slavery at a carpet loom this young activist demonstrated a tremendous aptitude for learning. He went through five years of school curriculum in three. Although malnutrition and abuse left him, at the age of 12, physically smaller and more frail than my nine-year-old daughter, it was clear that his mind, his ambition, and his spirit burned brightly.

When I saw him last December in Karachi on his return from the United States, where he received a Reebok Human Rights Award, he was filled with the excitement of his first airplane ride, a new Instamatic camera, his visit with other schoolchildren in Boston, and the unimaginable promise that one day he might attend a university. Brandeis University had pledged to give a four-year scholarship to Iqbal when he finished his studies in Pakistan.

Then someone motivated by greed, by fear, by hatred, pulled the trigger of a shotgun and obliterated this promise.

I first met Iqbal last year through my work with the Bonded Labor Liberation Front as a representative of the AFL-CIO in South Asia.

The BLLF has worked dauntlessly for years to free thousands of bonded and child laborers, Iqbal among them. After working six years at a carpet loom, starting at the age of four, Iqbal was rescued by the BLLF when he was 10.

Iqbal’s rescue was due in no small part to his own guts. Last December he told me that one day two years ago in the village where he was enslaved as a carpet weaver, he saw BLLF posters declaring that bonded and child labor was illegal under Pakistan law and secretly contacted BLLF activists. At the risk of his own life, Iqbal led the BLLF to the carpet looms where they rescued hundreds of children, who might still be in slavery if not for his courage.

Iqbal3It seems medieval, and perhaps it is, but for years carpet manufacturers, brick kiln owners, landowners, and manufacturers of sporting goods and other products in Pakistan have maintained an unrelenting grip on bonded laborers and children. Some estimates run as high as 20 million bonded and child laborers. At least half a million children are employed in the carpet trade alone.

Because of the current tension between Islamic and Christian communities in Pakistan, some apologists want to paint the killing of Iqbal as a purely religious matter. On one level this is a mere smoke screen. But on a more complex and sinister level, there is some connection between the fact that Iqbal was Christian and the fact that he was pressed into slavery in the first place.

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