Action Needed: Help Us Save the Progress on Child Labor that Has Been Made

[An important blog from CLC-member World Vision. A call to action appears further below]:

Action needed: An update from Cambodia on the fight against child labor.

We want to say thank you to our advocates. In addition to making phone calls and having meetings, you have sent over 15,000 emails to members of Congress asking that funding be restored to the International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB) for programs that help fight child labor. We are down to the eleventh hour for these programs — we now need your help to thank the champions as well as help remind key decision makers that these types of cuts will not go unnoticed. 

You are the reason Congress is still talking about theses programs, the reason these cuts have not gone unheeded. Jessica Bousquette shares from her recent trip to Cambodia, where she saw the positive effects of ILAB programs to help prevent child labor first hand. Then we share the two things you can do — in less than two minutes — to continue the fight for these programs. Your two minutes could change the life of a child.

By Jessica Bousquette

Around the houses perched on stilts, green rice shoots swayed gently in the wind and cars raced up the dirt road.  We sat on a blue tarp in a community near Siem Reap, a tourist hotspot in Cambodia famous for the World Heritage site Angkor Wat. As a toddler waddled between adults, I sat with a community group of about a dozen women and one man as they recounted how their life and their family’s lives had changed a result of being a part of a savings group.

The group has been working together for over a year to increase their savings through mutual support and accountability. With the savings, the group has been able to provide loans to members to expand their home businesses and agricultural productivity. When a member has an emergency, like an unexpected hospital visit, they can receive an emergency loan. This not only transforms their families’ access to income and nutrition, but also protects their children from hazardous labor. Oftentimes around the world, children end up working to pay off debts that arise when families cannot financially handle unexpected emergencies.

In Cambodia, 19 percent of children are engaged in some kind of work. Of those, 31 percent are in engaged in dirty, dangerous, or degrading jobs known as hazardous child labor. Many children work in agriculture, fishing, and domestic work. This work negatively impacts their health and their education and can ultimately have long-term repercussions for the children and their communities, including depreciated wages, loss of educational attainment and further opportunities, and health consequences.

The savings group is part of a World Vision project called Ending Exploitative Child Labor through Education and Livelihoods (EXCEL), funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. The savings group is meant help support families who send their children to work to provide for food and basic needs. The project aims to help 28,000 children over four years. And it’s working!

None of the members of this savings group have children out of school for work anymore. One mother told me that her children are now motivated to go to school and not work, which brings her joy. Another parent said, “If we get sick, now there is a fund to support us.” These parents don’t have to worry about the financial shocks that could force them to withdraw their children from school and send them to work.

Families are seeing tangible results through this project, and many others funded by the Department of Labor across the world. They are making a difference in children’s lives by addressing the reasons children are in hazardous labor and finding sustainable solutions. For the last twenty years, Department of Labor through their International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB) has been leading the U.S. effort to end child labor. Since the start of the program 1.94 million children at risk for child labor or already in child labor have received educational and vocational opportunities, changing the trajectory of their lives.

The U.S. has been on the forefront of the global effort to end child labor. Since 2000, the number of children in hazardous child labor has significantly declined. In 2000, 246 million children were estimated to be in child labor. In 2012, the estimated number was 168 million, a nearly one-third reduction.

And yet, despite all of this progress and leadership, Congress is very close to cutting all of the Department of Labor’s funding for grant programs, like EXCEL. Both the House and Senate have proposed cuts in their budgets and advocates have responded loudly. Over the last 5 months advocates have sent emails to every Member of Congress telling them about the importance of these programs. We are now at a critical moment. Congress must agree on a budget before December 11th to avoid a government shutdown.

The next couple of weeks are critical for the U.S. fight to end child labor. World Vision will continue to work behind the scenes in Washington to ensure the U.S. remains a leader in this fight. We are called to protect children from violence and exploitation.

The final decisions around funding for the federal government for the coming year are being made right now and we need your voices more than ever in the fight to restore funding to protect children from harmful and exploitative child labor.  These decisions now rest with the highest levels of leadership in Congress and we need you to join us in contacting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in particular to let him know that we will not accept cuts to crucial programs that protect children.  What might take you just 30 seconds, could mean all the difference in the life of a child!

Please use the following script to contact Senator McConnell (202-224-3135) :

I’m calling Senator McConnell to express my concern that the final appropriations package might not include critical funding at the Department of Labor that protects children.  The International Labor Affairs Bureau is America’s largest program to prevent and respond to child labor and has helped protect 1.94 million children from the worst forms of child labor. Please tell Senator McConnell that he must quickly restore ILAB funding or tens of thousands of children will be soon put at risk of the worst abuses of the labor market.  Thank you for taking my call and for passing my message along to the Senator.