the Marist Brothers
Saint Marcellin Champagnat formed the Institute of the Marist Brothers in 1817 with the mission of helping poor and marginalized children around the world. The community of Marist Brothers has now grown to include almost 3,000 members. In 2007, in the spirit of Champagnat’s vision, the Congregation of the Marist Brothers of the Schools established the Marist International Solidarity Foundation (FMSI) in Rome. Its mission is to provide quality care and education for all children. Today, the foundation directly improves the lives of more than 650,000 youth around the world. It does so through its presence in educational, social and youth centers. Three of FMSI’s important mission projects are in Ghana, Haiti and Lebanon.

Ghana: Marist Junior High School

With a fast-growing youth population, experts claim that Ghana has a unique opportunity to utilize its “demographic dividend” as a positive force for its society and economy. Without a strong educational system, however, the growing demographic could exacerbate the country’s poverty. Problems in the Ghanaian educational system, especially in rural settings, include shortages of qualified teachers, adequate teaching spaces and school materials. Additionally, literacy and learning standards are low. Educational institutions struggle to provide quality, inclusive teaching across gender and socioeconomic disparities. Thousands of children drop out of school because their families cannot afford the economic burden.

Fortunately, the Marist Brothers have been quietly contributing to the betterment of Ghanaian education. In 1998, the Marist Junior High School emerged in Sabin-Akrofrom. In this rural area, families cannot afford the transportation costs to send their children to city schools. Since its establishment, the Marist Junior High School has taught more than a thousand students who would have not received schooling otherwise. Its students meet high academic standards, and the facility is now prominent for its effective, inclusive and quality education for children living in remote areas of Ghana.

Haiti: the Collège Alexandre Dumas

In Haiti, thousands of children do not receive an adequate education because families cannot afford to make such financial sacrifices. Because of this, child labor is widespread in Haiti. As of 2019, more than 34% of children between the age of five and 14 were in the labor force. Child labor drastically reduces children’s opportunities to go to school. The government is unable to enforce a minimum age requirement for its workers or prohibit the use of children for dangerous work. Children left at orphanages also often work in hard domestic work.

The Marist Brothers have taken action to advocate for child rights and reduce child labor in the region of Latiboliere. The mission of the Collège Alexandre Dumas secondary school is to improve the lives of children who are vulnerable to exploitation. After successful negotiations with children’s families, the Marist Brothers are now able to host 100 boys and girls per year. In addition to providing basic schooling, this program offers nutritional meals, medical care, and recreational activities like sports and arts. These activities contribute to the Haitian children’s academic, emotional and social advancements. Overall, the school reduces the labor exploitation of minors by educating their families on the importance of schooling.

Lebanon: the Fratelli Project

Lebanon also faces the issue of widespread child labor, which impedes youth access to school. Immigrant children, whose parents experience exclusion from the Lebanese labor market, are especially vulnerable to labor trafficking. They can receive less pay and employers do not require identification papers. However, Lebanese families living in the poorest areas of the country face similar problems to those of immigrant families. Thus, Lebanese child labor is also on the rise. This cycle forces children to become the only source of income for many poor families who cannot afford to lose their support by sending them to school. Consequently, even the children enrolled in an educational institution have poor levels of attendance when due to seasonal labor.

The Marist Brothers’ school, Les Frères, has been helping children in Lebanon since before the Lebanese civil war. Now, in cooperation with the La Salle Brothers, the Marist brothers in Lebanon have introduced a new educational project called Fratelli. The Fratelli project supports hundreds of Lebanese and refugee children who have fallen behind in school. It incorporates socio-academic and vocational training to help them reintegrate into the Lebanese education system. FMSI provides funds to buy school materials, pay activity costs and finance the enlargement of buildings to make Les Frères accessible to more children.

Ghana, Haiti, and Lebanon are just three of the 81 countries around the world where the Marist Brothers have improved children’s lives. By protecting the world’s children, the Marist Brothers are effectively protecting the world’s future.

– Margherita Bassi
Photo: Flickr

Child Labor in ArgentinaMore than 125 million children are currently forced into child labor, primarily to help financially support their families. Argentina is one of the many countries that informally uses child labor in its factories and industries. Unfortunately, these children are often overworked and underpaid. As the cruelty and injustice of child labor become increasingly exposed, strides are being made to eliminate the inhumane practice worldwide. Here are seven facts about child labor in Argentina.

7 Facts About Child Labor in Argentina

  1. Cruel conditions and high poverty levels force many young Argentinians into child labor. More than 19% of children ages five to fifteen enter the labor system to provide for their families. This figure is typically higher in urban areas, with up to 43% of children working to supplement their families.

  2. Gender plays a defining role in economic prosperity. In Argentina, there is a large socioeconomic gender gap between men and women in wages and school enrollment. For children under fifteen, a 22% wage gap exists between boys and girls. The problem worsens with age: men are 40% more likely to receive higher wages than women in comparable fields. As such, men more commonly drop out of school and work full-time to provide for their families.

  3. Actions are being taken to reduce child labor. While child labor remains prevalent, many projects and programs have helped lessen the practice in Argentina. Extensive time and work obligations limit many of these children from attending school and flourishing in their education. Proniño, a philanthropy program in Buenos Aires, aims to rectify this problem by funding scholarships for families dependent on their children for income. With more than 1,590 beneficiaries, Proniño has provided hope to numerous students with only a 1.9% dropout rate.

  4. Human trafficking is an improving, yet rampant concern. In Argentina, more than 10,000 victims were rescued from human trafficking. Yet, many are still suffering: there are currently at least 4,000 human trafficking victims every year, most of whom are women and children. Human trafficking often entails coercing children into illicit activities like drug dealing or sexual exploitation. Large international organizations such as UNICEF are taking major steps to eradicate these actions and increase opportunities for disadvantaged children in Argentina. For example, the Ministry of Education and UNICEF enacted a two-year program to provide scholarships for students to attend school in areas protected from human trafficking.  Similarly, UNICEF has allocated an annual budget of $123 million to establish social programs for countries including Argentina. This funding also strengthens educational opportunities for children vulnerable to dangerous household situations and child labor.

  5. Child labor takes many forms. Although common forms of child labor, such as sweatshops, are technically banned in Argentina, the practice persists in other, less obvious forms. For example, many children in the countryside are coerced into prostitution or work on tobacco fields. Despite the historic popularity of these actions, drastic measures are emerging to mitigate their occurrence. Particularly, the Argentinian government is taking stronger stances against child labor laws and corrupt business practices, such as exploiting children to work on plantations. In fact, the government signed a 2018-2020 plan to end human trafficking, child prostitution and exploitation. Also, for the first time, the government sent out a nationwide survey through Argentina’s National Institute of Statistics to better understand child labor laws. The government is currently researching more measures to eliminate child labor.

  6. Healthcare access and child labor are interconnected. Access to healthcare is a prolonged problem in Argentina that perpetuates children into forced labor. Many poor Argentinian families turn to child labor as one of the only ways to afford the medical attention they need. However, a law established in 2005 provides health services and medical supplies to underprivileged children, eliminating much of the financial pressure to engage in child labor for this purpose.

  7. International organizations are getting involved. The United Nations has established objectives to not only lower child labor, but also limit poverty in Argentina. By establishing the Millennial Development Goals, the United Nations hopes to free 760,000 children and families living in underdeveloped areas from child labor. This project focuses on three major hubs of child labor within the country: Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Santa Fe.

Although Argentina still uses child labor in many of its business practices, governments and international organizations are acting swiftly to reduce the amount of forced labor impressed upon young children. With these comprehensive plans in the making, there is promise for eradicating child labor in Argentina.

– Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Flickr

Child Labor in South Sudan
South Sudan is an East-Central African nation considered to have one of the worst cases of child labor in the world. The crisis of child labor has been amplified by the outbreak of civil war in 2013, spreading violence and insecurity nationwide. Child labor in South Sudan is a complex issue that negatively affects children’s health and education. However, UNICEF is working to end child labor in the nation.

4 Causes of Child Labor in South Sudan

  1. The civil war has increased the number of displaced persons vulnerable to recruitment by armed group or abduction for forms of child labor including spies, messengers, child soldiers and prostitutes.
  2. Many communities in South Sudan have inadequate access to schools and overall poor quality of education. Thus, much of the population does not see education as a viable alternative to work.
  3. Embedded cultural traditions and social attitudes increase rates of child labor by perpetuating ideas, such as work building character and girls being better suited to domestic work than education. Furthermore, many children in South Sudan are expected to follow their parent’s career paths and learn their trade from an early age, resulting in family sponsored child labor over child education.
  4. Poverty is arguably the most significant factor contributing to child labor globally, with South Sudan being no exception. Child’s incomes are often understood to be necessary for the survival of the household, with 91.9% of South Sudan living in multidimensional poverty. The mass impoverishment of South Sudan has been amplified by the civil war that has devastated the economy, and thus fueled child labor.

Formal vs. Informal Sector

Data on child labor can only be effectively collected from children working within the formal sector. As of 2019, nearly 46% of children aged 10-14 work in the formal sector. About 60% of these children find themselves working in agriculture, over 38% percent in industry and nearly 2% in services. While these ratios of children engaged in formal labor are large, even more children likely work in the informal sector, including jobs such as child soldiers and prostitutes.

Impact on Education and Health

Poor education in South Sudan increases participation in child labor. As a result, only 31.5% of children aged 6-14 were enrolled in school in 2019. Despite the fact that education is free, the rate of primary school completion sits at just 25.7%. Consequently, as of 2019, only about 27% of the adult population in South Soudan is literate. Not only does a lack of education stunt individual children’s development, health and economic opportunities, but also those of communities in which they live.

South Sudan also has a poor healthcare structure. This is reflected in the national life expectancy of 57.6 years, which is only worsened by the institution of child labor. Children working in the informal sector are placed at great risk: these jobs are life-threatening and drastically reduce life expectancy. However, children working in the informal sector are not the only children at risk. Jobs in the formal sector, such as construction and mining, are labor heavy and place great strain on children’s bodies. Journalist Losika Losepio reported in 2018 that an 8-year-old girl in South Sudan working in the mines said “It’s hard work digging and the shovel is heavy. I just want to be in school,” while holding an infected wound on her elbow. In the best of cases, child labor only takes children out of school; in the worst of cases, they are injured by their labor and potentially even killed.

The Good News

UNICEF is a United Nations agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children. Programming by UNICEF has made great progress in regard to child labor in South Sudan. In 2018, UNICEF freed over 1,000 children, many of whom were child soldiers for various armed groups. Additionally, UNICEF combats the root causes of child labor, such as lack of education. In 2018, the organization helped to rehabilitate schools damaged by conflict by leading teacher training and providing necessary classroom supplies. Through such efforts, UNICEF also helped 550,000 children re-enroll in school in 2018.

Children everywhere have a right to education, health and safety. Child labor in South Sudan serves as an obstacle to each of these rights and must be counteracted. Progress has been made through organizations such as UNICEF, but the situation remains dire: these efforts must not only continue but expand across the nation.

Lily Jones
Photo: Wikimedia

poverty in Uruguay
Situated on the Atlantic coast of South America is Uruguay, the second smallest country on the continent. With a population of more than 3.4 million and about 60% of them comprising the middle class, Uruguay stands as one of the most economically stable countries in the region. In fact, Uruguay has the lowest poverty rate in South America and is ranked high on such well-being indices as the Human Development Index. In building a secure place as a country, Uruguay has witnessed improvements as well as hindrances in various aspects of its society. Here are six facts about poverty in Uruguay.

6 Facts About Poverty in Uruguay

  1. Life is improving: The percentage of the population living on less than $3.20 per day in Uruguay significantly decreased from 2006 to 2017. While the rate peaked at 3.7% in 2006, it dropped to 0.4% by 2017. In accordance with the near eradication of extreme poverty, the moderate poverty in Uruguay also decreased from 32.5% in 2006 to 8.1% in 2018.

  2. Child labor: In Uruguay, child labor affects 8% of the 8 to 14 year olds. These children work long hours for low wages. In order to make meager earnings to financially support their families, many children in Uruguay forgo school education to work under unfavorable conditions. There has been little progress made to reduce child labor, as the percentage of children ages 5 to 14 in the workforce remained at a relatively constant rate of 6.1% in 2016. Nonetheless, certain organizations like the Telefónica Foundation have been working to raise awareness of and prevent child labor in Uruguay. One program under the organization is ProChild, which was established in 2000 and has developed since then to include a network of 10,000 participants. Another organization that helps children shift out of labor is the MIDES Youth Affairs Bureau. It employs various programs that keep children from entering the workforce at a young age by implementing education services and training.

  3. Higher quality of water sanitation: With the help of the World Bank Group, Obras Sanitarias del Estado (OSE) is now able to provide drinking water to 98% of Uruguayans. In previous years, there had been a chronic shortage of water supply and sanitation services in Uruguay due to the combined effect of low labor productivity and severe floods and droughts. However, with financial support from the World Bank Group, OSE has been able to significantly reduce water loss and continue its upward trajectory of water and sanitation quality.

  4. Decrease in unemployment: In 2002, Uruguay experienced an economic crisis that significantly impacted the country and created widespread unemployment, However, the unemployment rate decreased significantly over the next decade. It was estimated to be 7.6% in 2017 and remains low to this day. Still, the unemployment rate among the young generation has not fared well and continues to rise.

  5. Equitable income levels: There are still disproportionate rates of child- and afro-descendent-Uruguayan populations living below the national poverty. However, income levels in general have seen improvements. Among the poorest 40% of the population, average income levels have risen faster in comparison to the entire population’s average growth rates.

  6. Low gender inequality: The labor market participation ratio between female and male workers in Uruguay is the fourth highest in Latin America. Although the salary gap still exists, as in many of the OECD countries, there has been a steady flow of both female and male laborers into the workforce of Uruguay.

Multiple organizations have stepped up to address and improve the issue of poverty in Uruguay. One such organization is Caritas, which works to provide aid for the poor, from those who have been deprived of liberty to those who lack access to education. Especially through education, training and counseling, the organization has been able to help the most vulnerable groups in Uruguay to cope with their challenging situations.

Despite the recent progress made toward the issue of poverty in Uruguay, certain fundamental limitations in the funding of systems like infrastructure and education have constrained the maximum potential for growth. Certain groups like children and women remain more vulnerable to poverty. Nevertheless, the government has successfully implemented policies and efforts to close the gap between classes over the past years. Now, Uruguay stands on par with many other well-positioned countries around the world with relatively little aid from organizations.

Seunghee Han

Photo: Flickr

Ending Child LaborDespite a 38% global reduction of child labor between 2000 and 2016, hundreds of millions of children remain in exploitative labor conditions. Work deprives children of their formative childhoods and educational experiences, while potentially harming them physically and psychologically. So, how are people and organizations working to end child labor around the world?

Living in poverty is the main reason children work, whether by circumstance or force. However, child labor creates a cycle of poverty. Some children have to work to survive and help support their families. These children, therefore, do not have the time to receive an education. Education is considered a key to escape poverty; without it, children do not have many options other than continuing to work.

Most child labor is in agriculture; more than 75% of child laborers work the fields, but others work in factories or the service industry. Out of the 170 million child laborers, 6 million children are forced into labor. These children often become child soldiers or are sold into prostitution or slavery. The United Nations calls for an end to child labor in all forms by 2025, a mere five years away. Here are three U.N. solutions to achieve their goal to end child labor:

3 UN Solutions to End Child Labor

  1. 2021 is the International Year for Ending Child Labour. The United Nations General Assembly wants to draw attention to the millions of children working in fields, mines and factories during 2021. Member states of the International Labor Organization (ILO), a specialized agency of the U.N., will raise awareness of the importance of ending child labor and share successful projects. These projects include initiatives to reduce poverty, educate children, offer support services and enforce minimum age requirements, among other solutions. As the steady decrease in child labor tapered off in 2016, the hope is that this effort will renew the global community’s interest in eradicating child labor.
  2. The Clear Cotton Project plans to have sustainable cotton industries without child labor. With the rise of fast fashion, cotton is one of the most valuable supply chain commodities. Because of its high demand, the cotton industry is notorious for its use of child labor, now embedded into the supply chain. Children work long, often excruciating, hours picking cotton, weeding and transferring pollen in the fields. In factories and workshops, child workers spin the cotton and have various tasks, from sewing buttons to embroidering fabric. All of this work is often underpaid if compensated at all. The Clear Cotton Project wants its partner countries of Burkina Faso, Mali, Pakistan and Peru to create sustainable cotton industries without child labor. The program, which started in 2018 and will end in 2022, has two strategies aimed at ending child labor. The first includes editing, strengthening and enforcing policy, legal and regulatory framework against child labor in accordance with ILO standards. The second strategy works to support local governments and public service providers. This strategy aims to increase access to education, create youth and women employment schemes and strengthen worker unions so workers can both recognize their rights and monitor their working conditions
  3. Ending child labor in African supply chains is receiving special attention. While the rest of the world saw a decrease in child labor between 2012 and 2016, Sub-Saharan Africa observed an increase. Child labor is most prevalent in supply chains, especially in cacao, cotton, gold and tea. In the tea industry alone, around 14% of children are working as laborers in Uganda. Even more children work in Malawi—38% of all children from ages 5-17. Producing tea is labor-intensive, from preparing the land for planting to harvesting to preparing the leaves for export. Children are involved at every level. To combat this, ACCEL Africa, a four-year program, began in 2018 to “accelerate action for the elimination of child labor in supply chains.” Partnered with the Netherlands, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Mali, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda, the program aims to address the problems that cause institutionalized child labor in supply chains. These countries will also improve their child labor policies and legal framework and enforce the revisions to stop child labor.

While the U.N. has set a challenging goal, with increased awareness, commitment and cooperation, the global community can succeed in its programs, ending child labor by 2025. With a real childhood, education and a brighter future, these children will have a chance to step out of the vicious cycle of poverty.

Zoe Padelopoulos
Photo: Unsplash

Child Labor in Nigeria
Child labor is one of the most monumental issues in Nigeria, a country with a developing economy, affecting a large portion of the country’s children up to age 17. Forgoing a normal care-free childhood, many children living on the front lines of poverty must maintain a job and sustain a regular income. The unethical use of child labor is an issue that has been prevalent throughout human history impacting health, wellbeing and quality of life. Below are 10 facts about child labor in Nigeria.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Nigeria

  1. Several different industries employ children. The jobs available to children are limited to unskilled and physical, labor-intensive tasks. The most common industries that employ children in Nigeria are cocoa farming, gold mining, sediment sifting, street peddling and domestic servitude.
  2. Conditions are hazardous. Although there are labor laws in place, Nigeria does not actively enforce safety regulations or preventative measures in the workplace. This type of neglect leads to an extremely dangerous environment that often results in bodily harm, severe trauma and even death. Children who work on the streets often make easy targets for violence and kidnapping. If a child suffers harm on the job, help or compensation does not extend to the family, leaving them to face the repercussions alone.
  3. Children often support their families. Much of child labor is a direct result of Nigeria’s extreme poverty, which accounts for around 70% of the nation’s population living below the poverty line, according to the CIA World Factbook. Families struggling to make ends meet often enlist the help of their children to bring in additional income. Without an effective welfare system, many families have no other option for survival. In an even more dire situation, some laborers who are orphans shoulder the entire burden of providing for younger siblings. Recent findings by Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development found that about 17.5 million children become orphans or enter similarly vulnerable situations throughout the country.
  4. Child labor is on the rise. Estimates determine that the current number of child workers in Nigeria is 15 million according to the International Labor Organization (ILO). At a staggering 43% of the total population of minors, it is the highest recorded rate of child labor in Western Africa. The poverty rates have risen almost 20% — up from 53% in 2003 — in the span of 7 years, according to the World Bank and CIA World Factbook. This environment of financial strife causes more and more families to expect their children to go out to work and contribute an income.
  5. Children often drop out of school. Due to the rigid demands of a long workday, school often becomes less of a priority. Education is not legally mandatory in Nigeria so there is no required attendance. The lack of a proper education ensures they will remain unskilled laborers into adulthood, making it nearly impossible to escape the cycle of poverty. The Bureau of International Labor Affairs reports only 76% of children in total go to school, and about 27% of child laborers attend school in addition to work. Some reports have stated that certain schools exploit their students and make them work or beg during school hours to earn money for teachers.
  6. Many children experience trafficking. Children who are especially vulnerable, such as orphans, are more at risk for human trafficking and forced labor than adults, with their rate being estimated at 58%. Enticed by fictitious stories of better jobs located in more economically rich areas, they agree to leave their homes in hopes of making money. However, the traffickers never deliver the promise and the victims find themselves in even worse situations and unable to go home. Upon arrival, traffickers often claim that the child has accrued debt from transport. To maintain control and prevent runaways, traffickers use coercion in the form of threats against the child or their families back home to motivate them to pay off their debt. Unfortunately, these children find themselves in a ruse, where ballooned charges that continuously compound prevent them from ever making their final payment.
  7. Slavery is common. Around 30% of child workers do not receive compensation and must work against their will. Child slavery is very common in cases of trafficking or when there is no one to advocate for the child. In trafficking cases, traffickers tell the child that their salaries are going towards paying off their “debt.” In some live-in situations, their room and board charges absorb their pay. Those who do receive actual payment usually only take home pennies on the dollar.
  8. Girls are at higher risk for sexual exploitation, resulting from trafficking within the sex industry. A former government official, Martin Uhomoibhi, revealed to the U.N. that there were 602,000 known victims who made the dangerous journey across the continent in 2016. However, the total number of victims is widely unknown, since traffickers covertly smuggle many of the girls and women smuggled across Nigeria’s border, but experts believe that these numbers are some of the highest in the world. Traffickers often bring girls to brothels and restrain and force them to service clients in deplorable conditions despite any physical health ailments, according to horrifying testimonies that the Human Rights Watch recorded. The outlook for these girls is grim, as many die in captivity or move back to the streets due to critical conditions that render them unable to work, and therefore no longer profitable to their captors.
  9. There are unofficial wartime drafts. Regional conflicts and war cause armies to form as a way of resistance and protection against outside threats. Many know Africa for this sort of violence, with brutal wars routinely escalating. People often pull boys as young as 10 years old from their homes, give them a deadly weapon and order them to kill an unknown enemy. UNICEF estimates that around 3,500 Nigerian child soldiers have enlisted between 2013-2017. Many children die in active combat or from a lack of supplies.
  10. The government response has been underwhelming. New hope for relief on the child labor front occurred when the government signed the Child Rights Act into effect in 2003. Unfortunately, the government has put little effort forth toward ending the practice since its ratification. Many experts believe there will be no true resolution until the government steps in with not only stricter regulations, but absolute enforcement.

Children are society’s most vulnerable people. With no voice to advocate for their rights, they are in a poor position to influence political policy. A child’s place is in school where they can receive a proper education and use it to build a promising future, not just for themselves but for the society in which they live as well. It is the task and moral responsibility of adults and officials in power to prioritize basic human rights over the gilded benefits of cheap labor and end this practice permanently.

– Samantha Decker
Photo: Flickr

Education for Tea Pickers' Children in Sri Lanka 
Tea is the number one export of Sri Lanka, accounting for around $1.67 billion in revenue. This business creates jobs for about 5 percent of Sri Lanka’s population. Tea picking includes the whole family, who often live in housing just off the plantation. As a result, access to education for the tea pickers’ children can be difficult or non-existent.

Sending kids to local schools is also not an option since most families either do not have a method of transportation, or their children are already working in the fields by the age of 13. Despite the fact that tea pickers are the skeleton of the economy, the majority of these tea workers are overworked and underpaid, meaning children often grow up in this same cycle of oppression. Two companies are trying to change this: Tea Leaf Trust and Kindernothilfe. Both are successfully paving the way for a better future by providing tea pickers’ children access to education.

Why Does Education Matter?

Education changes the lives of the people in these tea picking communities. Education can target domestic violence, hopelessness and poverty through learning skills such as professionalism and proficiency in English. By encouraging young people to be role models in their community and instilling a sense of hope and confidence in them, they are able to break out of the tea business and choose their own paths. Families in these communities view education for their children as a means to escape poverty. Without education, many children often commit suicide or self-harm. Suicide rates on plantations are the fourth highest in the world.

Tea Leaf Trust

Started in 2007, Tea Leaf Trust is a company that strives to create a way out for children living in tea picking communities. Alcoholism, malnutrition and disease/lack of sanitation surround many of these communities. Families of six to eight members must live in barrack-type homes which often have no windows and no means of ventilation. The conditions these families are living in hinders their ability to learn in school settings. The main way Tea Leaf Trust is improving conditions is by giving tea pickers’ children access to education, providing a future for both them and their families.

Tea Leaf Trust raised money to start a school to give tea pickers’ children access to education. This school, called Tea Leaf Vision, offers advanced diplomas for people who train and learn to become teachers and two-thirds go on to a university to earn their degrees or get a job off the plantation. Those enrolled in the advanced diploma allocate time to teach the English Community Programme at primary schools on the tea plantations as a part of their own schooling.

Schools in these communities are open once a week at 24 locations. Between 1,600 and 1,900 children attend these schools. These schools offer classes such as Business Studies, English Grammar and Emotional Health. Their focus is twofold: instilling a sense of value and purpose in youth through education and providing community service. Tea Leaf Trust also have plans to open a vocational center in the coming years. This will allow the students to not only learn within their community but also gain skills to move forward in their lives.

Kindernothilfe

Kindernothilfe, German for “supporting children in need,” is a company founded in Germany in 1959. Through its partnership with local NGOs, it has implemented 609 projects in 32 countries. In Sri Lanka, its focus is mainly on women and children, both of whom are often victims of violence and abuse.

Kindernothilfe wants to provide tea pickers’ children access to education. This program, founded in 2005, started its partnership with the Eksath Lanka Welfare Foundation. It now has around 80 children and 60 women enrolled in its program. This includes two children’s clubs where children grow their personal skills. The program also provides funding to children who have previously dropped out of school, allowing them to continue their education for free.

Kindernothilfe also offers an empowerment class to women in these communities. This is where they can discuss their situations, talk through how to manage their household and understand and counsel their children on domestic violence and children’s rights.

Uniformity and Equality of Education

There is a great need for quality education in Sri Lanka and not just in tea picking communities. The education sector is lacking in providing quality criteria and curriculums. Schools on plantations (if they exist at all) lack the most basic equipment and have teachers who are undereducated themselves. A reduction in poverty can be a result of proper education. Poverty is only 18 percent for those with an education, rising to 46 percent for households without an education.

Tea Leaf Trust and Kindernothilfe are just two examples of foundations that have stepped in to fill the gaps. They want to assist in providing educational assistance for those who lack it and change the lives of Sri Lankan tea picker’s children.

– Laurel Sonneby
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Child Labor in India
Child labor binds more than 218 million children around the globe. India has the highest number of children in the world involved in child labor, numbering 10.1 million. Between 4.5 to 5.6 million of these children are between the ages of 5 and 14, according to the 2011 census. Child labor is most prevalent in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Most of these children are part of the “untouchables” caste, the lowest caste in India. Other castes shun them and they often work in occupations such as burials. Here are 10 facts about child labor in India.

10 Facts About Child Labor in India

  1. Impoverished Children: There are child labor employment agencies in India that look for children in impoverished communities. Often, floods, waterlogging or droughts plague the areas they search. A family’s survival may depend upon their children going to work.
  2. Unregulated Work: Child laborers in India work under the table. The establishments where children work are unregulated. Because of this, employed children do not reap the benefits of child labor laws and other governmental laws that govern the workplace. The children often work from 9 in the morning until 11 or 12 at night. There are many workplaces where the children only get the opportunity to bathe once or twice a week.
  3. Child Labor Reduction: The Indian government says the child labor market has seen a 64 percent decrease between 2005 and 2010. According to the country’s labor ministry, 4.6 million children were working in 2011 verses the 12.6 million a decade earlier. Unfortunately, this is the most recent data, as there has not been a national child labor count since 2011. The definition of what qualifies as child labor is also changing in India.
  4. Child Trafficking: Child trafficking plays an important role in child labor. There are two types of child trafficking: forced labor where children must leave their homes to work in mines or factories and sex trafficking, which often involves young girls. Often, there are Child Domestic Labor placement agencies that are part of this trafficking.
  5. Penalty for Child Labor: Child labor in India was not a punishable offense until a few years ago. Today, if the authorities find a person guilty of being involved in child labor in India, the penalty is a fine between $281.52 and $750.79 or imprisonment for up to two years.
  6. Types of Child Labor: Seventy percent of children involved in child labor in India work in agriculture. Most of the rest work in construction. Many children in India work in hidden workstations, employers’ homes, tiny factories or remote areas.
  7. Child Labor in Metropolitan Areas: Puja Marwaha, the chief executive of Child Rights and You, said that children have migrated to metropolitan areas of Mumbai and Delhi for work. She cited a government report which showed a 60 percent increase in the child workforce of Mumbai in the decade leading up to the census of 2011.
  8. Child Labor Ban: There have been several laws dating back to the 1930s banning child labor in India and promoting education. The Right to Education Act, enacted in 2009, required children between the ages of 6 and 14 to attend school. The Child Labor Protection Act of 1986 banned employing children under the age of 14; however, there are exceptions in the act that allowed children to work in family businesses. Because of these exceptions, critics of the act say that it allows child labor by default in Indian villages.
  9. Mica Mining: Many children involved in child labor in India work in mica mines. These mines often exist deep in the forest far from prying government eyes. The largest mica deposits are in the Kadarma district of Jharkhand province. Generally, mining is the only livelihood the families of these children have. Children also work in India’s coal mines. They are useful in the mines because they can go into holes too small for adults known as rat holes. Many children, especially those working in coal mines, have no training, protection or monetary compensation for injuries.
  10. The Bonded Labor Act: When the Bonded Labor Act releases children from child labor, they receive a certificate and compensation varying from $1,407.58 to $4,222.75. Schools or government-aided NCLP centers admit the kids for their education. If the child is 16 or 17, they receive vocational training. There are many children who were child laborers who are now lawyers or engineers.

There are international companies working toward eliminating child labor in India, including IKEA, which expanded its involvement with Save the Children to reach an additional 790,000 children in India. It also donated 7 million Euros in an effort toward this cause. Eliminating child labor in India requires improving income and education in the nation. Additionally, consumers can help by striving to only buy products that child labor did not produce.

 – Robert Forsyth
Photo: Flickr

Poetry, one of the most ancient art forms, serves as an outlet for poets to convey their most profound emotions. Poetry is magical because it paints a picture with words and navigates the reader through a flurry of feelings. While few reach glory, many poets go unrecognized or misunderstood in their pursuits. These are four poems about poverty.

Song of the Shirt

“Work—work—work!

From weary chime to chime,

Work—work—work,

As prisoners work for crime!

Band, and gusset, and seam,

Seam, and gusset, and band,

Till the heart is sick, and the brain benumbed,

As well as the weary hand.

[…]

In poverty, hunger, and dirt, And still with a voice of dolorous pitch,—Would that its tone could reach the Rich!—   She sang this “Song of the Shirt!”

This excerpt from the 19th-century poem by Thomas Hood talks about the labor exploitation of the middle class by the aristocracy. A woman works hard night and day, through tiredness and sickness, with dreams ranging from a simple meal to eternal prosperity. Unfortunately, she drowns in the pit of poverty and despite her efforts, is unable to climb out. This issue has spanned the centuries and labor exploitation remains a problem in the 21st century. Especially in developing countries where instances of trafficking and child labor are all too common. More than 150 million children are subjected to child labor around the world. The U.N. is currently working on enforcing appropriate legislation in countries to absolve the use of child labor.

Refugee Blues

“Say this city has ten million souls,
Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes:
Yet there’s no place for us, my dear, yet there’s no place for us.

Once we had a country and we thought it fair,
Look in the atlas and you’ll find it there:
We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.

[…]

Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors,
A thousand windows and a thousand doors:
Not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours.

Stood on a great plain in the falling snow;
Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro:
Looking for you and me, my dear, looking for you and me.”

W.H. Auden, a 20th-century poet, originally wrote this poem about the Jewish refugees who were seeking refugee status in the United States. The theme, however, extends beyond the grim years of World War II. At the end of 2018, there were roughly 71 million forcibly displaced people in the world. They were forced to leave due to conflict, violence or persecution. Many have not found homes or countries that are willing to take them in. Countries are beginning to pay attention. World leaders in the U.N. are working on implementing programs that will help refugees without disappointing host nations.

Poverty

I saw an old cottage of clay,

And only of mud was the floor;

It was all falling into decay,

And the snow drifted in at the door.

Yet there a poor family dwelt,

In a hovel so dismal and rude;

And though gnawing hunger they felt,

They had not a morsel of food.

The children were crying for bread,

And to their poor mother they’d run;

[…]

O then, let the wealthy and gay

But see such a hovel as this,

That in a poor cottage of clay

They may know what true misery is.

And what I may have to bestow

I never will squander away,

While many poor people I know

Around me are wretched as they.

This sorrowful poem written by Jane Taylor in the 19th century paints a vivid picture of the horrid conditions associated with poverty. Taylor writes about a family that lives in an unsafe cottage without an ounce of food. The children starve and beg for food that the mother is incapable of providing. As seen in this poem, poverty is an exclusively uphill battle. There are a million forces exerting pressure on the lives of the impoverished but many must keep persevering to survive.

More than 3 billion people in the world today are living on less than $2.50 per day. More than 1.3 billion are living on less than $1.25 per day. Hundreds of millions of children and adults are malnourished and do not have access to basic healthcare. While this is a depressing statistic, the rate of extreme poverty in the world has decreased in the last several decades.

Poor Children

“They are the future of humanity
But many of them living in poverty
And without shelter homeless on the street
Searching through rubbish bins for scraps of food to eat.
Poor children are victims of circumstance
In life they never really get a chance
Or have opportunities as privileged children do
The road from the poor suburb to prison leads them to.

[…]
Poor children without homes and sleeping rough
And life for them already hard enough
At the wrong end of the social divide
Any chance of a good future to them is denied.”

This poem by Francis Duggan, while relatively recent compared the other poems on this list of four poems about poverty, speaks volumes about the struggles associated with child poverty. Roughly one billion children are currently living in poverty and according to UNICEF; approximately 22,000 children die daily due to poverty. A pattern of malnutrition and disease weakens the body to a point of no return. Coupled with the social repercussions of impoverishment, the odds of survival are slim. A recent study revealed that children who succumbed to childhood poverty were seven times more likely to harm themselves and 13 times more likely to engage in violent crime than their more affluent counterparts.

These four poems about poverty are quite striking. They convey deep emotions and spread ideas that have been prevalent for generations. Poverty is not skin-deep; the consequences of impoverishment extend to all elements of life. It is vital that people take action against poverty by reaching out to elected officials who have the ability to implement legislation that aids those in dire need.

Jai Shah
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Child Labor in Myanmar
Myanmar was a prosperous country at the beginning of the 1960s. However, when Myanmar came under the rule of an oppressive military junta from 1962 to 2011, it became one of the world’s poorest nations. Many considered the former military regime in Myanmar to be one of the most oppressive and abusive regimes in the world, committing serious human rights and humanitarian law violations against civilians, including women and children. Child labor is one of the prevalent issues that the government is trying to tackle, but it remains common in Myanmar.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines child labor as work that negatively affects children’s mentality, physicality or morality and interferes with their schooling. The worst forms of child labor include slavery, sexual exploitation, illicit activities or work that by nature is likely to harm the health, morals or safety of children.

Despite the new government body’s attempt to eradicate child labor, it remains a huge challenge in Myanmar due to its limited resources. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Myanmar.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Myanmar

  1. Child Labor: A 2015 survey estimated that 1.13 million children ages 5 to 17 in Myanmar, or 9.3 percent of the child population, were in child labor. The number in Myanmar is higher than the Asian average, which estimates determine to be 7.4 percent. Among these Myanmar child laborers, over half engaged in hazardous work that may cause harm to their physical, mental or moral development.
  2. Minimum Working Ages: Myanmar law defines the minimum age for work as 14 for certain sectors, but there is no minimum age for work for all sectors. The Myanmar Labor Force Survey 2015 estimates that 60.5 percent of child laborers work in the agricultural sector, which does not have a minimum age for work. The other sector that the majority of child labor occurs is in the manufacturing sector.
  3. School: Myanmar law made school free and obligatory for children only up to age 10. This leaves the children ages 10 to 13 the most vulnerable to child labor since they have neither legal permission to work nor the requirement to go to school.
  4. Army Recruitment: The Myanmar government has made some efforts to eradicate the worst forms of child labor. However, the government officials are complicit in the use of child labor through forced recruitment of children into its national armed force in conflict areas. Despite 18 being the legal minimum age for enrollment in the army, people often coerce children as young as 14 to work in the army as combatants, messengers or domestic workers.
  5. The Economy: The transition from a military-ruled nation to a democratic regime in 2011 has helped the economy expand quickly. When people have more disposable income, the demand for services rises and pushes the demand for more labor. On the other hand, this economic boom partly fueled the crisis of child labor as companies and industries increased in the exploitation of cheap child labor to reduce cost. For example, food establishments only have to pay child workers $0.3 an hour compared to $0.43 for an adult.
  6. My-PEC: In response to child labor in Myanmar, the U.S. Department of Labor funded the ILO’s Myanmar Programme on the Elimination of Child Labor (My-PEC), a four-year project spanning from 2014 to 2017. The project aimed to reduce child labor in Myanmar by expanding the knowledge and awareness of child labor, improving laws and capacity to meet international standards, strengthening the capacity through advocacy and networking as well as implementing pilot interventions in target communities.
  7. Street Kids: The government has realized the need to increase the capacity of the educational system and opportunities for children, but the changes are gradual. Some NGOs have stepped up to provide scholarships and free schooling to help child workers. Scholarships for Street Kids, a local NGO, provides educational opportunities for children and also compensates the family for the lost earnings while their children are in school. The program has helped around 300 children.
  8. Myanmar Mobile Education Project (myME): Myanmar Mobile Education Project is a social project that emerged in 2014, and is the first to provide non-formal education for child laborers. The innovative project converts local tea shops and buses into mobile classrooms to bring education directly to the children. Since its inception, myME has benefited approximately 10,000 working and out-of-school children.
  9. The Myanmar Government’s Actions: The Myanmar government has ratified the ILO Conventions on the minimum age and the worst forms of child labor. It is in the process of finalizing its National Action Plan (NAP) on Child Labor, including the list of hazardous jobs that the Convention requires. In February 2018, the government established the National Committee for the Eradication of Child Labor to ensure the implementation of NAP.
  10. The ILO: The ILO is working to attain its Sustainable Development Goal targets of ending child labor by 2025 and securing safe working environments for all workers by 2030. It aims to achieve these goals through My-PEC, the [email protected] and the Youth4OSH projects. The Myanmar government is also working toward its own objective of protecting and preventing all children from child labor, especially the worst forms by 2030.

Since the transition to a new government in 2011, Myanmar’s human rights records have been improving. Although child labor is still prevalent in Myanmar due to poverty as well as cultural norms, the government is taking steps to address this issue with the collaboration of the ILO and various NGOs.

These 10 facts about child labor in Myanmar highlight some of the challenges facing the government, but also many great potentials to eradicate child labor in Myanmar through national and international efforts to ensure better lives and rights for the children of this Asian nation.

Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr