education in cote
Education in Cote d’Ivoire is present and plentiful for those who can afford it. While there are free public schools available to Ivoirians, families are still required to pay for books, uniforms and supplies.

Additionally, over two-thirds of native Ivoirians work in agriculture, and children are often needed as part of the work force. The unfortunate reality is that most students who receive a proper education in Cote d’Ivoire are not natives of the country.

Zeina Jebeile, a current student at Boston University who grew up in Cote d’Ivoire but was not born there, says that the private school education she received was comparable to the education received by her friends in the United States. “We learned a lot of similar things, it was just in a different language,” Zeina explained. She continued to clarify that public schools are only available to those born in the Ivory Coast, and people like her who were born in other countries must attend expensive private schools.

Due to the French colonization of Cote d’Ivoire the vast majority of schools run on the French system and have the exact same curriculum as high schools in France. While being a native of the Ivory Coast holds the benefit of free primary education, students have a much higher chance of attending university if they graduate from one of the French, American or Lebanese private schools.

Due to the high cost of schooling, “not everybody gets access to education, and it’s sad because a lot of them are really interested in doing so,” Zeina explained. “Education is about $7,000 a year for high school, which is kind of ridiculous, but that’s what you get for the ‘French Prestige.’” In order to combat this, small tutoring centers have popped up throughout the country. The centers operate on a volunteer basis, with classes usually taught by Americans and Europeans travelling abroad to teach languages.

Language is a problem within the private schools as well. Zeina, who attended a French school, said that there is little emphasis placed on learning English. “You have the option between German, Italian and Spanish…. And the English is very, very basic. In the last year of high school they literally teach you things like ‘my dog’s name is Bobo.’”

Despite her classmates’ limited knowledge of the English language, a diploma from a French private school almost certainly leads to an acceptance into a French University, as well as easier access to a French visa. Those who graduate from Ivoirian Schools must either be the very top of their class or come from wealthy families if they wish to continue their education in college. “The system is very limiting for most people who live in the Ivory Coast,” Zeina admitted. “At the end of the day if you don’t have money you don’t really get access to education.”

The Ivory Coast has a population of 15 million, approximately one third of which are non-Ivoirians. Out of the 128,318 students enrolled in high school, 42 percent attend private school. In addition to high poverty rates among Ivoirians and the necessity for child labor, there are other factors which can prevent children from receiving the best education possible.

Cote d’Ivoire has suffered through two civil wars in the past 15 years. Political conflict instigated outbreaks of violence in 2002, leading to a five-year civil war that killed and displaced thousands. Just three years after the call for peace, violence broke out once again leading to a second civil war that lasted from 2010-2011. The physical and emotional damage inflicted upon residents of the Ivory Coast during these wars contribute to days of school missed.

Taylor Lovett

Sources: Interview with Zeina, Our Africa, University of Szeged, Kuno Library
Photo: Unocha

child labor
In a legal decision, Bolivian officials have changed the legal working age from 14 to 10, thereby becoming the first nation to legalize child labor.

Despite provisions for children who are working at such a young age, including their being supervised by a parent if they are under the age of 12 or that they must continue school, the legalization of child labor still violates the minimum working age protocol declared by the International Labor Organization. It is still “‘an abandonment of a child’s right to a childhood.”

Moreover, the Guardian reports that there are only 78 child labor inspectors and over 800,000 currently working. The promise that the child protection requirements for these new labor laws will be consistently upheld is unlikely.

Co-sponsor of the bill and deputy Javier Zavaleta told Time Magazine that he supported the bill in the hopes that it would help decrease the amount of poverty in Bolivia. He said that “extreme poverty is one of the causes, not the main one, of child labor, so our goal is to eliminate child labor by 2020. While it is ambitious, it is possible.”

Human rights activists, however, find it suspect that these officials are trying to justify child labor by claiming it will ultimately end child labor.

Children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, Jo Becker, told Time Magazine that “child labor perpetuates the cycle of poverty” and that “the Bolivian government should invest in policies and programs to end child labor, not to support it.”

Becker also explained that when children from poor families are sent to work instead of school, they are more likely to end up with low-wage jobs later in life, thus continuing the cycle of poverty and the misconception that child labor will help end it.

– Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: The Guardian, Forbes, TIME
Photo: VNews

products of child labor
Today, an estimated 115 million children are working — often forced — to produce many of the basic items we buy for cheap at local malls and retail stores. Ranging from the food we eat to the accessories we wear, there are reportedly around 128 goods which exploit and degrade the well-being of these children. Below is a list of the five most common products of child labor.


5 Main Products of Child Labor


5. Cocoa

According to the Department of Labor, cocoa is produced in at least five countries which utilize child labor, including Ghana, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire. Major candy companies such as Nestle and Hershey’s have been linked to some of these suppliers. Just recently, Nestle was accused of breaching its supplier code, including clauses of child labor, safety and working hours. Hershey’s, too, is reported to have at least thousands of children currently harvesting cocoa beans for the company in West Africa today.

4. Carpets

Currently being produced by five countries which utilize child labor, such as Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan, these products of child labor are being shipped to retail outlets around the world, including areas of Europe, Asia, and the United States.

3. Tobacco

One of the most popular goods in the world, tobacco has been reported to have been harvested in at least 15 countries that use child and forced labor. Philip Morris International, which manufactures Marlboro cigarettes, has actually admitted that the fields in which the company buys their plants have at least 72 child laborers: the youngest being 10 years old. Tobacco is being harvested by children in countries today such as Mexico, the Philippines, Argentina, Brazil and Uganda.

2. Electronics

Apple and Samsung, two of the world’s leading electronics corporations, have recently went under attack for alleged use of child labor. In fact, Apple recently discovered multiple infringements of child labor with some of their suppliers, including one Chinese company that employed at least 74 children. Samsung, too, has been accused by labor rights groups for employee mistreatment and for exploiting child labor. The investigation, which looked into eight factories in China, proved some employees were working at least 100 hours per month of overtime and that children were “knowingly employed.”

1. Cotton

Cotton is produced by at least 16 countries which use child labor, including China, Egypt and Turkey, according to the Department of Labor. In fact, some of our most popular retail chains — from H&M to Wal-Mart to Victoria’s Secret — have been accused of benefiting from child labor. H&M, one of the world’s leading fashion chains, is currently under pressure to eliminate its ties with clothing suppliers that buy cotton from Uzbekistan, where large amounts of the plant are harvested by children.

Before you buy something, know where it’s coming from. Stand up for what you believe. Let’s put an end to supporting these corporations who take advantage of children just like our own.

– Nick Magnanti

Sources: Huffington Post, Department of Labor, View Mixed
Photo: Bloomberg

Global March Against Child Labor
In 1998, a group of forward-thinking activists organized the Global March Against Child Labor. It took groups from over 100 countries to lead a march that crossed 103 countries and ended at the International Labour Organization (ILO) in June 1998, where activists from all over the world rallied to end child labor.

In response, the ILO began the World Day Against Child Labor in 2002. Every year on June 12, governments, citizens and civil societies gather to focus the world’s attention on child laborers and create campaigns to help them.

The movement has lofty ambitions but is still doing a great job of fulfilling them. Before the turn of the millennium, there were nearly 250 million children who were child slaves. The figure has now dropped almost 100 million and is estimated to be around 168 million.

Girls in particular have benefited from this as their numbers have dropped nearly 40 percent since then, while boys have dropped 25 percent. Despite this, some 88 million children still work in potentially fatal jobs.

Like many problems that need to be solved, one method employed in the reduction of child labor is simply raising awareness. The Global March Against Child Labor has proven to governments and civil societies around the world that this is something that needs to be stopped.

The U.S. Department of Labor has played a critical role in producing promotional documents and reports that have been quite successful in raising awareness of this terrible issue. Additionally, USAID acknowledged the power of video and strung together compelling footage in what eventually came to be a feature film about child labor, titled “Stolen Childhoods.”

USAID has played a big role as well in raising awareness. Through the Global Labor Program, USAID has helped workers in Liberia mobilize against employers and has ensured that any exploitative wage practices were discontinued. As children were typically employed in rubber plants in Liberia, USAID managed to ensure that children would not be separated from their parents if they worked, and also oversaw the building of a school on the plant. The employers agreed to pay the adults a living wage.

Another entity that is vital to ending child labor is business. Thanks to the Global March Against Child Labor and USAID’s awareness campaigns, a spotlight has been placed on businesses and their obligation to ensuring that children are not working.

The most prominent advocate of this is the program GoodWeave. This is a system by which companies in India can be certified to ensure that children are not used in the creation of rugs or carpets. Since its inception in 1995, GoodWeave has approved of over 11 million carpets. In that time, the number of children who work in carpet factories has dropped from 1 million to 250,000.

The Global March Against Child Labor was the beginning of a bold social movement, but now we must celebrate and continue its ongoing achievements.

– Andrew Rywak

Sources: USAID Blog, International Labour Organization, U.S. Department of Labor, Global March
Photo: List Top Tens

Coinciding with the World Against Child Labor Day, the 2014 FIFA World Cup is taking place in Brazil this year and it is important to note the link between these two events. Although children in Brazil below the age of 16 are not supposed to work, about 3 million children below that age are currently subjects of child labor. In 2013, 10,668 violations of children’s rights were largely registered on the Brazilian government’s Secretariat of Human Rights hotline.

During the World Cup, children will be on break from school, making the opportunity to become victims of exploitation and abuse even greater than normal. The Brazilian government, however, has begun to take steps toward improving the situation. In an attempt to preemptively respond to what could be an increased period of abuse by child labor, the government has been raising public awareness, expanding its police force and has supported and approved legislation that categorizes any sort of sexual exploitation of children or adolescents as a “heinous crime,” meaning punishments for these types of crimes will be more severe than ever.

Additionally, in order to address the problem even further, UNICEF just developed an app called Projeta Brasil. Projeta Brasil, also partnered with organizations such as Save the Dream and the International Centre for Sport Security, allows smartphone users to immediately report any instances of child labor or child abuse they may see. The report immediately alerts local authorities about the location, time and circumstances in which the event was witnessed. It also provides the chance for victims themselves to report instances of exploitation. While the app primarily acts as a reporting tool, it also serves to raise awareness about various forms of child exploitation to look out for during the World Cup.

The app puts the power to help in the hands of both Brazilians and tourists alike, and can be downloaded in various languages, such as Portuguese, English and Spanish. If you’d like to download or learn more about the app, you can find more information here.

– Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: UNICEF Connect, Huffington PostGlobal MarchProjeta Brasil
Photo: WordPress

child labor
Right now more than 168 million children ages 5 to 18 are victims of child labor practices. Of these children, 85 million work in conditions that endanger their health and many are exploited in varying ways.

It is these shocking truths that have motivated the likes of Travis Barker, Pharrell Williams, Mike Einziger of Incubus and world-renowned composer Hans Zimmer, to collaborate on a song titled, “Til Everyone Can See.” The song features Minh Dang, a survivor of child trafficking.

The inspiration for the anti-child labor tune originated from their visit with the International Labour Organization. The ILO is the oldest agency of the United Nations, and their child labor program is the largest in the world. Following the visit, the artists joined the ILO campaign, Red Card to Child Labour.

The campaign’s use of the red card is intentional, as the timing of the campaign lines up with one of the most highly viewed sporting events in the world; the FIFA World Cup. This global symbol of a red card is known for being synonymous with the concepts of wrong and stop, making it an ideal symbol for the campaign.

The song was released on June 12 of this week, which is also the World Day Against Child Labor. The music, written by Einziger of Incubus and the violinist, Ann Marie Simpson, has a global vibe. However, this is not the first time musicians have used such songs to take a stand against child labor.

Similar musical initiatives include Global Music against Child Labor, through which musicians of all genres have dedicated events and concerts to the movement. The awareness these artists raise undoubtedly plays a key part in ending child labor practices.

As the heartfelt song declares “no one can be free when there is slavery…its time to do our part, give children of the world a brand new start.”

— Christopher Kolezynski

Sources: ILO, Look To The Stars, Music For Good, USA Today
Photo: Flickr



Burkina Faso is officially rated as the third poorest country in the world by the United Nations. In northern, impoverished regions of the country gold mining dominates life’s daily activities for many, particularly children.

According to a 2010 joint study conducted by Burkina Faso’s government in conjunction with UNICEF, 20,000 young children reportedly work in the country’s gold mining sites and over 80 percent of these children have never attended school in their lives. Many are thus unable to read or write and instead devote their time to gold mining. A successful day of mining can result in a sum of money, which children can take home to their parents.

The young miners collect rocks in various mining sites, most notably the Gorol Kadje mine near Dori, and fill bags with unearthed stones which are then crushed, processed and sifted for gold by young girls gathered around the sites. Images of the process are available online and depict children as young as 10 years old covered in dirt and dust, hauling and crushing bags of rocks, clad with flashlights tied to their heads.

These circumstances are slowly, but surely, being addressed. UNICEF, the government of Burkina Faso and Terre des Hommes, a charitable humanitarian organization based in Switzerland, have been working together since 2009 to help remove children from the Gorol Kadje mine and help them pursue education and other useful training and trades. The groups focus on the five regions exhibiting the highest rates of child labor.

The programs are very successful. Since these efforts began, over 200 youths have been removed from this laborious pursuit to, instead, receive vocational training in areas such as tailoring, carpentry, dressmaking and metalwork, among others. The National Agency for Employment in Dori is now enlivened by many new youths able to pursue instruction and schooling thanks to blackboards in the facility.

— Arielle Swett
Sources: UNICEF, WSJ
Photo: News Hour

Generating an industry worth billions of dollars, human trafficking poses one of the greatest threats to human rights globally. The U.N. defines the act as “a process by which people are recruited in their community, and exploited by traffickers using deception and/or some other form of coercion to lure and control them.”

The problem stems from various elements, including migration floods, political instability, economic uncertainty, dysfunctional state institutions and a rapidly growing sex industry. The U.N. goes on to identify three different elements that must be present for an act to be considered human trafficking: recruitment and transporting, an act of deception or abuse of power and a form of exploitation to which the victim is subjected.

Here are five basic realities of human trafficking that give a snapshot of the current situation:

1. What we see is the tip of the iceberg.

Cases of human trafficking are extremely difficult to detect. Conviction rates from the crime are extremely low: even though 460 different trafficking flows have been identified worldwide, 16% of affected countries reported zero cases between 2007 and 2010.

2. Victims remain tantalizingly close to home.

Most traffickers do not transport their victims across the world. Instead, they tend to keep victims within the region they were taken from. Globally, the trafficking flow with East Asian origins exports the most victims out of the region.

3. Men are trafficked, too.

Human Trafficking is an act of those in power exploiting those who are vulnerable. Women and children, then, with smaller physical stature and less social empowerment, are at highest risk. But that does not mean they are the only victims: men account for a quarter of all human trafficking victims. A third of all trafficked children are boys.

4. It’s happening right now, even in the U.S.

More than 10,000 people are forced laborers in the U.S., and this does not account for all the cases that go unnoticed. Taking those into account, the figure is more likely in the tens of thousands. Most of these will end up in the sex industry, while others will be forced to work in agriculture, domestic settings, sweatshops and in hotels.

5. It’s everyone’s problem.

It is estimated that 20.9 million people work forced labor globally, and this number can be thought of as a good indicator for the number of trafficked people worldwide. Victims have been identified with 136 different nationalities in virtually every region of the world, and all countries play some part in the process, with 118 of them containing victims.

The news is not all bad, though. There are ways to combat these trends, like lessening discrimination, empowering women, keeping children healthy and clear of conflict zones and, as always, battling global poverty.

Currently, evidence shows that in some regions, human trafficking has been on the decline since 2000, and 134 countries have now made laws against it.

– Rachel Davis

Sources: UN(1), UN(2), UNODC, Human Rights Center
Photo: LB International

child labor in afghanistan
Poverty forces children to work and sacrifice their chance at an education. Today, sadly, child labor in Afghanistan is a common occurrence. Estimates are difficult to come by but through various sources it can be stated that between 21 and 25 percent of Afghan children are part of the labor force. Children as young as 6 are often involved.


Cause and Effect: Child Labor in Afghanistan


Child labor is hard to overcome in Afghanistan because although it is illegal by law for anyone under the age of 14 to work, many families are so desperate that they need one of their children to work in order to survive. Employers are desperate for cheap labor as well. The government seems to be doing little to enforce this law.

A common job for Afghan children in Kabul is working in brick factories. They can work up to 12 hours for around $1.40 a day. Other potential jobs for these children are working in bakeries, weaving, selling toilet paper and shopping bags, mining, washing cars or farming. Some children even begin to beg.

It is important to look at the physiological affects of child labor. Childhood is a time when people are supposed to be able to play and avoid the stresses of life.  This crucial time period allows them to develop into healthy adults. Research shows that, “75 percent of brain development occurs after birth. Play helps with that development by stimulating the brain through the formation of connections between nerve cells.” It is essential for children to play with their parents and with other children.

If Afghan children are working, they are missing out on this crucial developmental step. It is possible that a work environment would replace play and stimulate a child’s brain but it is not certain if they are gaining the right type of knowledge that a child would otherwise gain from play. The stress children endure when having to work will also cause other stunted developmental issues.

The main reason children are sent off to work is so that they can feed their families. This is due to a loss of a parent or both parents. A child might have to go to work because their father dies and their mother is unable to find work because of her gender. Poverty and gender bias seems to be two of the causes of child labor in Afghanistan.

Poverty in Afghanistan is caused by many factors, one being the fact that it has been in a state of almost perpetual war since 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded, followed by Taliban rule and the post 9/11 American invasion coupled with Taliban guerrilla warfare. But regardless of the reasons as to why poverty exists in Afghanistan, it is essential to raise people out of poverty so that child labor will cease.

The task of raising the Afghan people out of poverty is certainly not an easy one. There are a range of problems arising from misallocation of USAID funds by the Afghan government, the inability of U.S. officials to better Afghan government institutions and just general distrust and confusion between the two countries.

A possible solution to this would be for the U.S. to give money to more grassroots NGOs and intergovernmental organizations who are currently working in Afghanistan. This would get the aid directly to the most vulnerable people in Afghanistan, specifically children. Organizations like the World Food Programme have operations already in place. Activities like school meals, food for training, Food-for-Work, nutrition programs and flour fortification are being carried out in Afghanistan today. They also support programs that try to close the gender gap.

Imagine if the U.S. gave more money to these programs instead of fighting with the Afghan government over misallocated funds?  These programs are already helping thousands of Afghan people, why not help even more? Child labor in Afghanistan is increasing, and with poverty as its main cause, the U.S. government should put more of its aid money toward proven, successful poverty alleviation programs.

– Eleni Marino

Sources: Global Post, Los Angeles Times, Montana State University, The New York Times, UN Data, WFP
Photo: CRI English

child labor facts
The existence of child labor is a prominent human rights issue in today’s world. The United Nations defines child labor as any work completed by children who have not yet reached the minimum legal age required for either a specific kind of work or any work that is generally viewed as unacceptable for children. Unacceptable work usually involves potential harm, dangerous conditions or physical strain unsuitable for underage youth.

To combat this issue, it is important to understand pertinent child labor facts. This knowledge will allow people to fully realize how many young workers never have the chance to be children:

  • Child labor is incredibly common and internationally practiced, and has affected billions of young lives. During the Industrial Revolution, employers sought out child workers because they could pay them lower wages, use their size as an advantage and benefit from their obedience. For years children made up a large majority of the labor force, and it wasn’t until the Great Depression that labor reforms began.
  • Even though child labor is prohibited in the United States, many other countries still exploit child workers. According to Free the Children, there are approximately 218 million child workers worldwide.
  • Many child workers are forced to work under hazardous conditions. Approximately 115 million children out of the aforementioned 218 million work in unsafe environments according to the International Labor Organization. This type of work is considered to be among the worst forms of child labor, especially since children are at greater risk of injuries and accidents.
  • Many children work out of necessity. In developing countries, it is common practice for kids to find work so that they can help provide for the family. In some cases, children are exposed to slavery, illegal activities and even armed conflict.
  • These children do not receive proper care or education. If there are no child labor laws in place, children work most of the day without receiving necessary nutrients or food and according to Free the Children, approximately 57 million children do not attend school. These limitations hinder children from reaching their full educational potential or advancing in the workforce.

Even though there has been a significant decline in the number of child workers, this is only a moderate decrease compared to the total number of children who are forced to work. As demonstrated by the facts above, this issue is still very present today, and perpetuates the cycle of poverty in developing countries.

– Meghan Orner

Sources: The United Nations, Free the Children, The International Labor Organization, The History Channel
Photo: Flickr