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child labor
The worst forms of child labor by international definition is: the enslavement, sale, trafficking, debt bondage, serfdom or compulsory labor of anyone under the age of eighteen. In the United States, minors are a protected class under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

This act prohibits the oppressive labor of children, and is meant to include anything deemed physically or emotionally damaging, hazardous, or would inhibit the well-being and education of such individuals. Outside of the United States, however, minors are not necessarily granted such special protection and may begin working under hazardous conditions without profit, access to education, ability to escape or hope of a future.

International Labor Organization

The International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency founded in 1919, estimates that there were 40.3 million people in modern slavery, a quarter of whom are children; in fact, in 2017, 152 million children were in child labor around the world.

“Alliance 8.7 is a global strategic partnership committed to achieving Sustainable Development Goal Target 8.7, which calls on the world to ‘take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 to end child labor in all its forms.”

This organization has made tremendous efforts towards attaining its goals to eliminate child labor completely. As evidence of progress, there has been a decrease of 94 million children previously engaged in child labor since the year 2000.

Slavery vs. Child Labor

The distinction between slavery and child labor is important to note, as it distinguishes between what is considered labor and involuntary servitude, which by definition is forced. “Slavery is the holding of people at a workplace through force, fraud, or coercion for purposes of sexual exploitation or forced labor so that the slaveholder can extract a profit.”

Of the 40 million slaves today, the majority are female, and the prevalence of slavery is most common in the Asia & Pacific regions, as well as in sub-Saharan Africa. As noted above, slavery takes many different forms and about 10 million of the slaves in existence today are children.

Forms and Causes of Slavery

The most typical forms of slavery are: debt bondage, contract slavery, sex trafficking, forced or servile marriage, domestic servitude, worst forms of child labor and child soldiers. The breakdown of industries where slavery takes place is fifty percent through forced labor in agriculture, manufacturing, construction, fishing, mining and other physical labor industries; 12.5 percent sex slavery in forced prostitution; and 37.5 percent forced marriage.

Poverty alone clearly does not cause slavery to occur, however, it is a large determinant of what allows slavery to catalyze in the first place. Slavery arises out of vulnerability and, as with all forms of cruelty and evil, predators prey on the weak.

In addition to poverty, other susceptibilities to one being subjected to involuntary servitude include: a lack of awareness of rights and risks, absent or weak protective organizations, absence of critical services, inadequate legal protection and survivor vulnerability. Human trafficking occurs within approximately twenty-three percent of the people who make up the slave population.

A Network of Support

The creation of stronger support systems is one key action item to putting an end to slavery. This is termed capacity building, and includes improved training, technical training and assistance to already existing organizations. Support systems aid in identifying those at risk to poverty and child slavery, preventing slavery from occurring and helping those in the aftermath to thrive under post-traumatic conditions.

As with all other inhumane acts, raising awareness is a crucial component to the creation of a world without child slaves.

Child Labor

While slavery is an obvious unspeakable injustice that strips the innocence of nearly 10 million children, the other 152 million children who are child laborers equates to one in ten children across the globe.  The child labor statistics mentioned are primarily related to work in agriculture, with a smaller amount who work in the service or industry sector.

By continents it is estimated that 72.1 million child laborers exist in Africa, followed by Asia and the Pacific at 62 million, the Americas at 10.7 million, Europe and Central Asia at 5.5 million and the Arab States at 1.2 million. Thirty-eight percent of children in hazardous work conditions were between the ages of 5 to 14 when this data was collected.

A Child-Slave-Free World

One way to commit to the creation of a slave-free world and end child labor is to be a responsible consumer. Simply buying products from reputable companies who use ethical practices to produce their goods is a step in the right direction towards positive change. For business owners or those in corporate professions, knowthechain.org aids businesses in how to make ethically sound choices with respect to labor practices.

Demonstrating support for legislation crafted to prohibit child labor and the creation of stricter deterrents to using slave labor is a means to a solution. Finally, preventative measures can be taken by raising awareness, and increasing availability of education so that all people around the world know their rights. It would also help if funding is allocated to organizations that work to create positive change through both prevention and assistance.

Also, Free the Slaves contains additional information on what can be done to fight slavery and make ethically sound purchases.

– Bridget Rice
Photo: Flickr

Bolivia’s working age is the lowest in the world. At 10 years old, children can legally work for themselves, their families and for others. Better education and a change in cultural attitude is the only way to provide aid for children working in Bolivia.

Bolivia’s Child and Adolescent Code was passed in 2014. It lowered the legal working age to 10 in an effort to prevent the exploitation of many children already working in Bolivia. But with 850,000 child laborers in Bolivia and only 78 inspectors, it is difficult to enforce regulations. Many children work illegally starting at the age of five.

Bolivian lawmakers wanted to set the minimum working age at 14, which led to riots as shoe shiners, bricklayers, street vendors and other child workers clashed with police in 2013.

The law passed with support from Bolivian President Evo Morales, who said that working children develop “social awareness.” President Morales worked with his father at age six, herding llamas.

Aid for children working in Bolivia cannot come from regulations alone, as they are too lax and purport a vicious cycle of poverty. Working from a young age threatens their health, exposes them to violence and reinforces integral cycles of poverty. As it stands, 60 percent of children working in Bolivia drop out of school in order to continue working.

Four years after the law passed, many fear that the law is failing to protect Bolivia’s working children. Children and their families must get approval from the government to work; however, only about 30 percent of applications are dealt with. Many ignore the law and put children to work unsupervised.

Bolivia has 8.3 million citizens and 59 percent of the population lives in poverty. Culture and need both contribute to child labor. It is seen as normal in Andean culture for children to help support the family. Therefore, aid for children working in Bolivia must extend from a change in social values and political priorities.

Child labor deprives children of their right to go to school, but Bolivian children need money to buy books. They also need to feed their younger siblings and help their family pay the bills. Poverty levels have decreased in Bolivia over the last few years, but children still play a key role in keeping many families afloat.

Aid for children working in Bolivia comes only in the form of regulations and unions that aim to prevent the exploitation of workers. The Union of Child and Adolescent Workers of Bolivia is an organization of young workers that have united to defend themselves from exploitation. They supported Bolivia’s Child and Adolescent Code and do not want the cessation of child labor in Bolivia, but the improvement of its regulation. By fighting for better protection for child workers, groups like this can ensure fair treatment of children in the short term while working to change the cultural norms in the long term.

– Sam Bramlett

Photo: Flickr

Right to a Childhood
In the last two decades, international organizations and nonprofits have turned their attention toward the right to a childhood. Children are vulnerable not only due to their age but also due to their lack of resources, low education and inability to effectively communicate. This combination has left children susceptible to child labor, child marriage and sex trafficking, forcing them to grow up quickly without a childhood. More must be done to harmonize regional, international and local laws to clearly define the age of a child in order to prevent confusion and children slipping through the system in order to allow every child the right to a childhood.

Prioritizing children’s right to a childhood in Malawi has a significant meaning for many young women combatting forced marriage. Child marriage, with parents’ consent, is common in Malawi for children between 15 and 18 years old. In 2015, Malawi amended its marriage law to increase the minimum age to 18. The constitution allows marriage at 15 years with parental consent.

Malawi’s Protection and Justice Act defines an adult at 16 years of age. The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child defines an adult at 18 years. Harmonizing these laws would reduce confusion and decrease forced marriage by increasing the age of eligibility to marry. If this harmonizing of laws and redefining of age proves successful, this could be an example used for other countries combatting childhood labor, child soldiers and early childhood marriage, increasing availability of the right to a childhood.

The protection of a child’s innocence, as well as their right to a childhood, should start much earlier than marriage. Right to Play was founded in 2000 by four Olympic gold medalists and an entrepreneur. The nonprofit focuses on protecting a child’s critical years. “While food, water and shelter are essential, so is a childhood, complete with education and opportunities to actively engage with other children,” its website states. The organization teaches children life skills, which will help them overcome inevitable conflict and disease as they grow up.

Games engage children to participate in the programs, while the “Reflect-Connect-Apply” approach forces the children to examine their life experiences. Then they relate those experiences to their education. They finally apply this technique to their daily lives. “Reflect-Connect-Apply” focuses on creating positive, sustainable change in three areas: education, health and living in peace.

In some parts of the world today, children are not able to experience the benefits of a right to a childhood. Organizations and NGOs working on the ground level of local villages are teaching communities the value of play combined with an international movement to harmonize laws and clearly define an age for a child could help. Protecting the right to childhood is good for the immediate community and generations to come.

Danielle Preskitt

Photo: Flickr

Child Labor in Pakistan
Child labor in Pakistan? For many years, Pakistan’s reputation has been notorious as one of the worst child labor offenders. In recent years, child labor prevention efforts have been heightened. Beginning in 2017, a province in Pakistan passed a new law banning child labor. Could this province be a guide for the rest of the nation? Here are the three things you need to know about child labor in Pakistan and how lawmakers are putting an end to this problem.

More than 12.5 million children are involved in child labor in Pakistan. According to Reuters, “Pakistan’s Labour Force Survey, 2014-15 showed that of those children aged between 10 and 14 years active in child labor, 61 percent were boys and 88 percent came from rural areas.”

In Pakistan, 38.8 percent of the population is living in poverty, with one in four individuals living in acute poverty. For many citizens in Pakistan, it is hard to find a job or to secure one paying enough to provide for a family. Students from impoverished backgrounds who are unable to enter school are most likely to become affected by child labor in Pakistan.

Many child workers are often abused where they work, suffering beatings or torture. Many children are sent to live with middle class and elite class families to perform as domestic servants. Jobs like these become particularly dangerous for children, as they are at the risk of physical and sexual abuse without real supervision.

There are a few programs funded by the government to tackle child labor in Pakistan. For instance, the Children Support Program gives parents money so that they can send their children to school instead of encouraging them to join the work force. This program is available to parents of children ages five to 16. So far, the government has distributed $3 million to families.

In 2016, Pakistan was criticized for not conducting any surveys focusing on the child labor of the past 20 years. This allowed for about 25 million children, who are not attending school, slip under the radar.

On Jan. 26, 2017, the province of Sindh made child labor illegal under The Sindh Prohibition of Employment of Children Bill, banning children under the age of 14 from working. The law also prohibits adolescents from working between the hours of 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. and for those adolescents who are working, they cannot work more than three hours a day.

Sindh is known as the most impoverished province in Pakistan. As reported by tribune.com, “In Sindh, 43.1 percent [of the] population is extremely poor due to lack of education, health facilities and poor living standards.” The new law states that offenders of the child labor law will be imprisoned for six months and fined 50,000 rupees. Meanwhile, offenders who are found with child workers in dangerous workplaces (such as stone crushing and carpet weaving) will be sentenced to three years of imprisonment with an increased fine of 100,000 rupees.

Since the province of Sindh is beginning to tackle the issue of child labor in Pakistan, in the future, the rest of the Pakistani work force could follow its example and eliminate all labor misconducts.

Maria Rodriguez

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in SurinameThe Republic of Suriname, bordered by Guyana and French Guiana, is home to approximately 566,000 people, 47 percent of whom live in poverty. Here are four issues contributing to poverty in Suriname:

  1. Child Labor
    Many children in Suriname are forced to work in order to help their families make ends meet. While the legal working age in Suriname is 14, eight percent of children between the ages of five and 14 are forced into work. The majority work on the streets, which is a safety risk, or in agriculture, handling toxic and dangerous materials. Since these children are working illegally, their wages are unregulated and they are often grossly underpaid.
  2. Health Issues
    The people of Suriname are especially susceptible to major infectious diseases. There are high instances of food or waterborne diseases, such as typhoid fever, and vector-borne diseases, such as malaria. AIDs has also become one of the main causes of death in children under five. Families in poverty struggle to get treatment for these diseases and are thus often impacted the most. Malnutrition is also a concern for many people living in Suriname. Undernourishment affects 8.4 percent of the population.
  3. Disparities Between Rural and Urban Populations
    There are clear differences between the living conditions in urban and rural areas. Only 61.4 percent of rural populations have access to sanitation facilities, while 88.4 percent of the urban population does. The quality of education, which affects future income, also depends on location. Rural areas have poorly trained teachers compared to urban areas, which puts rural children at a disadvantage. The rural Maroon population, for example, has lower educational attainment, higher malnutrition, and less access to resources like electricity, sanitation and healthcare than urban populations. Rural populations’ disadvantages are partly due to the fact that geographic isolation restricts their opportunities to participate in policymaking.
  4. Discrimination
    High rates of discrimination in Suriname have hurt the wellbeing of minority ethnic groups. Compared to majority groups, people in the ethnic minority have limited access to quality education, good healthcare and other public services. Children from minority ethnic groups are also more likely to be forced into labor or sexually exploited as they try to earn money.

While the country is facing difficult issues, there are a number of programs and government efforts in place working to reduce these inequalities and address the health and labor issues that contribute to poverty in Suriname.

Alexi Worley

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Guyana
The third-smallest South American country came into independence in 1966 after more than 340 years of colonial control by the Dutch, British and French. Slavery and indentured servitude brought immigrants from several continents, giving Guyana one of the most ethnically diverse populations globally. Many ethnic origins are international, and many people choose to leave and live in other countries. Guyana has one of the worst net migration rates in the world as more than 55% migrate to find work.

Economy

Sixty percent of the country’s gross domestic product is represented by six exports: sugar, gold, bauxite, shrimp, timber, and rice. Guyana was once a powerful producer of sugar, yet its production sunk to an all-time low in 2014. More recent crop production numbers have shown an improvement. A 2015 submission to the Guyana Sugar Corporation Commission of Inquiry reported reaching 94 percent of productivity goals in the first half of that year.

With somewhat recent estimates stating that 35% of the population lives in poverty, Guyana is one of the world’s poorest nations. (2012 Gross National Income (GNI) per capita: $3,410-USD, 2011: $2,900-USD)

Education

Less than 3.5% of Guyana’s GDP goes toward education expenditures. Less than 90% of people age 15 and over have attended school, and the average school-life expectancy is 10 years.

In its population, 27% of which are children under the age of 15,  just 281,000 people use the internet. More than a quarter of the population are without cellular telephones. Of those 199,607 0-14-year-olds, 16% are child laborers.

Health

There were 100 HIV/AIDS-related deaths in 2015. With a population of less than 800,000, that number is staggering. In that year there were nearly 8,000 people living with HIV and AIDS in Guyana.

The cause for low numbers of doctors and hospital beds is very low health expenditures. The country has a low life expectancy, 165th in the world at 68.4%. This is likely due to the populations’ increased exposure to major infectious diseases like hepatitis A and malaria.

Water supplies are endangered by sewage, chemicals, and well water pollution by saltwater from the sea.

Solutions

According to the CIA world factbook, the government remains maligned in sizable debt servitude despite the Inter-American Development Bank canceling more than $450 million of their debt a decade ago. While that brought the debt-to-GDP ratio down from 183% in 2006 to 67 percent in 2015, the country sorely needs investments in infrastructure and an influx of skilled workers.

Coordinating with international health organizations to develop research facilities would develop a premier health care network.

Currently, the nation’s largest university focuses mainly on agricultural sciences. While the Pan-American Health Organization maintains an office in the country, working to expand upon that network would prove beneficial.

Developing a health care network on the northern-most coast of South America would aid in fighting infectious disease in Guyana. This creates a need to improve its poor infrastructure and bring skilled medical professionals back into the country.

The focus on improving health conditions in Guyana is the first step toward a stronger economy. Improving health conditions is done by investing more resources, educating physicians and keeping those doctors from emigrating by buying more hospital beds. The possibility of creating an infrastructure around medical research facilities could benefit the region, keep and draw skilled health professionals in and to Guyana.

Shaun Savarese

Photo: Flickr

Syrian Refugees
The Syrian war that began six years ago is still wreaking havoc on millions of lives. What started as civil unrest instigated by the arrest of schoolboys in 2011, has turned into a multifaceted crisis characterized by anarchic violence. About 470,000 Syrians have died while 14.9 million are in dire need of humanitarian assistance with the largest internally displaced population of 6.5 million, 2.8 million of which are children. Additionally, millions have fled Syria to find safe refuge from the depredations of multiple wars. For many, the fight to survive still continues. Here are ten facts about Syrian refugees.

  1. Long, strenuous hikes through deserts, facing dangers such as being targeted by snipers or arrested at the borders, is what refugees endure to enter neighboring countries. About 4.9 million refugees have migrated to Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and some North African countries.
  2. Turkey has the largest population of Syrian refugees in one country at 2.81 million. About 80% of the refugees living in Southeast Turkey are deprived of all humanitarian aid due to the ongoing conflict. Lack of job opportunities further exacerbates their crisis, compelling many to move to Europe. The year 2015 saw a mass exodus of 800,000 refugees from Turkey to Greece.
  3. Child labor is another horror of this crisis affecting children in both camps and cities. Kids are less likely to be impugned if caught engaging in illegal work and therefore resort to menial jobs to sustain their families’ basic needs. The average age of working children is 14, but even 5-year-olds have been found engaged in jobs such as collecting trash, working in restaurants, cleaning, loading goods, metalwork and carpentry.
  4. In spite of enhanced access to food, shelter and education, only 10% of the refugees live in camps. While some are unable to enter due to overcrowding, the majority leave at great risks in search of independence and normalcy. They are tired of living on handouts and want to provide for their kids. Preservation of their dignity is the foremost reason many Syrian refugees forego the relative security of camps.
  5. Expended savings and lack of work have resulted in a significant number living below the poverty line with 93% in Jordan, 70% in Lebanon and 65% in Egypt. The high costs of work permits ranging from $170 to $1,270 and the lack of experience force refugees to work in low paying seasonal jobs. Lack of registration also prevents refugees from being able to work legally.
  6. The main priorities for refugees in urban communities include rent, food and health. Most live in inadequate dwellings, some without electricity or plumbing, and they often share accommodations with other families. Rents account for about two-thirds of their expenses leaving them shorthanded for basic needs like food and healthcare. Government policy allows food distribution for only camp residents. Refugees in urban communities tend to go unnoticed and suffer from the perception that they are less vulnerable.
  7. The strain on the economy, infrastructure and social services in host countries have led to resentment against the refugees. A large influx into cities has resulted in inflation of rents, overcrowding of schools and lower wages. Jordan imposed stricter restrictions on entry in 2014 while Turkey is building a border wall. About 176 refugees, including 31 children, were killed by the Turkish border guards in 2016. About 80,000 refugees are forsaken at the borders in crude settlements without toilets, electricity or clean water and 1,000 refugees return to Syria from Jordan weekly. In addition to frequent raids, Lebanese law since 2015 requires refugees to pay $200 annually for a residence permit along with proof of sponsorship.
  8. Displacement has also drastically hindered education, the only means to safeguarding these children’s futures against the traumatic experiences of this crisis. About 700,000 Syrian children in neighboring countries are out of school. In spite of efforts by host countries, a large percentage are deprived of education. In Lebanon, approximately 250,000 are out of school. Only three percent of the 82,744 registered refugees aged 15-18 attended school in 2015. In Jordan, over 80,000 refugee children did not have access to education in 2015.
  9. While a majority of refugees are in neighboring countries, about one million have requested asylum in Europe including 300,000 in Germany and 100,000 in Sweden. Canada is leading in North America with 40,081 Syrian refugees as of January 2017. President Obama welcomed more than 10,000 Syrian refugees during his tenure.
  10. Refugees desperate for the European shores embark on what they refer to as the“journey of death.” Many make multiple attempts, overcoming unimaginable hazards at the middle eastern shores before facing the dangers of the sea. Although the number dropped significantly after the EU-Turkey deal, about 80,000 refugees arrived in Greece between January and October 2016 and the riskier route from Libya to Italy was crossed by more than 115,000. About 4,176 lives were lost resulting in an average of 11 men, women and children dying daily for a year.

Refugees are willing to risk their lives to live freely without fear. When asked why they would subject themselves to such life-threatening risks, their responses resonate with hope in the face of death. Syrian refugees are on the precipice of desperation, trying to stay optimistic. They make these perilous journeys across the globe in search of a future for themselves and their children. There are no alternative motives.

Preeti Yadav

Photo: Flickr

 Access to Education
Education remains an unreachable right for millions of children around the globe. Currently, upward of 72 million children in the primary education age (five to 12 years) are not in school and 759 million adults are illiterate. There are a plethora of reasons why such a large number of children in lower income countries do not receive the adequate education at the primary school level. Below are just some of the factors driving a lack of access to education:

  • There aren’t enough schools. Many of the poorest countries in the world do not have access to the adequate financial resources necessary to create schools. Providing schooling materials along with recruiting and training teachers cost money, and aid from fellow countries generally is not sufficient enough to establish an education system for all children.
  • There is a low value of education. Many times in remote areas of the world, children who belong to the indigenous population are more trained at finding food and livelihood for themselves rather than focusing on education. Due to this, they are never taught the value and importance of education.
  • The geographical location is not ideal for schooling. This includes things like severe weather conditions, rough terrain and lack of transportation. For example, children in the Philippines have to walk miles before they can reach the nearest primary school. Some areas in India meanwhile are just too stiff to climb and for transportation to pass.
  • Many families cannot afford school and are oftentimes forced into child labor. Over 300 million children between the ages of five and 17 years are engaged in employment worldwide. Most of these children work to financially support their families making child labor a significant contributor to high numbers of them being out of school. Parents, as well as governments, are more concerned about other important things like finding food, shelter and water for the families.
  • Minority groups are often excluded or forgotten. Specific groups find themselves marginalized while their children are deprived of education opportunities. This tends to happen either because of passive underinvestment by the government in particular geographies where the ethnic minorities are concentrated or because of active discrimination.
  • Conflict within a country overruns the opportunities for education. Children in war-ridden countries don’t have a chance to go to school and be educated. Child refugees caught in war and conflict spend the majority of their young lives in refugee camps. Instead of spending time in a classroom learning, they are caught in the middle of chaos which they do not deserve.

Access to schools is the first step toward increasing the right to an education for all children on a global level. Taking steps to resolve the hindering factors driving the lack of access to education will be crucial in overcoming education’s inaccessibility to so many young minds.

Keaton McCalla

Photo: Flickr

The Fight Against Child Labor in Gaza: Organizations Unite
As organizations unite, the fight continues against child labor in Gaza. The ongoing power struggle between the Israeli government and Hamas has led to adverse effects on the 1.8 million population of Gaza, with nearly 80 percent of the population relying on foreign aid. Children have been burdened by the combined effects of child labor and penurious standards of living. As a result, the plight of youth has deteriorated in Gaza.

The situation has especially been exacerbating since the Israeli blockade on the Gaza strip.

An analysis conducted by the International Labor Organization (ILO) highlighted that child labor in Gaza has risen. The Jerusalem Post has additionally reported that a large proportion of the children are below the legal age of 15.

With rising food prices and varying degrees of income disparity, the situation has furthermore declined. The deficiency in the labor market has made it hard for people to find work. As a result, child labor in Gaza continues to be an ongoing issue as young children are forced to work for meager amounts to support their families without insurance.

“I work to help him (my father) earn a living. My brother also works to help him. The situation is not good. We don’t have money to pay to paint our home and not even to buy a ball. We don’t have anything. My salary is not enough,” said Mahmoud Yazji in an interview with the Jerusalem Post.

Neighboring countries have taken on the humanitarian initiative and many organizations strive to help these vulnerable children. Here are just a few of the organizations:

  • Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization
    A convoy from the Organization regularly delivers medical supplies. It has collectively contributed a massive $40 million to Gaza since 2009 and has renewed hope for nearly 600,000 Gaza residents with efficient health care services.
  • Turkish Red Crescent
    The inception of the first aid station by the Turkish Red Crescent will benefit many in Karara. Moreover, the recent steadfast Israel-Turkey deal has greatly helped bolster the transportation of aid. Five hundred trucks have so far made their way through the disputed territories with the supervision of the Turkish Red Crescent.
  • Additionally, the organization SOS Children’s Villages has been providing care and early education to young children in Rafah since 1999. Their Youth Home has also helped young people with basic training to adjust to the challenges that adult life entails.
  • United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has also taken on this effort by providing a high level of education to the youth in Gaza. They have garnered expertise in this field over the last three years.
  • Gaza’s Social Affairs Ministry of Labor has conducted and organized initiatives that will aid in making the youth more self-sufficient by teaching them essential skills like carpentry and sewing.

Such efforts are aimed at encouraging the youth and increasing the propensity to remain in school. Increasing literacy rates are also vital to make the youth competitive for the labor market. This is vital because the youth unemployment rate now stands at 60 percent.

Moreover, The El-Wedad Society for Community Rehabilitation is spearheading the push for children’s rights by visiting families and emphasizing the vitality of education through seminars and sessions.

Strengthening the insurance policy and increasing the bargaining power of the youth is also essential to help combat the issue. Businesses who use means of exploitation and child labor should be blacklisted by the U.N. to accentuate the magnitude of the violation.

A possible cessation of hostilities between the Hamas and the Israeli government does not seem likely, especially after the revolts that rocked 2014. However, the widespread impact of such progressive endeavors will take some time to reach the heart of every youth in Gaza.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

Education_El Salvador
While education has slowly grown more accessible for El Salvador children since the end of the country’s civil war in 1992, poverty continues to keep children away from classrooms — particularly when reaching secondary school.

In 2013, elementary schools had a 91% enrollment. However, only 50-60% attended secondary school (grades seven through nine). Poverty levels also fluctuated between 30-40% over the past decade, rising to 55% in rural areas.

Poverty conditions often affect academic performance and can cause children to leave school early, as disadvantages faced by families often influence the choice.

Work

El Salvador has child labor laws; it is illegal for children under 14 to have jobs and hours are restricted for anyone under 18. However, about 1.8 million children between the ages of five to 17 work to contribute to their families. Many of these children have to leave school to do so, thus continuing the cycle of poverty.

School Supply Costs

Although secondary education in El Salvador is free, students are required to have uniforms and basic supplies. This cost is often too much for families. Rural students are often unable to attend because they do not have means of transportation to get to even the nearest school.

Resources

School quality varies from region to region It is difficult to encourage students to actively participate in education when schools often are poorly constructed, lack the proper resources and are overcrowded.

Crime

After Honduras, El Salvador has the second-highest homicide rate in the world, fueled by active gangs, drugs and poverty. Children risk becoming either participants or victims of the violence. In this case, both employment and education appear to be part of the solution. Young people who join gangs are often those who do not have the resources to attend school but are unable to find a job in the stagnant economy.

Unregistered Children

Approximately 10% of the population were not registered at birth. This prevents children from becoming citizens or attending public schools in El Salvador. Unregistered children are born to families in rural areas or living on the street. Barring this particularly vulnerable group from education only continues the issues of violence and poverty.

Child Marriage

Legally, girls as young as 14 and boys as young as 15 can marry with parental permission. Twenty-five percent of Salvadorans are married by age 18. Members of a Global group called Girls, not Brides, state that child marriage often ends a girl’s formal education pursuits.

Change on the Way?

Problems with secondary education in El Salvador have been recognized and many are mobilizing to tackle these issues.

El Salvador passed a plan to end child labor by 2020 through the reduction of poverty, protection of children’s rights and improvements to education.

To reduce crime, the government passed a law called National Youth Policy, with the intent to create outlets for young people through education, employment or other constructive participation. Some American organizations like USAID and Tailored for Education have invested in Salvadoran schools to improve resources and infrastructure.

None of these economic or social issues are easy to resolve, but Salvadoran officials believe that with a literacy rate of 97%, high primary school attendance and a low gender gap, there will be a good foundation to make progress.

Jeanette I. Burke

Photo: Flickr