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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

Forced_Labor_in_Uzbekistan
The grave problem of forced labor in Uzbekistan in the cotton industry is in the news again as the United States placed the country at the very bottom of its annual State Department Trafficking in Persons Report this June.

Uzbekistan has been categorized as “Tier 3,” which means that the government does not “comply with minimum standards to combat human trafficking and fails to take adequate steps to address the problem.” A county placed in this category will potentially face sanctions.

Uzbekistan is a country of about 30 million and has been ruled by President Islam Karimov since 1989. Over 80 percent of the country is Muslim and only 36 percent live in urban areas. The poverty levels are not terribly high at 16 percent and the literacy rate is almost at 100 percent. However, these statistics do not explain the whole story and the serious problem of forced labor.

Just last year an organization called the Cotton Campaign finally got the government to significantly reduce forced labor of children. The campaign arranged for many garment companies to boycott Uzbek cotton. This was a victory for the children but not for their parents. Instead of forcing children to pick cotton for about a month each year, the Uzbek government has moved the labor onto adults. About a million Uzbek citizens are forced to pick cotton each year.

Doctors, teachers and government employees are among some of the laborers who are transported to the farms sometime during the harvest season between September and November. These laborers are not beaten or tortured into picking cotton, however, if they refuse they face arrest. The Uzbek government calls these laborers “volunteers” in an attempt to ignore the reality of the situation.

Rights organizations as well as the International Labor Organization have a difficult time assessing or regulating the situation. The Uzbek government heavily restricts their work in the country and cracks down on its own activists.

The problem also extends further than just the forced labor. The entire industry is controlled by the government, making it possible to take advantage of the farmers as well. The farmers have to meet quotas and sell the cotton back to the government well below market prices. The government then exports the cotton to foreign companies at huge profits.

Those fighting for the rights of these laborers are happy with the action taken by the U.S. government. It “sends a message of solidarity to the well over a million Uzbeks forced to pick the country’s cotton crop.” Putting Uzbekistan in Tier 3 will help pave the way for possible sanctions. If the money flow for the Uzbek government were to stop or at least decrease, they might notice and change their policies on forced labor.

The success of Cotton Campaign last year to remove children as the primary cotton pickers is hope for the future. If boycotting can end child labor, perhaps sanctions could end the problem of forced labor entirely.

— Eleni Marino

Sources: UN, World Bank, Cotton Campaign, Human Rights Watch, New York Times
Photo: New York Times

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

child_field_labor_tobacco

It is illegal in the U.S. for someone under the age of 18 to buy a pack of cigarettes, but it is legal for a child as young as 11-years-old to work in a tobacco field.

A recent study done by Human Rights Watch reported that many children start to work in tobacco fields once the school year is over. Many of these kids are children of Hispanic immigrants who live in cities near the fields.

Many of the working children have had acute nicotine poisoning symptoms. These symptoms include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, headache, dizziness, irritation and difficulty breathing.

Child laborers are more prone to getting acute nicotine poisoning when the tobacco leaves are wet and dewy. Children can absorb up to 50 cigarettes worth of nicotine through their skin on rainy days.

It was reported by Human Rights Watch that children are getting a drift of the pesticides that are being sprayed on nearby fields. The child laborers claimed that when the spray drifted their way they began to vomit and feel dizzy; it became difficult for them to breathe and they started to have a burning sensation in their eyes.

Children are more prone to having long-term effects from pesticides since their bodies are still developing. The long-term effects include cancer, problems with learning and cognition and reproductive health issues.

Aside from exposure to pesticides from other fields nearby, there were also many accidents due to sharp tools. Often times children are put in danger by having to work with big tools and machinery, lift heavy loads and climb up heights to hang tobacco in barns.

Child laborers working on tobacco farms often work long hours and do not get paid overtime. In addition, they often work in extremely hot weather conditions without sufficient breaks and do not wear protective gear.

Many child laborers said they had no access to toilets or a sink to wash their hands, which meant they still had pesticide residue while they were taking their lunch breaks.

Here are a few listed facts that were included in a report done by the Human Rights Watch. Of 133 children interviewed:

  • 53 percent saw tractors spraying pesticides in the fields they were working for or in the nearby fields.
  • 68 percent reported symptoms consistent with acute nicotine poisoning: nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness and loss of appetite.
  • 73 percent reported getting sick with nausea, headaches, respiratory illness, skin conditions and other symptoms
  • 13 is the median age that children started working at.
  • Most children worked 50-60 hours per week.
  • $1.5 billion is the total value of tobacco leaf production in the U.S. in 2012 and $7.25 is the hourly wage most children reported earning.

Not only do child workers suffer from physical and health conditions, but also in their everyday lives, including hunger, stunted growth and higher school dropout rates.

 — Priscilla Rodarte

Sources: CNN 1, CNN 2, Human Rights Watch, Labor Rights
Photo: Politix

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 act of using children for free or cheap labor has been around for centuries, and while it is not often brought up in conversation, this dirty little secret lives on in numerous countries, including the U.S.

Here are eight Child Labor facts from all over the world:

1.  Child labor is not just something that happens overseas
China, Asia and Africa are not the only nations that use children for cheap labor. Tobacco fields in the U.S. use young children to pick the plants. These children are exposed to dangerous pesticides and nicotine on a regular basis and sometimes get so sick they can hardly stand.

2. Child labor in tobacco fields is legal in the U.S.
The U.S. allows children as young as 11 to legally work in tobacco fields where they spray harmful chemicals so close to them they can hardly breathe. To put this in perspective: a child working in tobacco fields is illegal in countries like Russia and Kazakhstan, but is legal in the United States.

3.  Pakistan participates in selling children as slaves
Children in Pakistan can be sold by their parents or, more often, are abducted and sold into slavery to companies for profit. Companies that have utilized this backwards practice include Nike and the Punjub province, which is the largest seller of stitched rugs, musical instruments and sports equipment.

4.   Afghanistan gives away young girls to pay off debts
Another fact about child labor comes from Afghanistan where children make up roughly half of the population. Children often work in the textile industry, the poppy fields, cement and food processing. Parents may also sell their underage daughters into slavery in order to pay off a debt.

5.  Zimbabwe’s Learn as You Earn Program
The Learn as You Earn Program in Zimbabwe may not sound too bad at first glance, but it is another ploy to bring in children for cheap labor. The program brings children into the forestry and agricultural sectors so they can “learn” about those markets. Children often choose this in place of a formal education.

6.  Child Soldiers
Children who are displaced in war-torn countries like Afghanistan or Sudan are often put to work as child soldiers. These children are given guns and minor training and are told to defend their country. Some children may even be used as suicide bombers.

7.  Underage girls and sexual slavery
Young girls from all over the world who are either displaced by war, abducted while visiting foreign countries or even sold by their parents for money often find themselves in forced sexual slavery.  This problem is growing in Sudan, Somalia, Thailand, Japan, India and the United States.

8.  North Korea outlaws underage labor, continues to hire children
The government of North Korea officially outlawed child labor, but children still make up a large percentage of the people who work in factories. They also have labor camps where they send children to work in order to be re-educated for any type of political offenses.

These facts about child labor around the world can seem gruesome and a maybe a little far-fetched, but the point is that there are children who live these nightmares every single day.

– Cara Morgan

Sources: Business Insider, CNN, The Nation
Photo: Flickr

Child Labor
Children have always been a source of cheap labor, and the United States is no exception. This article recounts the history of child labor in the United States, and the steps taken to fight against its practice.

 

A History of Child Labor in the United States

 

In the colonial period, child labor was commonplace. Children were expected to assist their parents and work on the family farm. Young boys (ages 10-14) later became apprentices in different trades.

The Industrial Revolution, however, marked a new level of intensity for young workers. Children spent all day in factories with poor and dangerous conditions. Their small size allowed them to climb in and out of old factory machines. In addition to factory work, some employers used children in mines. These young workers were preferred because they were easy to control and direct. Salaries for children were also much less than those for adult workers. The large influx of immigrants into the United States in the mid 1800s led to an additional increase in child labor.

The most common reason for child labor in the United States during the Industrial Revolution was to support the family. Instead of going to school, children went to work in factories. During the nineteenth century some attempts were made to reform child labor laws and improve general working conditions. Education reformers promoted the idea that getting a primary school education was necessary to achieve self-advancement and a stronger nation. As a result, a number of states began to implement minimum wage and school attendance laws. However, they contained many loopholes and were rarely enforced.

American reformers have been actively working to fight child labor in the United States since the early 1900s. In 1904, the National Child Labor Committee was established. Along with smaller state child labor committees, the national chapter adopted a policy of “mass political action”–research reports, investigations by experts, dramatic photographs depicting oppressed children in factories, active lobbying, pamphlets, mass mailings and leaflets. However, progress was slow and often frustrating.

Committees identified state legislatures as the best vehicle to achieve reform. During the Progressive Era, many state laws regulating child labor were passed. Due to resistance from the southern states, federal child labor bills were later passed through Congress in 1916 and 1918. However, the Supreme Court ruled that they were unconstitutional.

Reformers decided to lobby for an amendment that would permit the government to pass a federal child labor law. The proposed amendment was passed through Congress in 1924, but several states failed to ratify it because of the conservative political environment at the time. Once the Great Depression hit America in the 1930s, child labor nearly disappeared as all the jobs went to adults instead of children. The National Industrial Recovery Act further placed regulations on child labor, and the Fair Labor Standards Act set federal minimum wage and maximum work hours. Children under 16 were not permitted to work in the manufacturing and mining sectors.

Due to the advancements in factory technology and the increase in required years of schooling, the issue of child labor has become largely insignificant. Violations of child labor laws still occur today, but the United States has definitely come a long way – “one of the more remarkable changes in the social and economic life of the nation over the last two centuries.”

Given its own struggle with child labor, the United States has taken action to end it abroad through initiatives like the Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking (OCFT) – a division of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB). The OCFT was founded in 1993 as part of a congressional request to investigate and report on child labor practices around the world. Using research conducted by the OCFT, ILAB maintains a list of international goods produced by child labor or forced labor: fireworks from China, corn from Bolivia, bricks from Burma, carpets from India, garments from Argentina and more. In addition to publishing reports like “Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor,” the OCFT assists with the development of labor legislation and supports relevant projects; so far, more than 270 projects have been funded, benefiting children in over 90 countries. Through the OCFT, the United States hopes to collaborate with other nations in order to strengthen the enforcement of child labor laws and raise global awareness of the issue.

– Kristy Liao

Sources: ContinueToLearn, Department of Labor 1, Department of Labor 2, History
Photo: Flickr