WORLD DAY AGAINST CHILD LABOR: Salesian Missions highlights educational and social programs that combat child labor
Programs in Cambodia, Colombia, Ghana and India illustrate the work of Salesians around the globe that support the theme of children having the opportunities to achieve their dreams.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (June 12, 2019) Salesian Missions joins the International Labor Organization and other organizations around the globe in honoring World Day Against Child Labor. Every year since 2002, the day is celebrated on June 12 and brings attention to the global extent of child labor and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the International Labor organization and its support to countries on tackling child labor.
In addition, 2019 marks 20 years since the adoption of the ILO’s Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182). With only a few countries left still to ratify, this Convention is close to universal ratification.
The International Labor Organization sets a theme for World Day Against Child Labor corresponding to a current or future challenge. This year’s theme, “Children shouldn’t work in fields, but on dreams!” highlights the plight of the 152 million children still used for child labor. Child labor occurs in almost all sectors, yet seven out of every 10 of these children are working in agriculture.
Child labor is associated with lower educational attainment, and later in life, with jobs that fail to meet basic decent work criteria. Those who leave school early are less likely to secure stable jobs and are at greater risk of chronic unemployment and poverty. Many of those who have left school early, particularly between the ages of 15 and 17, are engaged in work that is hazardous and classified as the worst forms of child labor.
“Children who are compelled to work, even for a fraction of the day, are deprived of the education they need to learn valuable skills that lead to stable employment later in life,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Unfortunately, in many situations, children are being forced to work around the clock with barely enough time to eat, let alone study, and their prospects in life are diminished.”
In honor of World Day Against Child Labor 2019, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight Salesian programs around the globe that help to eliminate child labor through quality education.
The Don Bosco Technical School (Don Bosco Kep) and the Don Bosco Children Fund, both located in the Kep district within the Kep province of Cambodia, are working to provide a second chance for children who have been exploited, abused and caught up in forced child labor.
During the 2017-2018 school year, Don Bosco Kep educated 300 students between the ages of 3 and 22. Once youth complete their early school years, they can advance to Don Bosco Kep Technical School which provides vocational training in electro-technical skills, media, secretarial work, hotel management and programming. The technical school serves close to 200 students.
Don Bosco Kep graduates close to 150 students each year. The primary goal is for students to obtain a stable long-term job after they graduate.
Don Bosco City’s protection program, Making Impressions, was established to help children understand their rights and to restore rights for those involved in child labor in the Amaga municipality of Colombia. This program was created in response to social issues that have arisen from the area’s coal-based economy. Many families in the region make their living in the coal mining industry and children are often sent to work in the industry rather than to school.
It’s not just young men and boys who are sent to work. Many young girls are also faced with labor exploitation and other abuses. Forced to work, they miss out on important opportunities for education leading them to become dependent on others while lacking the ability to take care of themselves. This puts them more at risk of abuse.
Salesian missionaries running the Making Impressions program use an interdisciplinary approach when working with participating youth. They work as a team with volunteers who have knowledge of the local job market and are able to connect with youth in need. These early connections foster values such as understanding, sharing and mutual respect in the children.
Participants are able to access child rights education and use the library which serves as a quiet space for learning and studying. They can also take advantage of recreational spaces which help to make free time more productive while aiding in building better relationships with peers.
Salesian missionaries have two centers in the urban area of Accra, the capital and largest city of Ghana. One serves as a home for 51 children between the ages of 7 and 16 who have been victims of child trafficking. Some of the children are known as “wheelbarrow boys” and come from extremely poor families with many children and work pushing and carrying diverse materials using carts and wheelbarrows. Other children come from the gold and diamond mines where they are utilized because they are small and move about easily.
Children face extensive hardships from being exploited in child labor to being sold by their relatives, often to pay off some debt. In the Lake Volta region, it is estimated that there are approximately 21,000 children and teen laborers who have been prevented from attending school.
Concerned, Salesian missionaries launched the Child Protection Center. Children come to the center through referrals from other nonprofits and from the police, usually following a complaint. Offering shelter, counseling and education, the center helps children make the transition out of trafficking and into long-term recovery. Participants often arrive injured with low self-esteem and little hope for the future but become comfortable and settled into their new surroundings within a few weeks.
Academic classes are offered in the morning, after which students are able to participate in group activities with their peers such as theater, music, dance, sports and games. Through the program, participants learn life skills, gain confidence and prepare for a happy, healthy future.
Salesian missionaries offer child rights education programs to help youth at-risk of child labor and other exploitation through the CREAM project (Child Rights Education and Action Movement – Action Movement and Education on Rights of Children). This project is sponsored by the Office of Development of the Province of Bangalore (BREADS – Bangalore Rural Education and Development Society) in India.
The Salesian-run BREADS has been on a mission to identify, rescue and rehabilitate youth at risk, those who have grown up on the streets and those who have been forced into child labor. The organization provides counseling and guidance to extremely vulnerable youth. Through projects for at-risk youth, Salesian missionaries aim to include more and more children in education, guidance and literacy. BREADS has rescued and/or prevented more than 2,600 children in child labor since 2012.
The CREAM project has been one of the most successful projects in helping with both the prevention and identification of youth engaged in child labor. It has educated more than 100,000 children about their rights through 907 special clubs and courses offered in schools across India.
The project was initiated in December 2012 in order to reach the most disadvantaged children in 10 districts in the Indian state of Karnataka, especially in high risk urban and rural areas. The goal was to work with youth to build a culture of protection of children’s rights. The project also puts a strong emphasis on improving the potential of minors as well as ensuring the sustainability of activities and results.
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