Recent data from UNICEF, the International Labour Organisation and the World Bank estimate that 168 million children aged 5 to 17 are engaged in child labour. More than half (85 million) work in hazardous conditions and 73.1 million are considered too young to do any kind of work (5 to 11 years old). 5.5 million children are forced into labour - this includes trafficking and debt bondage.
Huge progress has already been made on tackling child labour. Since 2000, the number of children in forced labour globally has declined by one third (ILO 2012) however there is still much to do to protect them.
In Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar there is a high prevalence of child labour and modern slavery. These low-income countries face multiple challenges like environmental fragility, political unrest and localised conflict - all known root causes of child labour.
According to the UK Committee for UNICEF, poverty is the main factor that drives children into labour. They are often depended upon to contribute financially to the household. For example, when a health crisis occurs in a family of bonded labourers, they need to borrow money for health care. Loans are repaid at excessive interest rates from landowners and middlemen since these families cannot get loans from banks and self-help saving schemes don’t produce enough money. The family may then be forced to give away a child - usually the eldest boy - to earn enough money to pay back the loan. The child could be sent to work in the city for two to three years, six or seven days a week, 16 hours a day.
The abuse and exploitation children face is a huge problem in parts of these countries, particularly with the poorest families, and putting children to work puts them at risk in various ways. One of the most important issues faced by child labourers is their lack of access to healthcare services and education - they may work in hazardous conditions alongside dangerous chemicals and pesticides and without access to these essential services, the future of any child is deeply compromised.
ChildHope is working as a member of a consortium project, part of the Department for International Development (DFID) Asia Child Labour programme. Together, consortium members aim to develop innovative ways to increase options for children to avoid engagement in hazardous exploitative labour. Children’s voices will be at the centre of the work. Children and young people, alongside their families and communities, will tell us what drives them into modern slavery and the worst forms of child labour. When more is understood about the causes, the project will develop interventions to counteract them.
The aim is to decrease the number of children in the worst forms of child labour in Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar and support them in having a safe childhood.
The lead agency in the consortium is the Institute of Development Studies (IDS).
Other main partners are Terre des Hommes, Consortium for Street Children, and the Ethical Trading Initiative.
ChildHope’s role in the Consortium is strengthened by our partners Grambangla in Bangladesh and Voice of Children in Nepal, who both have many years’ experience working with marginalised children.
The Department for International Development (DFID) Asia Regional Team is our donor. They are part of a £26m child labour programme that also includes ILO and UNICEF.
Children themselves will be active participants in identifying issues and looking for solutions to tackle child labour. We will use participatory action research approaches with children, young people and adults to identify problems and test solutions.
We aim to increase family income in order to reduce the need for children to work, as we know that the lack of money in a family is a main factor in child labour. Alongside this, we need to look at access to essential support services such as health and education. We also need to better understand what other factors, assumptions, attitudes and behaviours result in children’s involvement in the worst forms of child labour. We aim to find what drives children to work and seek realistic ways to reduce this.
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