In the afternoons he draws with chalk on the sidewalk of a downtown street in the Peruvian capital. Passersby drop coins into a small blue jar he has set out. He remains silent in response to questions from IPS, but a nearby ice cream vendor says his name is Pedro, he is 11 years old, and he draws every day on the ground for about four hours.
The Global Estimate on Child Labour estimates 160 million children are in child labour worldwide – an increase of 8.4 million children in the last four years – with millions more at risk due to the impacts of COVID-19.
Children washing clothes in rivers, begging on the streets, hawking, walking for kilometres in search of water and firewood, their tiny hands competing with older, experienced hands to pick coffee or tea, or as child soldiers are familiar sights in Africa and Asia.
Malleshwar Rao, 27, spent his early years as a child labourer in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad. Soon after finishing school at a local ashram, where the children of poor parents, sex workers and orphans studied, the 9-year-old would rush to a local construction site to join his parents who would be toiling in the harsh tropical sun to construct buildings as daily wage earners. The supervisor would assign Rao simpler tasks and his extra income would help his parents feed him and his younger brother.
Selimatha Salifu of Ghana is a former child labourer who has vowed to do her part to bring attention to the plight of the world’s over 150 million child labourers
. Raised in a fishing community, she recalls her days buying fish to sell, working from daybreak till nightfall to contribute to her family. She credits the General Agriculture Workers Union for rescuing her and ensuring she enrolled in school.
One of the worst fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the closure of industries in India, which caused thousands of migrant labourers to return home to villages in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal. In a region where the poorest have always been subjected to bonded labour, child labour and slave trafficking, it has meant revisiting the past.
The COVID-19 pandemic should give governments across the world an opportunity to hold corporates accountable against child labour. Kailash Satyarthi, the 2014 Nobel Peace Laureate, made this submission at the virtual 3rd Fair Share for Children Summit.
Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi warns of the danger that over one million children could die, not because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but because of the economic crisis facing their families.
In an exclusive interview with IPS, Satyarthi said that without prioritising children we could lose an entire generation as evidence mounts that the number of child labourers, child marriages, school dropouts and child slaves has increased as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe.
Mubeen Ahmad was nine years old when his mother sold him into service to a mechanic for the petty sum of few thousand Indian rupees. His mother had found it hard to support the family after his father, a labourer, was killed during one of the anti-India protests in Jammu and Kashmir in 2008.
Most laborers in Peru are forced into a vicious cycle by circumstance. Faced with low-paying, high-intensity work, they have no choice but to make their children work as well. Having spent their lives neglecting education for labor, those children in turn grow up with no options for income besides low-paying, high-intensity positions - and so on. But in classrooms across one region, a handful of teachers are trying to break that cycle while the children are still young.
Child labour has been substantially reduced in Latin America, but 5.7 million children below the legal minimum age are still working and a large proportion of them work in precarious, high-risk conditions or are unpaid, which constitute new forms of slave labour.
The IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour, which drew nearly 2000 delegates from 190 countries to the Argentine capital, left many declarations of good intentions but nothing to celebrate.
In the South Pacific nation of Fiji, free and compulsory education, introduced three years ago, in association with better awareness and child protection measures, is helping to reduce children’s vulnerability to harmful and hazardous forms of work.
In a conflict that has claimed over 220,000 lives and injured a further 840,000 people as of January 2015, it is sometimes hard to see beyond the death toll.
Until not too long ago, youngsters in Argentina faced a choice: whether to study or drop out and go to work. But now most children and adolescents in Argentina who work also continue to study – a change that poses new challenges for combating school dropout, repetition and truancy, as well as the circle of poverty.
In a bid to overhaul the country's child labour laws, the Indian government has banned the employment of children below 14 years of age in various commercial ventures, while permitting them to work in family enterprises and on farmlands after school hours and during vacations.
For many young people, the summer is synonymous with free time, relaxation, or family vacations. For less fortunate kids the summer means labour, with scores of youths taking on part-time work to support their families.
Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi has called for globalised human compassion to combat the global and persistent problems of child labour and child slavery.
Sumaira Salamat, a mother of three in her mid-40s, works every day from ten in the morning until half-past two in the afternoon. She travels between three homes, and in each one she dusts, sweeps, washes utensils, and does the laundry. For her efforts, she earns about 3,000 rupees (29 dollars) per month.
At 11 years of age, Banawat Gangotri already has four years of work experience as a farm labourer. The child, a member of the nomadic Lambada community from the village of Bugga Thanda in India’s southern Telangana state, plucked cotton and chillies from nine a.m. until 5 p.m. for about a dollar daily.
Just half of major global banks have in place a public policy to respect human rights, according to new research, despite this being a foundational mandate of an international convention on multinational business practice.