Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Everywhere But Invisible: Girl Child Labourers in Agriculture

“She is barefoot, covered in dirt and sweat. She can be seen pulling weeds from rows of sugarcane; a work reserved for adults, not children. She can only wear a cap to protect her from the scorching sunlight, rain or storm and goes back home after a working day of as long as 7 hours. She says she does it to help her parents. She also helps with the household chores, has never seen a classroom and never played with other children in the playground. This is not just one girl, but one of millions who are part of an informal, and sometimes illegal economic system of child labor.”

Picture credits: The Borgen Project

Gender is a central factor around which work and production are organised and divided- in not just domestic spheres, but also in the global and local supply chains of industries, services and agriculture and the various related processes. Millions of girls who work on sugarcane, cocoa, tea or palm oil farms also have additional burden of looking after domestic chores and arevulnerable to violence at work and at home. Gendered roles and norms also prevent girls from getting education, more so when they work- often being unpaid or underpaid as compared to boys, thus making themthe largest invisible workforce such as in the case of agriculture.

The agricultural workforce remains one of the largest workforce sectors in the world and is being increasingly feminised with self-employed women farmers, waged agriculture women workers and sadly, with the participation of littlegirl child labourers as well. Today, 64 million girls in this world work as child labourers, 71% of them are in the agriculture sector, which is also considered one of the most hazardous sectors to work in (ILO, 2017). Yet, evidence of specific research focused on girls in child labour in the agricultural sector does not do justice to these numbers as it remains scant, under-reported and homogenous, making a challenge to provide equal rights and opportunities to both girls and boys.
In the year 2006, ILO confirmed the number of child labourers in the agricultural sector as nearly ten times higher than the number of child labourers in other sectors (e.g. in manufacturing, mining, etc.) (ILO, 2006). In 2017, the reality has not changed much, with agriculture still constituting 70.9% of child labour in comparison with the service sector (17.2%) and industries (11.9%). Even though the discourse on ‘child labour in agriculture’ has gained momentum globally and regionally by significant stakeholders in the past few years, millions of girls in this sector are still trapped in this worst form of child labour and challenge to protect them from the harzards still lingers, as girlshave been historically more vulnerable to being abused, trafficked and devoid of education.

Apart from the fact that working in the agricultural sector is one of the most hazardous places for children, in particular for girls, another crucial concern is that the complex supply chain of the sector has worsened the situation of child and forced labour. Large agricultural buyers and processing firms often source from small producers further up the supply chain and do not have adequate transparency about their workforce which could be young working girls, forced children, trafficked women or helpless refugees.

The agricultural produce and its supply needs intensive labour requirements as a part of the demands in the global supply chains, which means more cheap labour, hazardous and unregulated work conditions and more child labour. In a 2016 study by Amnesty International ‘Palm Oil: Global Brands Profiting from Child and Forced Labour’ it has been reflected that the most popular food and household companies are selling food, cosmetics and other everyday staples containing palm oil tainted by shocking human rights abuses in Indonesia, with girls as young as eight working in hazardous conditions, hard physical work, sometimes dropping out of school to help their parents on the plantation. Palm oil plantation includes sowing seeds, transplanting seedlings, harvesting, and transporting fruit bunches. Young girls primarily collect loose fruit, help carry and load bunches of oil palm fruit, and weed the oil palm fields. Girls and women are also responsible for gathering and moving the fruit bunches which puts a lot of physical burden on them and negatively impacts their health in the longer run.

Conditions are worse for regions like Sub-Saharan Africa where most child labour is found in the informal subsistence sector, and in exported goods catering to both domestic and global supply chains. Much of the cocoa produced in the fields here ends up in coffee shops, kitchen tables and store shelves across the world. Many other agricultural products such as sugar, tea, palm oil etc. are produced by millions of boys and girls and consumed by people alienated from their situation and the product they are buying. Another example is the tea plantation industry where there has been a history of employing young girls and boys since tea estates were planted in countries like Sri Lanka and India back in the 1930s.  Many tea estates in India, Assam, have also been vulnerable to trafficking of young girls and missing children.

There is nothing sustainable about sectors like agriculture if commodities are produced using child labour and forced labour. The abuses often discovered within sectors that employ children the most are not isolated incidents but are systemic and a predictable result of the way the businesses approach sustainability and maintain transparency about who works for them. It is high time that the players in the global as well as domestic supply chains invest in girls and young women for a formidable ripple effect to achieve SDG goals, in particular goal 4, 5, and 8.7 and create a better world by 2030. The 64 million girls in child labour have limitless individual potential, however they are disappearing from public awareness and the international development agenda. Between inequities in primary and secondary education to protection issues, millions of girls are uniquely impacted when they should instead benefit from targeted investments and programmes that address their distinct needs.

Even though the progress in eliminating child labour is slow, Global March believes that there is still hope as long as governments, businesses, CSOs and individuals, all make accelerated efforts to bring justice to the millions of boys and girls trapped in child labour, and create a fertile ground for them to access quality, inclusive and equitable education, with special provisions made for girls.  The SDGs stress on the role of all stakeholders. Thus if SDG 8.7 is to be achieved, we must make efforts now.
On the International Day of the Girl Child, Global March is committed to placing children and girls at the center of our work and positively contribute in eliminating all forms of violence against children. In this endeavour, we are empowering both girls and boys and multi-stakeholders to do their bit.
Join us to bring smiles on the lost childhoods of girl child labourers and bring them closer to realizing their rights, today, tomorrow and in the future.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Moving Beyond Primary Education to End Child Labour

Far too many children, adolescents and youth (264.3 million) are currently out of school due to a number of factors relating to their living conditions, financial constraints and social adversities. Education is a key to end this roadblock, escape poverty, end child labour and lead a life of dignity. However, a lot needs to be done to improve access and inclusion of children in mainstream education, especially the most vulnerable and marginalised such as children in child labour and slavery.

Estimates from the World Inequality Database on Education suggest that, in lower-middle-income countries, children from the poorest 20% are eight times as likely to be out of school as children from the richest 20% (UNESCO, 2017b).This means that it is mainly the poor that miss out on schooling the most, and are thus pushed into exploitative and slavery like conditions. Thus to ensure that children from the lower and middle income countries and poor households in even the developed world do not miss out on their right to education, the direct costs of education to families need to be eliminated. Moreover, in many countries reducing the indirect costs of education is also critical through cash transfers, scholarships and incentives to students. An impact evaluation study by UNESCO on 19 conditional cash transfer programmes operational in 15 countries showed that attendance increased by 2.5% in primary schools and by 8% in secondary schools. These programmes have a stronger impact when they are combined with grants, infrastructure or other resources for schools.

Education provides people with knowledge and skills that increase their productivity and make them less vulnerable to risks. On an average, one year of education is estimated to increase wage earnings by 10% and in sub-Saharan Africa by as much as 13%. It is also said that workers with secondary education are more likely to be employed than youth and adults, with only primary education. Thus it is important to note that completion of secondary schooling is thus vital to increasing growth and reducing inequality and poverty.

Education is also said to increase resilience, as it prepares individuals to cope with risks for themselves and their family members throughout the life cycle such as health epidemics, conflicts and natural disasters. Given that currently 35 countries across the world are conflict and disaster ridden, ensuring children in these countries do not miss out on education is highly critical. Studies show that increased secondary education in Asia can especially have a strong impact on the predicted global pattern, as the continent is home to some of the largest populations, many of whom reside in coastal areas where most disasters occur (UNESCO, 2016).

Education also empowers girls and women and gives them more opportunities to make choices. It can boost their confidence and perception of freedom. It can also alter the perceptions of men influencing gender stereotypes and decreases incidents on gender based violence. It further protects young girls and boys, as well as men and women from exploitation in the labour market, for example by increasing their opportunities to obtain secure contracts. In urban El Salvador, only 7% of working women and men with less than primary education had an employment contract, leaving them very vulnerable. By contrast, 49% of those with secondary education had signed a contract (UNESCO, 2014a).

Therefore, as global primary out-of-school rate has remained stubbornly at 9% for eight years in a row, it is time that the governments commit to investing more in the education sector and accelerates the efforts to increasing access to quality, inclusive and equitable primary and secondary education. With MDGs taking lead in promoting primary school enrolments, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) play an essential role in moving beyond primary education and focus on attainment of secondary education as it clearly suggests from the examples above, that it could halve global poverty-which is one of the leading factors of pushing children into child labour and making them vulnerable to getting trafficked into labour and sexual exploitation.

On this International Literacy Day, Global March is thus committed to promote education for all and aims to use it as an effective strategy to end child labour along with providing sustainable community based solutions and mass awareness raising on the importance of education.

We are all for education for all. Are you?

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Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Trafficking and Forced Labour in Global Supply Chains – The Gender Lens

In recent years, those concerned with the issues of trafficking, forced labour and slavery have begun to focus on supply chains as a new arena of action with a focus on girls and young women. Millions of people including women, men and children continue to toil in forced labour for the private economy that reaps some $150 billion in profits each year (ILO report, Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour , 2014).Thousands of goods and services bought and sold every day are touched by modern-day slaves, in particular girls and young women who are not only the most vulnerable to being exploited, but also comprise of the most invisible labour in global supply chains.
Girls and young women working in global supply chains such as in the garment and seafood industry are most at risk of being victims of unfair practices, violence and slavery.  Factors such as the large mixed movements of refugees and migrants, as well as conflict and natural disasters, often create an environment for trafficking and slavery. Traffickers often use sexual violence and physical abuse in addition to debt bondage to compel labour, in particular towards girls and young women.

The key issues in addressing the problem of trafficking of girls and young women within the global supply chains are –
  • The complexities of the global supply chains with multiple tiers of production from large factories to home-based units, which are extremely fragmented
  • Lack of transparency, making the monitoring of the supply chains and identification of trafficked workforce truly challenging
  • The challenges in identifying the trafficking victims which not only makes them vulnerable to violence and labour exploitation but also invisible in the workforce
In order to address these key issues for the prevention of trafficking of girls and young women and their forced recruitment in the global supply chains, it is essential to look into the trafficked workforce “hotspots” and situations such as high levels of migration.  In the era of globalization and mass production, the developed countries look out for cheap labour from the ‘backward’ economic zones such as South Asia. As industries become more competitive, it creates circumstances for employing the migrants who are often trafficked for labour exploitation. For instance the readymade garment-manufacturing sector in Bangladesh accounts for over 80% of the nation’s export earnings, has around 4 million workers, with an estimated workforce of 55-60% [1] girls and young women and ample evidences of forced and child labour. Many workers comprise the migrant population with boys and girls of all ages often voluntarily working or being trafficked.

While trafficking, forced labour and other forms of slavery in the garment sector in global supply chains, has long been an area of concern, seafood industry is one of the most overlooked area and at the same time one of the most precarious sectors to work in. Estimates from countries such as Bangladesh and Philippines- that are a source, destination and transit country for girls and young women subjected to sex trafficking, all indicate instances of child and forced labour in fisheries with frequent reportings of  of sexual abuse, labour law violations and children engaged as swimmers and divers, often working for nine hours without a break in extremely unsanitary conditions.

According to the 2013 Philippine Fisheries Profile, Philippines ranks seventh among the top fish producing countries of the world. With a history and present consisting of trafficked and migrant workforce, there are also reports of girl child labour working in the processing plants at shrimp processing, freezing, and packaging factories. Young girls and boys are often forced to become fishers or fish workers, leading to disruption in their education. While young boys are employed to fishing and swimming in the dangerous waters, young girls work in the cleaning and packaging of the seafood that enhances their invisibility even more. The seafood industry is one of the most significant industries for trade between many South Asian and South East Asian and Western and European nations. The complexity of its supply chains ignores where its major chunk of workforce is coming from and instead focuses on the product, which is a concern for how accountable the supply chain process is. For instance, many seafood companies’ certification of the product is based on the quality of the product but not on its labour laws and recruitment policies. Supply chain accountability for industries such as the seafood with extended global supply chains is therefore extremely crucial to a company policy on human rights and ethical sourcing.

No industry or region is fully insulated from the social deficit which has emerged
from the rise of the modern global economy, and all leading multinational corporations have come to recognize the risks associated with ever-expanding supply networks. Thus, for businesses to be able to adequately identify and address the issue of trafficking of girls and young women it is important build the understanding to plug the knowledge gaps of human trafficking, forced and gender related issues of the geographical region of the workforce. A close co-operation with local stakeholders, such as NGOs and CSOs, is of crucial importance to understand where they are forced to work and why the conditions lend themselves to human trafficking. Understanding the local complexities of the geographically fragmented garment and seafood industry, where cultural notions may also be used to justify the curtailment of women and child rights, the local stakeholders can play a major role in mainstreaming gender in the prevention strategies of trafficking, focusing on the protection of girls and young women.

Global March thus aims to encourage companies to take trafficking seriously not only for moral or ethical reasons, or for them to see it as a ‘risk’ for their companies but as an overall responsibility towards their product and the people involved. The absence of a responsible approach combined with the incapacity or unwillingness of foreign governments to protect the rights of girls and young women and their vulnerability created by poverty, inequality and discrimination is the biggest threat to achieving sustainable gender equality. We need to collectively act for the well being and livelihoods of young girls and boys and address the issue of trafficking, forced labour and slavery within a wider context of labour rights and working conditions. We also need to be clear about who is facing the greatest risks: it is workers, not corporations, but the onus to mitigate the risk lies with the latter.

Thus, if you as a reader own any company yourself or work in a manufacturing company, why not take a peep into your company’s supply chain and see who is producing the actual product? If you were in the shoes of the workers, will you be able to take all that they are enduring? What can you do in your capacity to protect the workers from exploitation, trafficking and child labour? These are the questions you must ask yourself today, tomorrow and every day!


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

In Conflicts and Disasters, Protect Children from Child Labour

Credits: К UN.ORG

Around the world 535 million children are living in countries affected by conflicts and disasters. One out of every four children is a victim of conflicts and displacement crises in countries already struggling with poverty, malnutrition, armed conflict and the impacts of natural disasters. Lake Chad Basin, South Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic, and Yemen are some of the regions with the worst humanitarian crises threatening the lives and futures of more children today than perhaps any other time in history. Millions of these children are vulnerable, living in poverty, deprived of adequate nutrition, out of school and at risk of exploitation. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that majority of the 168 million children in child labour live in areas affected by conflict and disaster. The ILO has therefore decided to dedicate the 2017  World Day Against Child Labour on 12th of June on the ‘impact of conflicts and disasters on child labour globally’.

Conflicts and disasters around the world are not just a threat to the children but also their societies, potentially reversing hard-won development gains. Failure to meet basic needs in health, education, and other essential services undermines the ability of communities to prevent, manage, and recover from a disaster. Ironically, the countries with the lowest income often pay the heaviest price. On average, conflicts in low-income countries last about 12 years and displacement due to conflict or protracted crises lasts an average of 17 years (The Overseas Development Institute) which makes the challenge of breaking the cycle of poverty, child labour and lack of education more complex.

As the economic circumstances of families in the developing countries, especially in the conflict areas become more desperate, the conditions in which children find themselves become worse. Millions of children trapped in the disruption or humanitarian crisis are losing valuable, unrecoverable learning time and a decent childhood with their school years simply slipping by with no chance to learn to read and write but instead toil day and night to support their families. One of the examples is Sudan. The country for a very long time has been in turmoil, and one of the poorest countries in the world. Most of the fledgling nations like Sudan, are in the grip of a humanitarian crisis fuelled by years of chronic underdevelopment, conflict and natural disasters. Only one-third of the population has never attended school in the country, the rest are internally displaced persons - of whom more than half are children younger than 18. Right now, in countries such as South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and many more, schools and hospitals are under attack. For example, in Syria to date, an estimated 5,000 schools have been fully destroyed and close to a thousand more have been damaged since the beginning of the conflict. Over 60 per cent of refugee children from Syria do not have access to primary education. In Yemen, over 500 schools have already been damaged or destroyed during aerial bombardments or ground offensives.

Children at the risk of being out of school are also the most vulnerable to working in hazardous conditions such as in global supply chains, domestic labour, armed conflict, sexual exploitation, and illicit activities like organised begging and child trafficking. Warfare and conflict has taken away from millions of children their homes, families, friends and education. The total number of children between the age of 6-15 years who are out of school, as estimated by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), is more than 25 million across 22 conflict and warfare ridden countries. The limited access these children have to quality education is part of the problem; moreover, children who work are more likely to drop out of education. The circumstances and its impacts get exacerbated further when such exploitation concerns in emergencies does not fit neat definitions of human rights violations, such as trafficked or sexually exploited children. This adds to the creation of many obstacles in the enforcement of national laws and policies to protect children, in particular refugee children from child labour, recruitment and other protection concerns.

The immediate support that feeds into a broader, longer-term vision to address these concerns is to ensure decent livelihood for the youth and the communities and most importantly education for all children, particularly the victims of trafficking, worst forms of child labour, slavery and the ones hardest to reach. Ensuring education and protection services in emergencies not only builds a child’s sense of safety and normalcy but also gives children the tools to rebuild their lives and communities. Yet, education is among the least financed sectors in humanitarian response. In 2014, education received only 2 per cent of the humanitarian aid as many global appeals do not cover all those in need. What is needed most now is for donor countries to honour with sense of urgency and responsibility the globally agreed target of allocating at least 4% of humanitarian aid to education.

Addressing the impacts of conflict and disaster on children, in particular - worst forms of child labour and out of school children is also a key challenge in building peaceful and strong societies envisioned by the new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One of the most crucial targets under SDGs is Target 8.7 which reasserts for ‘effective measures to end forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labour in all its forms, including the worst forms of child labour’, as well as the SDG Goal 4, on ensuring quality, inclusive and equitable education. The achievement of these goals and targets is imperative more than ever to make a real difference in the lives of millions of such children and young people affected by warfare and conflict who constitute a large proportion of the world’s out-of school population. These goals reminds us of every child’s right to quality education and that “there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development”.

Recognising how we respond in emergencies lays the foundation for future growth and stability, and how we invest in development helps build resilience against future emergencies. In the wake of humanitarian crisis, increased migration, displacement and trafficking has blurred the significance of national boundaries which calls for the reinforcement of collective and sustainable action. However, this vision will require a radical new approach to address child labour and education failures in emergency situations. Governments, businesses, philanthropies and development organisations must come together, not just to lend financial support but also to provide needed intellect and inspiration to a challenge that can rightly be called this century’s civil rights struggle to protect every child. As the ILO recommends, there should be set priorities, designed strategies and implementation of activities to address and prioritise child labour interventions as a life-saving activity in conflicts and disasters. The understanding of present and future risks for millions of children in the absence of intervention should also be strengthened in order to address the issue as a long-term development challenge.

Friday, 12 May 2017

What We Would All Be Missing

*This article has been written by Chairperson of Global March Against Child Labour, Timothy Ryan and was published in Thomson Reuters Foundation News.
In February, 40 organizations convened a brainstorming workshop at a conference center south of London focused on a new development goal adopted by the United Nations: the eradication of forced labor, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labor by 2030. The group included members of the UN’s Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking, UN special rapporteurs, representatives of workers’, employers’ and business organizations, and nongovernmental organizations long committed to this work. I was there representing the Global March Against Child Labor, a worldwide network of more than 300 organizations founded by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi and dedicated, since its founding in 1998, to the elimination of child labor in all its forms.
The workshop was convened under the banner “Alliance 8.7,” a new initiative founded on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last fall. It featured three days of discussions, policy recommendations and priority setting to address the issue with an emphasis on topics such as rule of law, supply chains, migration, conflict areas, sexual exploitation and education. If it sounds highly technical and somewhat dry, detailed and theoretical, that’s because it was. The issues, of course, are anything but, and a matter of life and death for millions.
Yet there was another participant who embodied all these sober deliberations of the UN staff, business representatives, workers’ and NGO activists and brought them to life. The real heart and soul, the true voice and meaning of the meeting was a young Muslim American poet (and UN High Commissioner for Refugees representative) who shared her work with the gathering. It was her poetry and experience that animated the discourse and provided a pointed illustration of how the challenge of forced labor, child slavery and trafficking is also bound up in the fate of migrants and refugees fleeing conflict. Beyond her writing, it was Emi Mahmoud’s presence that also highlighted how urgent is this human dilemma, not only for today but the future as well.
Emi and her family fled the conflict in Darfur, Sudan, when she was a toddler, going first to Yemen. Then they came to the United States when she was 4 years old. If the current contested U.S. travel ban on refugees from Sudan and five other countries, including Yemen, were in effect when Emi and her family fled the war in Sudan, she might not have gone on to win the Individual World Poetry Slam competition for 2015. She certainly would not be a U.S. citizen from Philadelphia and a recent graduate of Yale University with a double major in molecular biology and anthropology.
She might not be alive, having been engulfed in the Sudan conflict, and if her family had not emigrated when it did from Yemen, enmeshed in the escalating civil war in that country as well.
The experience of being a refugee from a war zone sears her poetry:
“Memories of my childhood live between the rings of sand around my ankles and the desert heat in my lungs. I still believe that nothing washes worry from tired skin better than the Nile and my grandma’s hands. Every day I go to school with the weight of dead neighbors on my shoulders. The first time I saw bomb smoke, it didn’t wind and billow like the heat from our kitchen hearth. It forced itself on the Darfur sky, smothering the sun with tears that it stole from our bodies. The worst thing about genocide isn’t the murder, the politics, the hunger, the government paid soldiers that chase you across borders and into camps, It’s the silence.” -- From People Like Us*
Contemporary commentators like to point to history with a list of accomplished refugees and immigrants who fled war and repression to come to the United States; they need only look around at our world today. What would we all be missing if the U.S. travel ban and irrational fear of immigrants from so many countries remains in place? What chances would gifted young people like Emi miss, not only to let their art and intellect soar, but to simply keep on living? And what incredible richness would every country that turns its back on refugees and immigrants forfeit if they continue to turn inward in fits of paranoia?
In this excerpt from Emi’s poem, For Muhannad, Taha, and Adam, Emi comments on her meeting with President Obama a couple of years ago:
“I met the president Sat with him at a table too small to hold everything that brought us there His hands resting Where are your chains? They told me your hands were tied When they sent those kids back, when they wouldn’t take the refugees, when they closed off the borders but not Guantanamo Mr. President, why do they call it the land of the free when even the dead can’t leave? Mr. President, what does one caged bird say to another? But I could barely hear him over the corpse rotting between us He looked at me as if he thought I was afraid Doesn’t he know, that back home, the women take care of the bodies?”* As Emi herself points out and is reflected in her writing, concern for those enslaved, fleeing conflict and trafficked cannot be based on their credentials, their family background, their earning potential. It’s a matter of fundamental humanity.

Her words are, if anything, even more urgent now as the current administration is actively creating policies and an atmosphere of hatred that threaten to keep young people today from not only fulfilling their ambitions and dreams as Americans but also denying them the opportunity just to continue to live. Timothy Ryan is Chairperson of the Global March Against Child Labor. *Copyright by and used with permission from Emi Mahmoud, UNHCR High Profile Supporter 2017. Link to her work through and

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Education in the Time of War: Harnessing the Potential of SDG 4

Education is not just a fundamental human right, but also an enabling right – essential for the exercise of individuals and communities at different levels. It plays a significant role in supporting survival, growth, development and well-being of nations and its children. Enhanced investment in education also contributes to higher income, individual empowerment and decreased poverty levels of the countries, especially the ones ridden with conflict. The on-going humanitarian crisis shows that there is no time more important for education than the time of war as the conflict and violence become significant barriers to the goal of providing a primary school place for all children.

As the economic circumstances of families in the developing countries, especially in the conflict areas become more desperate, the conditions in which children find themselves are worsening. There is no shortage of evidence that the crisis is pulling children out of school and pushing an ever-increasing number towards exploitation in the labour market. For instance some 2.7 million Syrian children are currently out of school, a figure swollen by children who are forced to work instead. Many became pregnant, married as children or are pushed into child labour. Many will never return to the classrooms. Many still do not have a chance. The limited access these children have to quality education is part of the problem; moreover, children who work are more likely to drop out of education. According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), children in conflict affected countries are more than twice as likely, and adolescents two-thirds more likely, to be out of school than in non-conflict affected countries.

Children at the risk of being out of school are also the most vulnerable to working in hazardous conditions such as in global supply chains, domestic labour, armed conflict, sexual exploitation, and illicit activities like organised begging and child trafficking. Warfare and conflict has taken away from millions of children their homes, families, friends and education. The total number of children between the age of 6-15 years who are out of school, as estimated by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), is more than 25 million across 22 conflict and warfare ridden countries. Right now, in countries such as South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and many more, schools and hospitals are under attack. For example, in Syria to date, an estimated 5,000 schools have been fully destroyed and close to a thousand more have been damaged since the beginning of the conflict. Over 60 per cent of refugee children from Syria do not have access to primary education. In Yemen, over 500 schools have already been damaged or destroyed during aerial bombardments or ground offensives. The UNICEF reports that a third of Yemen’s children have been out of school since air strikes began in March 2015. Elsewhere, thousands of schools have closed their doors because of insecurity, interrupting the education of millions of boys and girls.

Education offers hope and is a proven strategy to reduce and eliminate child labour and poverty. Millions of children who are out of school and are pushed towards economic and sexual exploitation are much more than victims of circumstances. Their conditions are a key challenge to building peaceful and strong societies envisioned by the new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that affirm every child’s right to quality education, to leave no one behind and to “endeavour to reach the furthest behind”. The SDGs also remind us that “there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development”.  Yet, conflict too often means the end of learning and development of the affected children. For instance children recruited and used as child soldiers or the ones whose education was interrupted for so long that going back to a regular school might be difficult or impossible as they may have a hard time finding their place in society once their ordeal is over.

If we do not promote their repatriation, and help them find ways to contribute to their communities and their own development through education and vocational training opportunities, these boys and girls may grow up to contribute to the stalling or, worse, the reversal of development. The new agenda therefore is not only to provide quality and inclusive education to every child but also to transform a world confronted with challenges on a scale not experienced in decades. As the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Honorary President of Global March Against Child Labour, Mr. Kailash Satyarthi puts it “A childhood without education isn’t a childhood at all, and every youth who is out of school is one too many.” The SDGs, especially with specific goals and targets on ensuring education (SDG 4) are poised to make a real difference in the lives of the childhood of millions of such children and young people affected by warfare and conflict who constitute a large proportion of the world’s out-of school population. It is the need of the hour to commit to developing more inclusive, responsive and resilient education systems to meet the needs of children, youth and adults in these contexts, including internally displaced persons and refugees.

One of the core reasons conflict is taking such a heavy toll on education is  inadequate financing. In 2014, education received only 2 per cent of the humanitarian aid as many global appeals do not cover all those in need. What is needed most now is for donor countries to honour with sense of urgency and responsibility the globally agreed target of allocating at least 4% of humanitarian aid to education.

According to the UNICEF, at present conflict-affected countries, in particular, are spending around 3% of national income – below the global average of 4% and the recommended target of nearly 6%. With so many of the world’s out-of-school children and adolescents living in conflict-affected countries, investing in education should be a priority for external donors when governments fail to do so, but most countries in protracted crises do not receive enough humanitarian financing. The developing countries and the ones affected by conflict should commit to allocating at least 20% of their national budgets to education and remove all financial barriers that prevent the most marginalised children from accessing school. In defining national education budgets, countries should consider the lost opportunities of not investing enough in education and the impact this has on poverty, unemployment and marginalisation.

Recognising the potential and power of education, Global March Against Child Labour has been advocating for realisation of the fundamental right to good quality education of all children by governments, as custodians of this right.  As an organisation, it has also impressed upon the need to ensure that education policies and programmes, include and target those who are hardest-to-reach and likely to remain out of school such as those in child labour, affected by trafficking, conflicts, disasters and other vulnerabilities. In the current times, where this right to education is in jeopardy for millions of children, Global March Against Child Labour especially calls on governments to develop clear roadmaps to implement SDG 4 on education and to commit resources to education to invest in the future of countries and the world at large.  It also calls on to donor governments to commit more resources for humanitarian aid to education for children affected by conflict.

 You can also join hands with us and do your bit right now by supporting our work in this #GlobalActionWeekForEducation and can pledge to support education for all and advocate with your governments that its #TimeToDeliver and #StandUpForEducation

Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Human Right That Keeps on Giving

Photo of Kailash Satyarthi
Op-ed by Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Laureate & Commissioner at International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity

NEW DELHI – In Côte d’Ivoire, I once met a boy working on a cocoa farm whose only dream was someday to taste the rich brown chocolate he helped produce. And in Pakistan, I once rescued a boy who sewed footballs and wished only to play with the product of his work.

In the course of more than three decades of defending children’s rights – including rescuing tens of thousands of children from bonded labor and slavery, among them little girls who were trafficked from their homeland for sexual exploitation – I have met young people from many backgrounds. But, whether they are child laborers or victims of war who have lost everything, all have something in common: an indomitable urge to study. They want nothing more than to pick up a book, go to school, and improve their lives through education.

According to UNESCO, every additional year of schooling a young person receives increases their average future earnings by 10%, and can boost countries’ average annual GDP growth by 0.37%. Education doesn’t only break the shackles of human slavery; it can also fuel social, economic, and political change.

Recognition of education’s importance is enshrined in many United Nations treaties and international declarations, and in the constitutions of its member countries. Education is not just a fundamental human right, but also an enabling right – essential for the exercise of all others. With such a powerful tool available to us, we should be doing whatever we can to use it.

To that end, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Malawian President Peter Mutharika, and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova have convened the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity.

Chaired by United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, the Education Commission (as it is more widely known) brings together a committed and diverse group of experienced individuals who share a belief in the importance of accessible schools for all. I am both proud and humbled to be a member of the Commission, which has developed a bold agenda to turn today’s global youth into a “learning generation.”

Currently, millions of children are being denied quality education, and 263 million children are out of school worldwide – including 63 million in conflict zones and another 30 million who have disabilities. Millions cannot go to school because they are trapped in child labor and slavery, fueling a lifelong cycle of poverty and illiteracy. Poor children who are forced to perform unskilled repetitive tasks fail to learn anything else, which erodes their future employability and puts them on a path toward continued hardship in adulthood. Only education can stop this cycle and give children the means to secure a future free from exploitation.

Meanwhile, 600 million children who are in school are missing out on the full benefits of education because they are not learning basic skills. Young people who haven’t learned the skills they need to participate in the global economy are becoming disillusioned, which makes them more likely to find outlets in extremism or crime.

These numbers tell a story of education in crisis. But it’s worth mentioning that in 2000 the total number of out-of-school children was almost one-quarter higher, at 374 million, than it is today. This improvement proves that we can still build a better, more equitable, and sustainable world through education.

Fortunately, many countries are now implementing sound policies to do just that, including abolishing school fees, starting school meal programs, and using cash transfers to provide educational opportunities in poor communities. Moreover, at the international level, the fourth UN Sustainable Development Goal encapsulates a new commitment by member countries to ensure inclusive, quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all people by 2030.

SDG 4 is ambitious, but achieving it is imperative if the world is to meet the other 16 SDGs. The Education Commission’s new report, “The Learning Generation: Investing in Education for a Changing World,” recommends a targeted approach and greater investment aimed at the hardest-to-reach children – those who are in child labor, suffering from disabilities, affected by conflicts, or excluded from education simply because they are girls.

The Education Commission proposes a strategy that fosters empathetic, compassionate, and respectful youth leaders who can show their peers that peace and innovation are worthy alternatives to fundamentalism and extremism. And, because education is ultimately a public good furnished by states, we advise governments to increase their investment in schools, either with domestic resources, international support, or private-sector partnerships.

The Education Commission’s report was presented to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at this month’s UN General Assembly summit, and we hope that world leaders will take notice and begin to translate its recommendations into action.

A childhood without education isn’t a childhood at all, and every youth who is out of school is one too many. We must act urgently to provide universal primary education by 2030. Creating a “learning generation” is a moral responsibility we all share – and a legacy all subsequent generations will carry on if we can just take the first, crucial steps.