2021 is officially the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour while June 12 is observed as the World Day Against Child Labour. Almost one in ten of all children worldwide are in child labour. While the number of children in child labour has declined by 94 million since 2000, the rate of reduction slowed by two-thirds in recent years. There are around 10.13 million child labourers between 5-14 years in India.
Child labourers are engaged in paid and unpaid forms of work that are not harmful to them; however, these activities will compromise their physical, mental, social or educational development in the long run. Target 8.7 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals calls for an end to child labour in all its forms by 2025.
Child labour and COVID-19
A new report by UNICEF and ILO warns that globally, 9 million additional children are at risk of being pushed into child labour by the end of 2022 as a result of the pandemic. A simulation model shows this number could rise to 46 million if they don’t have access to critical social protection coverage. Additional economic shocks and school closures caused by COVID-19 mean that children already in child labour may be working longer hours or under worsening conditions, while many more may be forced into the worst forms of child labour due to job and income losses among vulnerable families.
This year’s World Day Against Child Labour is being celebrated with a “Week of Action”, marked from 10-17 June, 2021.
India event for World Day Against Child Labour 2021
In India, a two-hour-long virtual event will be held on June 12 under the aegis of the Ministry of Labour, coordinated by the ILO with the participation of the Minister of Labour and Employment along with key officials, representation of other key ministries such as Women and Child Development and Home Affairs. Civil society organizations will also participate. There will be a keynote address by the Indian Government and the ILO (International Labour Organisation) followed by a panel discussion involving experts who will discuss the status of child labour and the way forward for its prevention and elimination.
An awareness campaign will be organized jointly by ILO and UNICEF and will be launched during the virtual event. The campaign will be delivered between June and December 2021 marking the International Year for Elimination of Child Labour at national and states level. Key messages will be delivered targeting various stakeholders in innovative ways so as to maximize the outreach.
Top organisations working hard to end child labour in India
Several civil society organisations and not-for-profits in India are going to great lengths to put an end to this abhorrent practice. On the World Day Against Child Labour – and beyond – pledge your support to their noble cause. Here are the top organisations working to eliminate child labour in India:
Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation
Founded by Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation US is dedicated to eradicating child labour and child exploitation by educating and mobilizing the public, engaging the private sector to prioritize children in their business models, building capacity of partners on the ground and advocating for the protection of children in national and international policies.
The Child Friendly Village (Bal Mitra Gram) is the Kailash Satyarthi Foundation’s preventive model of youth empowerment and village development that protects children from labour by ensuring their rights, wellbeing and voices are central to the village community. This is done successfully by involving the local community and the participation of children themselves through the creation and forming of a children’s council (Bal Panchayat).
Hand in Hand India
Eradicating child labour prevalent in the silk weaving industry of Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu, was the core of Hand in Hand India’s vision back in 2002. What started off with evening classes for these children has now grown into several initiatives, ranging from residential schools to higher education support. The exercise of strengthening the education system in Kancheepuram District has expanded and today they are a pan-Indian NGO working with children.
It helps not only child- and bonded labourers but also school dropouts and children who were never enrolled in schools. The core focus of Hand in Hand India is identifying out-of-school children, enrolling them in learning centres and creating awareness about education. Their own staff carries out this task with support from a Child Rights Protection Committee and over 16,000 volunteers.
Global March Against Child Labour
The Global March Against Child Labour (Global March) is a worldwide network of trade unions, teachers’ and civil society organisations that works together towards the shared development goals of eliminating and preventing all forms of child labour, slavery and trafficking. It is the single largest civil society network for the most exploited children, with activist Kailash Satyarthi as the Honorary President.
The Global March movement began with his historic 80,000 km long physical march when thousands of people walked together jointly putting forth the message against child labour. The march, which started on January 17, 1998, crossed 103 countries, built immense awareness and led to high level of participation from the masses.
Global March seeks to eliminate child labour by questioning, addressing and changing the very systems that compel children to work, at the global, regional and national levels. What is key therefore, in the fight to end child labour, is the need to advocate for policy changes.
UNICEF India works with government and for-profit agencies to put in place the necessary policy framework to end child labour in the country. It works with businesses to assess the supply chains and to find sustainable options to address business practices that lead to child labour. It works with families to support the ending of labour that is a result of bonded or debt labour. UNICEF supports state governments to integrate programmes that would end child labour. It also supports communities in changing their cultural acceptance of child labour, while ensuring alternative income to families, access to preschools, quality education and protection services.
Smile Foundation feels that there is no better tool, but education to end child labour in the country. The NGO works towards providing basic school education to less privileged children. Through sensitization efforts, Smile Foundation wants to create awareness of the vulnerability of the underprivileged children in our society. Their motto against child labour: Say NO to Child Labour, Say YES to School. Ensuring educational support for needy Children remains the prime agenda of Smile Foundation programmes also by supporting genuine small NGOs, educational trusts, child welfare initiatives, various child education foundations and grassroots non-government organisations.
Don Bosco Balprafulta
Don Bosco Balprafulta is a Salesian response to the situation of marginalized children in Mumbai. The word ‘Balprafulta’ connotes blossoming of the child. Involved with promoting child Rights since April 2000, Don Bosco Balprafulta works on identifying the ‘Young at Risk’ and enables them to secure their rights through state and civil participation.
DBBP launched project Rihaee in 2004 for child labourers. The issue of child labour was found to be widespread in the city and hence the project focused on rescuing children from exploitative situations. Project Rihaee was successful in rescuing thousands of children through its rescue operations. It is now called Project Disha. In 2016, DBBP commenced another project for migrant children in Nasik. It led to the Suraksha Migrant desk, which works with the children who are trapped as child labourers in Mumbai and Nashik.
Save the Children
One of the biggest NGOs for child rights, Save the Children works in the most disadvantaged local communities educating them about the rights of children and helping them understand that children are meant to be at school, not at work. The organisation’s protection programme in child labour involves improving the understanding of the situation of vulnerable children in need of care, building their resilience and supporting their participation in their own protection. Save the Children also advocates for policies and laws that are in line with the standards set out in the UN Convention on Rights of the Child.