By: Willemien Jansen (Copy and Content Editor)
Childhood is supposed to be a time of play, growing, exploring and learning. Unfortunately, for the estimated 218 million children that are forced to work full-time, this is not the case. These children are denied the chance to just be children. They do not go to school, have very little or no chance to play and usually don't receive proper nutrition. Children are harmed physically, socially, mentally and morally. They could become enslaved, separated from their families and exposed to hazardous conditions and illness. Not all work performed by children is child labour. There are a number of international standards that define child labour. Usually this work is hazardous, the hours are too long, children are being taken advantage of and they work because their lives depend on it. This includes the worst forms of labour like slavery, prostitution, forced marriage and the recruitment and use of child soldiers. According to the Daily Maverick, one in three traffic victims are children.
To create awareness of the global extent of child labour and the actions and efforts needed to eliminate it, in 2002 the International Labor Organization (ILO) launched the World Day Against Child Labour, celebrated on 12 June. Child labour has decreased by 38%, but during 2021, the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, a lot still needs to be done. Almost half of child labour happens in Africa, with one in five children involved in child labour.
The HIV pandemic and the high mortality of adults dying from AIDS and AIDS-related illnesses has a huge impact on child labour. Many children grow up without a responsible guardian to oversee their development and future. These children don't only miss out on developing skills and receiving an education that will help them navigate adult life, but in child-headed households the older children are forced to work to look after themselves and their younger siblings.
The COVID-19 pandemic also poses the very real risk of setting back efforts to curb child labour for the first time in 20 years. With increased economic pressure, rise in unemployment, falling living standards, and school closures, exploitative child labour practices are set to rise. According to a report by the International Labour Organization and UNICEF, a percentage point in the rise of poverty leads to at least a 0.7 percentage point increase in child labour. The rising number of COVID-19 deaths leaves a growing number of children without parents and other care-takers in its wake. Children without families are especially vulnerable to child labour, trafficking and other forms of exploitation.
To do your part to end child labour, take part in the #EndChildLabour2021 photo challenge and challenge others to do the same. The Institute for Humane Education has also compiled a list of 10 things ordinary people can do to help put an end to child labour, and the Daily Maverick has made a list of things that can be done to protect children from trafficking during COVID-19 and beyond.
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