Give Me a Book, Not a Pick


Child labor is a violation of human rights that damages health and personal development based on child’s age, activities performed and hazards involved, hours and conditions of work. It is mostly found in agriculture, which is one of the most dangerous sectors in terms of work-related fatalities, non-fatal accidents, and occupational diseases that can last into their adulthood. Children are particularly at risk as their bodies and minds are still developing and are more vulnerable to hazards.

Indeed, children’s participation in some agricultural activities is not always child labor, and it is important to distinguish between light duties that do not harm the child, and child labor. Non-hazardous age-appropriate tasks that do not interfere with schooling and leisure time can be positive; they contribute to the inter-generational transfer of skills and children’s food security. These tasks also result in some attributes often detected in young people engaged in some aspects of farm work, such as improved self-confidence, self-esteem, and work skills.

However, for nearly 100 million girls and boys, their work in agriculture goes beyond these limits and becomes child labor that needs to be eliminated. Eliminating child labor in agriculture is intertwined with other development issues. Poverty is one of the main causes along with limited access to quality education and traditional attitudes towards children’s participation in agricultural activities. Child labor is often a choice between life and death for children whose parents are unable to support their families; it perpetuates a cycle of poverty.

When children are forced to work for long hours, they become unable to attend school or vocational training, which prevent them from gaining education that could help lift them out of poverty. Without education, these boys and girls are likely to remain poor. By perpetuating poverty, it undermines efforts to reach sustainable food security and end hunger. Accordingly, poverty is regarded as cause and consequence in one, and that vicious circle must be broken.

Credits: Image by Larry C. Price. Philippines, 2013. Pulitzer Center.

Child labor is an agricultural issue worldwide that undermines sustainable agriculture and food security; it cannot be eliminated simply by prohibiting poverty. Decisive measures must be taken to ensure that children do not have to work to supplement their family income, which includes the protection of vulnerable families, access to social services, and the creation of decent work for those of working age.

In order to address this matter, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and ILO are increasingly focusing on combating child labor in agriculture through developing many initiatives since 2007. The World Day Against Child Labour (WDACL), observed on 12 June, to raise awareness about children worldwide working in situations of child labor in agriculture, as well as the importance of addressing this human rights violation for achieving food security and reducing poverty.

Child labor is a problem of a large magnitude; it is difficult to eliminate it completely, but not impossible. New generations have the right to attend school, be protected and cared for, and not face any kind of violation or be deprived from their childhood. They have the right to be children. If we have effective mechanisms, strong will power, and everyone contributes, elimination of child labor is within our reach.

“Give Me a Book, Not a Pick” is title of a drawing by an 11-year old child, published along with other artworks by children from all over the world in a book entitled Children’s Views of Children Labor (page 68). Credits: Drawing - International Labour Organization (ILO)


Credits: Banner Image/Freepik

*The article was published in SCIplanet, Autunm 2015 issue.

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