New Age | A call to end child labor

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IN WILLIAM Blake’s touching poems “The Chimney Sweeper” from his collections Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, he paints a sad picture of child labor during the Industrial Revolution. Blake describes little children covered in soot shouting “cry, cry.” These heartbreaking images still strike a chord today, showing us that child labor, despite many efforts to end it, remains a serious problem in many parts of the world. As we mark the World Day Against Child Labor and mark the 25th anniversary of the Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention (1999, No. 182), it is important to look back at what we have accomplished and redouble efforts to protect every child from exploitation.

Although significant progress has been made in reducing child labor globally, recent years have witnessed a worrying reversal in this trend. This shows the urgent need for concerted action to eradicate child labor in all its manifestations. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are still 160 million children working worldwide, almost half of them in hazardous work.

Bangladesh, a country known for its vibrant culture and booming economy, unfortunately also faces a significant child labor problem. According to a study by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, more than 1.2 million children are engaged in child labor. Of these, around 600,000 are involved in hazardous forms of work.

The textile and clothing sector, the foundation of Bangladesh’s economy, employs a significant number of child workers. These children often work in small, unregulated factories and workshops where they are exposed to long hours, unsafe working conditions and low wages.

Many children in rural areas work in agriculture, often from a young age. They perform tasks such as planting, harvesting and tending livestock, which can be physically demanding and dangerous.

A large number of children, especially girls, are employed as domestic workers. These children are often hidden from public view, making them particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

Children working in brick kilns and construction sites perform arduous tasks, including carrying heavy loads and working with hazardous materials, without appropriate safety equipment.

Bangladesh has ratified ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor and Convention 138 on the Minimum Age for Admission to Employment. These commitments constitute crucial steps towards safeguarding the rights of children. However, the implementation and enforcement of these laws remains inconsistent. Factors such as poverty, lack of education and socio-cultural norms contribute to the persistence of child labor.

This year’s theme, “Let’s act on our commitments: put an end to child labor!” » highlights the need for strong action at all levels. Here are some strategies that can help make the elimination of child labor a reality:

The government must ensure that national laws are aligned with international conventions. This includes establishing a minimum age for working, regulating working hours, and ensuring safe working conditions for adolescents legally permitted to work.

Effective enforcement of child labor laws is essential. This requires training and empowering labor inspectors, increasing inspections and imposing sanctions on violators.

Poverty is one of the main causes of child labor. Efforts to reduce child labor must include comprehensive poverty reduction programs, including social protection measures, access to quality education and livelihood opportunities for families.

It is essential to ensure that all children have access to free, quality education. The government and NGOs must work together to remove barriers to education, such as school fees, and incentivize families to keep their children in school.

Public awareness campaigns can help change attitudes and behaviors towards child labor. Emphasizing the long-term benefits of education and the risks associated with child labor can encourage communities to take action.

The international community has a central role to play in ending child labor. The adoption of Sustainable Development Goal 8.7, which calls for the eradication of child labor in all its forms by 2025, demonstrates global commitment. Achieving this goal requires coordinated efforts and collaboration between governments, international organizations, businesses and civil society.

Companies must also take responsibility by ensuring their supply chains are free of child labor. This includes carrying out regular audits, establishing clear policies against child labor and working with suppliers to improve working practices.

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention, it is a time to recognize the progress made and the challenges that lie ahead. The universal ratification of ILO Convention No. 182 in 2020 marked an important milestone, providing a legal framework to protect children from the worst forms of child labor. However, achieving universal ratification and effective implementation of the ILO Minimum Age Convention remains crucial.

On this World Day Against Child Labor, let us renew our commitment to ending child labor. Governments, businesses and individuals must work together to create a world in which every child can enjoy a childhood free from exploitation and abuse. By addressing root causes, strengthening legal frameworks and promoting education, we can make significant progress towards eliminating child labor.

Let us act on our commitments and ensure that the cries of children, like those of Blake’s chimney sweeps, are heard and taken into account. Together, we can make the elimination of child labor a reality, realizing the promise of a better, safer future for all children.

HM Nazmul Alam is a lecturer in English and modern languages ​​at the International University of Commerce, Agriculture and Technology.