The International Labour Organization (ILO) is having its IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labor in Buenos Aires this week. But some are asking: where are the opinions of children at a conference that is supposed to discuss their rights and needs?
In an op-ed in Thomson Reuters Foundation, Tim Pilkington from World Vision UK, asks this simple question about how victims and survivors of child labor, including forced child labor, are represented at global conferences like this.
According to ILO findings, at least 152 million children around the world are victims of child labour. The plight of millions of children forced to toil in fields, mines, brick kilns. The most vulnerable children are subject the very worst forms of child labour, forced into sexual exploitation or recruited as soldiers. This is a blot on the conscience of the world. It has no place in the 21st century.
Nothing will change in a lasting or meaningful way for children if they do not have a say in their future and if their voices are not heard. They are the most important stakeholders in this particular issue. Indeed, it is their inalienable right to be involved.
Pilkington adds that children and young people constantly say that they want to be involved in policy making that affects their lives. On the topic of child labor, he believes that children a best positioned to talk about their experiences and conditions in their countries.
Justice, a 16-year old from Ghana, explained that “Children are mostly unskilled and provide a cheap source of labor, making them an attractive option for many greedy employers. Can you imagine that these greedy employers in my country employ children as young as 13 years of age? These children work on construction fields, cocoa farms and stone quarries as well as in the mines.”