Guyana has joined the rest of the world in calling for the elimination of Child Labour, which is work that deprives children of their child hood. World Day Against Child Labour is being observed in 2014 under the theme ‘Extend Social Protection: Combat Child Labour’!
While the statistics show a decline, there are still 168 million children worldwide in child labour; 85 million of them are in hazardous work. Alarmingly, there are 13 million children in child labour in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security has an advocacy mandate to the elimination of Child Labour with daily operations include identifying all forms of Child Labour, investigating and prosecuting individuals found in violation of the laws of Guyana, as it pertains to employment of children.
The country has also signed several international Conventions obligating it to prevent child labour, including the International Labour Organisation’s Convention No. 182 on the Eradication of the worst forms of Child Labour.
Minister of Labour, Dr. Nanda Gopaul in observation of the day noted that the theme draws attention to the role of social protection in keeping children out of the child labour market.
Pointing out that social protection of children is a human right making sound economic and social sense, he added that it enables children access to education, health care and nutrition and plays a critical role in the fight against child labour.
“Giving social protection to our children helps to prevent the scourge of child labour by reducing economic vulnerability of families, enabling children to go to school and protecting them from exploitation. The Ministry of Labour re-affirms its commitment to combat all forms of child labour thus ensuring our children are given the opportunity to live healthy, happy and productive lives,” the Minister said.
Government has continued to put social programmes in place aimed at supporting families to meet basic needs. Among these are the school feeding programme, which provides a hot meal for children in many areas in Guyana’s interior locations. Government also provides each child in the public school system with a uniform voucher to aid in the provision of school materials, including text books. An additional grant of $10,000 per child will be given to ensure that parents acquire other necessities for their children to attend and remain in school. In addition, transportation for children especially in remote areas is being provided and parents, especially single parents, are being empowered with requisite skills to better meet the needs of their families.
The Ministry of Labour, through its Labour Officers, continuously sensitises students, parents, teachers, employees and employers on the negative impact of child labour. The Ministry also monitors and investigates reports of under-aged children who are engaged in any form of employment.
In this context, the Ministry has expressed appreciation for the support of the National Tripartite Committee, comprising employers, workers and labour movement representatives, employers and concerned citizens, who have been supportive of efforts to tackle child labour.
The Ministry also salutes the support of the International Labour Organisation in this fight.
“Employers, parents, teachers, children; childhood is a time to grow. At this tender age, the body is developing and requires proper nutrition and exercise to grow. This is necessary to become productive adults. We need to ensure that every child has a full childhood and not one burdened by adult activities, such as employment and taking care of the family. In spite of difficult circumstances, children must not be put to do laborious work. It is against the law and deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity and can be harmful to their physical and mental development.
Observing that there are unreported cases, the Labour Minister insisted that everyone has a duty to report cases of child labour.
“We need to expose these atrocities. At the level of Government we remain vigilant to guard against it and will continue to strive to improve the social protection that is necessary to prevent this scourge. The Government of Guyana is committed to ensuring that every child completes secondary education and move to even higher academic qualifications. Let us all work together to prevent and end child labour in our society now!” he demanded.