CHRI Marks World Day Against Child Labour
Today the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) marks the World Day Against Child Labour with the release of a new video, ‘A conversation with Homes of Hope Fiji, Aparajeyo-Bangladesh and NACTAL Nigeria’. As Secretariat to the Commonwealth 8.7 Network, CHRI spoke with member organisations that work to end child labour and exploitation in Fiji, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. They shared their thoughts on the barriers to end child labour, the impact their organisations have made, and what governments need to do to fulfil their commitments to eradicate child labour.
Ending child labour and exploitation has never been more urgent. In the world’s poorest countries, slightly more than 1 in 4 children are engaged in child labour. The unprecedented economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, paired with school closures and inadequate social support, have put children at greater risk. Approximately 168 million children worldwide have been affected by school closures, often losing access to food programs that families depend on. Many children have dropped out of school to support their families under dire financial circumstances. The International Labour Organisation warns that increased pandemic-related poverty may even drive households themselves to use child labour in order to cope with job losses and health shocks. An additional challenge with school closures has been a lack of interaction with social workers, teachers, and school friends, ultimately depriving children of safe spaces and making them more vulnerable to becoming victims of criminal gangs.
Despite these hightened risks, currently only 56% of Commonwealth States have child-friendly services to support victims of child labour or child trafficking Local civil society organisations (CSOs), like the ones in this video, do much of the work on the ground to identify and support victims of child labour and trafficking, and assist in their rehabilitation and reintegration. In addition to victim identification, Aparajeyo in Bangladesh negotiates with the local communities, employers, and parents to communicate the importance of children’s education. Among other work, NACTAL in Nigeria engages in high-level advocacy with governments and institutions on the need for enabling laws for the protection of children. In Fiji, Homes of Hope describes itself as a ‘victims support centre,’ where its role is to support and uphold the voices of survivors, in addition to providing community education to prevent future harm.
This year marks the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour and there is a strong commitment across the Commonwealth to end this practice: 50 countries have ratified the 1999 ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (No. 182). However, at the national level, only 31 countries have criminalised the commercial sexual exploitation of children. On this International Day Against Child Labour, CHRI strongly advocates for the criminalisation of all forms of modern slavery including child labour, and to ensure penalties are proportionate to the seriousness of the offence. CHRI also recommends that labour protections extend to all groups, including children, in formal and informal economies and in high-risk sectors.
 UN Children’s Emergency Fund 2021, COVID-19: Schools for more than 168 million children globally have been completely closed for almost a full year, says UNICEF, available from: https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/schools-more-168-million-children-globally-have-been-completely-closed
 Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children 2020 (n. 8)
 CHRI and Walk Free 2020 (n.3)