Education International
Education International

From the fields to the classrooms: Child Labour Conference

published 24 July 2012 updated 26 July 2012

EI member organisations will address links between child labour and poor access to quality education at the International Conference on Child Labour in Agriculture from 28-30 July in Washington, USA.

The Conference is organised by the Global March Against Child Labour, a worldwide movement of trade unions, teachers and non-governmental organisations to protect children from economic exploitation and gain access to quality public education.

The event reunites more than 150 representatives from 50 developing and developed countries to share knowledge, strengthen partnerships and establish a platform of action and follow-up. It builds on the Roadmap for Achieving the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2016 as well as National Action Plans on Child Labour.

We can’t ignore it!

“Child labour in agriculture is a persistent problem in the United States and across the globe,” said Jill Christianson, from EI affiliate National Education Association, who is participating at the Conference. “There are 820,000 children working in agriculture in the USA, according to the Centre for Disease Control.

“It is legal for children as young as 12 years old to work in agriculture in this country, often in conditions that are harmful to their health and safety. This is both an economic and educational issue,” she added.

Seventy per cent of the world’s poor are concentrated in rural communities. According to the International Labour Organisation, worldwide 60 per cent of all child labourers work in agriculture. Nearly 130 million girls and boys under the age of 18 help to produce much of the food and drink we consume.

EI and the International Union of Food Workers are working together to raise awareness of child labour in rural communities. This includes working with teachers and building local-level links between teachers' unions and agricultural workers unions.

It also involves campaigning to improve rural education and seeking adequate resources to meet the quality education needs of all rural children at all levels.

Gender imbalance

Girls face a double burden of domestic work on top of agricultural work. Older girls lack decent work opportunities and may face poor access to education, health and participation in decision-making.

“Girls’ child labour is often of a hidden nature - domestic work, agriculture, prostitution, small services and handicrafts - all outside of the common definition of work” states the EI Resolution on Child Labour adopted by the 6th EI World Congress 2011.

The global trade union delegation participating at the UN Commission on the Status of Women 2012 also expressed its disappointment at the failure to adopt agreed conclusions on the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current economic challenges.

Education is a key to empower people

“In the current global economic crisis, which may roll back considerable progress made in the past decade, the need for a vibrant and coherent movement to sustain efforts to eliminate child labour remains essential,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen, one of the key speakers at the Conference.

“EI strongly supports the central work Global March is doing to free children from child labour and help give them educational opportunities to secure their future. EI and the Global March are committed to continuing the defence of children's rights through the Education For All campaign and the fight against child labour,” he concluded.

Click here to download materials and resources from EI’s campaign “One hour against child labour”, launched in collaboration with the Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour of the International Labour Organisation (ILO-IPEC).

Click here to access the EI’s Resolution on Child Labour adopted at the last World Congress in Cape Town, South Africa.

For more information on CSW 56 Rural women and girls, please click here

For more info on Global March Against Child Labour, please click here

To read a recent blog post of Jill Christianson on child labour, please click here