Fighting child labour, means fighting poverty.
In addition to our many years of established and successful work with children and young people from severely disadvantaged families, this year we will reinforce our focus on the eradication of child labour.
Child labour – still a big problem in Ecuador.
According to a study by UNICEF in Ecuador, child labour is directly related to poverty and broken family structures. In addition, child labour also increases future poverty, because children lack the time to learn and develop through a normal childhood. Later as adults these children do not enjoy the same opportunities as people who did not spend the majority of their childhood contributing to their family income. Girls are particularly affected.
In San Miguel de los Bancos, where our project is located, – a county with over 17,000 inhabitants – more than 70% of people live below the national poverty line which means they can not meet their basic survival needs. These include: adequate food, basic housing, health care and basic education.
In rural Ecuador 12.5% of children and 26% of young people work. Around 10% of the 8,000 children and adolescents in our county work.
According to UNICEF child labour is defined as:
1) for children between 5 and 11 years: at least 1 hour of any kind of work daily or at least 28 hours of housework weekly.
2) for children between 12 and 14 years: at least 14 hours of paid work weekly or at least 28 hours of housework.
3) for young people between 15 and 17: at least 43 hours of paid work or housework.
The reality in Mindo
Nearly all of the children cared for in SALEM Ecuador work. The tasks undertaken by children and adolescents of all ages go far beyond the usual level of “help in the home” – this is especially true among the girls.
Some 8 year old girls spend hours every day looking after their younger siblings, manging the housekeeping, doing laundry, and all without an adult in the house. Most of the parents are either working or neglect their family for other reasons, such as alcoholism or mental health problems.
Tourism offers many children poorly paid jobs, such as washing dishes, distributing leaflets, street hawking (including selling drugs), and as tourist guides. We classify working as tour guide as a dangerous activity, as the children are often alone with unknown adults in remote areas. Cases of abuse as well as prostitution among adolescents are not unknown.
Children who live in small, isolated hamlets and whose parents work in agriculture, often get up as early as as 4am to milk the cows, afterwards only to have walk 1-2 hours to arrive exhausted at school.
Doubling our efforts to tackle the problem.
Last year, in collaboration with the the Ecuadorian Ministry of Social and Economic Inclusion (MIES), we already started to help some of the affected children in our county. This year we will once again cooperate with MIES to tackle the problem of child labour in our county. This year we are doubling our efforts to tackle the problem and extending the reach of our project. This year we will care for and work with over 80 children and their families not only in our local village of Mindo, but throughout the county of San Miguel de los Bancos.
Achieving any kind of real long term change is a difficult and lengthy task. First and foremost it is important for us to assess the exact situation of each family. Obviously the children do not work for fun, but because they have to contribute to the family income simply to survive. With the exception of dangerous activities, its not our intention to forbid the children to work outright, but to help to create the conditions which mean that there is no longer any need to for the children to earn money for the family. Simply put
Fighting childlabour means eradicating poverty.
We offer practical help, and if necessary, therapuetic support to the families. Often the parents, especially the mothers, lack the strength, courage and self esteem to fight their way out of precarious financial circumstances or simply to stand up for their legal rights and fair pay from employers. SALEM offers practical advice, legal counsel and counselling to families as required .
There is a direct correllation between the level of education of the parents and whether and how much their children work. The better educated the parents, the less the children work. SALEM offers advice and guidance to parents on existing local adult education programs (such as our sewing courses) and their children benefit from increased educational opportunities during day care at our center.
Sponsor this project and help us eliminate child labour!
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our project manager – Jonas Lange – by e-mail: email@example.com.