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Awareness Days

Support positive programs this World Day Against Child Labour

Yesterday was World Day Against Child Labour. Knowing that children as young as 5 years old are working in mines or fishing instead of attending school makes us all uncomfortable. Sadly, we end up contributing to this system through purchasing the products that thrive on our business.  

Through her ‘Banality of Evil’ theory, famous philosopher Hannah Arendt argued that evil is not created by ‘monsters’, but average people who simply fail to think. This is perhaps a good way to think about child labour; we don’t set out to hurt children, we are simply oblivious to how our consumer actions may affect their lives.

Child Labour today

There are more slaves alive today then at any other point in history. The Asia-Pacific, our closest neighbour, has the highest incidence of child labour with 78 million children involved. The most severe forms include children that are “enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses and/or left to fend for themselves on the streets of large cities”.

58.6% of child labourers work in the agricultural sector, which encompasses consumable goods including coffee, cocoa beans and fishing. Public awareness of child labour is arguably most centred on the garment industry, with garment manufacturing in Cambodia being the biggest currency earner. 1 in 10 Cambodian children in the nation’s capital, Phnom Penh, is employed in some kind of labour.

Child labour and education

UNICEF says the best protection against child labour is education -  just like our partner project ‘Girls Education Initiative’ (GEI) in Cambodia! With 2 in 3 Cambodian workers employed in the garment making industry, and the national dropout rate at 22% in grade 7, GEI says that stronger interventions are necessary to encourage girls to remain in school.

According to UNICEF, a major reason children are forced into labour so early is “to help their families make ends meet”. The Girls Education Initiative aims to empower girls both economically and socially, with scholarship money also going towards families. Livelihood support for families of secondary school students aims to provide financial sustainability, but also to encourage families to support female education. This includes providing families with farming supplies such as chickens, pigs, seeds, nets, and even training on vegetable growing and raising animals.

That’s right, dear reader: Oaktree is helping end child labour practices.

Child labour and action

Apart from supporting projects that keep children in school and away from the labour force at an early age, there are everyday consumer choices you can make to support fair labour practices. There are certain symbols that can be found on everyday products in supermarkets that indicate fairtrade products. The Fairtrade symbol is the most strident, indicating products that don’t rely on child labour, and instead, pay their workers well and ensure decent working hours and safe conditions.  

Check out apps like Shop Ethical! and Good On You that focus on conscious shopping. A useful website to know is Baptist World Aid which has a grading system and assesses clothing brands on their policies, suppliers, auditing and worker empowerment.  Use this World Day Against Child Labour Day to consider your consumer choices.

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