Our children, our hope

Fred Wesley | Tuesday, June 13, 2017
THE revelation that 193 children have been withdrawn from the child labour environment in Fiji since 2011 is encouraging.

In fact it goes both ways. On one end of the spectrum, it is encouraging to note that stakeholders are proactively engaged to fight child labour. Then there is the other end where emphasis falls on the glaring fact that children are actually working. There is child labour, which is a concern.

Clearly it is encouraging to note that these students have been returned to schools and admitted into technical training programs.

The revelation was made by the Acting Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations, Mereseini Vuniwaqa at the World Day Against Child Labour celebrations in Suva yesterday.

This was made possible, she pointed out, under the joint partnership program of the International Labour Organization (ILO) tackling child labour through education (TACKLE) project.

A Child Labour Unit within the ministry, she said, was established in June 2011 under the European Union (EU)/ILO TACKLE project to eradicate child labour and establish a labour inspection process to tackle issues and encourage children back into schools. As part of its training program, more than 250 schoolteachers and over 200 community leaders and farmers have been trained on child labour since 2011, Mrs Vuniwaqa said.

The State's commitment towards the elimination of child labour, she said, was also fully enunciated in the law which defines the issues of the worst forms of child labour, minimum age of employment, the rights of a child, conditions on restricting the employment of children, and hours and type of work that a child can perform if he or she is above the age of 15 years, the minimum employment age in Fiji.

This year's theme for child labour celebrations was, "In conflicts and disasters: Protect children from child labour".

Any effort to proactively fight this issue is welcomed.

It is up to us to address the various issues that culminate in children making the transition into the workforce when they shouldn't.

While awareness campaigns are important, the onus is on parents and guardians to be part of the solution.

With the State's stand on encouraging education for children and putting in place measures to promote it, reasons to stop children from accessing it should really be on the downward side. Child labour stretches from the child selling roti parcels near some major supermarkets and heavily populated areas around the country to children being forced to work to supplement the income of their family either at a tyre centre, car wash maybe or begging.

Child labour interferes with education, depriving them of the opportunity to go to school.

The one thing that does not change is the need to ensure our children are given the right to grow up as children and nurtured well into adulthood under responsible parenting.

It is in our best interest that we provide our children every opportunity to develop into well-rounded citizens of our country. For a better Fiji, we need to work together.

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