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Leaders and Nobel Laureates meet in New Delhi to discuss Child Labour as a Global Issue

International Labor Organization suggests that there are 168 million child laborers across the world

NEW DELHI December 10, 2016: Indian children are at a disadvantage of huge social difference not only culturally but even from the educational perspective. The Economic backwardness of a major chunk of the population has forced them to lag behind others. They are even not allowed to dream and at times they do not understand what dream is all about.

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Seven-year-old Siyam stands speechless when asked what he would like to do when he grows up. He stares blankly as if being asked the most ridiculous of questions. He was wearing a faded red t-shirt with a picture of a superhero and a tattered blue shirt. His life is confined within the filthy lane of a slum in New Delhi. He never went to school either, mentioned Reuters.

For as long as he can remember, he has stayed at home to look after his four younger siblings while his mother cleans homes and his father works on building sites for a daily wage.

“I want to go to school like the other children,” he says eventually, standing outside his one-room home in the south Delhi slum. “I want to wear that nice blue uniform and learn.”

The chances are slim for Siam.

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According to Nobel laureates and global leaders meetings in New Delhi this weekend, there are around 260 million such children like Siam and adolescents out of school globally who are at risk of being forced into child labour or even slavery unless governments take action.

The summit – which brings together figures such as Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands – aims to push child rights onto the global agenda, said organiser and Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi.

Satyarthi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “It is a paradox that on one hand, the world is progressing so fast. Never before have we been so wealthy. But on the other hand, children are facing hardships never faced before,”

“Children are being enslaved, trafficked, they are working as child labourers, they are being used for prostitution. In this situation, we want to create a strong moral platform to raise a voice which cannot be ignored by governments, inter-governmental agencies and society in general.”

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A FAILURE OF HUMANITY

International Labor Organization suggests that there are 168 million child labourers across the world, with more than half involved in hazardous work in sectors such as agriculture, mining, construction, manufacturing and services.

Being born into servitude, trafficked for sex work, or trapped in debt bondage or forced labour- there are almost 5.5 million children who are enslaved, as estimated by IL. This undermines the expectation of the people who still believes that slavery no longer exists.

Those working in the farming sector often bore the risk of injury from sharp tools, and are often exposed to pesticides.

Other are employed in manufacturing – confined to poorly lit, barely ventilated rooms in slums, embroidering clothes, weaving carpets, making matchlocks or even fireworks.

Children also work in restaurants and hotels, washing dishes and chopping vegetables, or in middle-class homes, cleaning and scrubbing floors.

Jose Ramos Horta, former East Timor president and one of 14 Nobel Peace Prize winners attending the two-day summit, said he hoped to influence governments, companies, academics, judges and public opinion and mobilises action to end the scourge.

Ramos Horta  also told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, “in the 21st century the notion of a child being enslaved or being forced to work is just morally unacceptable and is an indictment of us all, of all of humanity.”

“This failure to end child labor is a failure of everyone, including those in richer countries, but we see that if we can tackle the root causes such as poverty and invest in education, for example, we can make a difference.”

He even highlighted approaches in Brazil, where poor families are given money if they send their daughters to school, and in India, where a midday meal is given to children as an incentive to their poor families to keep them in class.

“CRISIS IN THE MAKING”

Education is regarded as the key solution for ending slavery, however, education budgets are too meager throughout the world to keep children in school, especially when poverty prevails and families need to send their children to work.

Developing countries should increase expenditure on education to nearly 6 percent of their Gross Domestic Product by 2030, says  Research from the Education Commission, a global organisation.

Their estimate also highlights that by 2030 there will be 1.6 billion young people globally, yet on current trends, half of them – 800 million – will not receive a secondary level education. This could be a “crisis in the making”, both for the child who misses out and for the global economy, say experts.

Julia Gillard, former Australian prime minister and chair of the Global Partnership for Education said education would be a key topic at the summit.

Gillard also said that “There is a dynamic relationship between slavery and education. Children who are in school are likely to have some protective factors around them, which means it is least likely that they will be trafficked or drawn into slavery style situations,”

“I hope this weekend mobilises a whole network behind the kind of advocacy we need on education.”

by Saptaparni Goon of NewsGram with inputs from Reuters. Twitter: @saptaparni_goon

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