By Pi James
An estimated 100 million girls around the world are involved in child labour, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The World Day Against Child Labour was held on 12 June, and this year’s event focused on the exploitation of girls. Amy Costello spoke to a panel of experts about the importance of educating girls in the struggle to eliminate child labour.
Protecting the most vulnerable
“In most of the developing countries, girls have multiple problems,” said child labour activist from India, Kailash Satyarthi. “It may be their family issues, it may be gender discrimination, it may be the denial of education. Girls are much more vulnerable than the boys.”
Chief Technical Officer with the International Labour Organisation’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), Patrick Quinn, said that the key to the protection of girls’ rights is education.
“We see that girls who receive education perform better, and they themselves will do better later in life,” said Mr. Quinn. “They have more decision making power within the household, they start families themselves later in life, and they have fewer children. They also tend to ensure their own children will go on to have an education, which can help break the cycle of child labour and poverty and more child labour.”
Bringing education to children
Former Sindh Minister for Education, Professor Anita Ghulam Ali, is Managing Director of the Sindh Education Foundation, which runs a school for working children in Karachi. The school has been ‘wooing’ employers for the last few years in order to convince them to allow child workers to attend classes.
“Obviously we couldn’t get them out of work because they were supplementing family income, so we thought the next best thing was to take education to them,” said Ms. Ali. “So we opened this centre in this industrial area and we have girls and boys coming to the school, sometimes at no cost.”
The big picture
Mr. Quinn acknowledged that child labour is a multi-faceted problem that is rooted in poverty.
“There’s a big challenge for us to ensure that children have the right to education,” said Mr. Quinn. “Sometimes these children will not have access to full-time education, and, for some, part-time education may be an alternative. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the big picture – that governments need to spend more to invest in education, to provide all children with the right to a free, basic education.”