A proposed Bill on the Rights of the Child by the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development could ban children under 14 years old from being street vendors.
The proposed Bill is part of the Ministry’s plan to address core issues that deal directly with child labour and street vendors in Samoa.
This was confirmed by the outgoing C.E.O, Fuimapoao Beth Onesemo-Tuilaepa, during an interview with the Samoa Observer.
Last week, the United States Bureau of International Labour Affairs, named Samoa as one of the countries with some of the “worst forms of child labour”.
A copy of the report obtained by the Samoa Observer highlights the fact that children in Samoa perform “dangerous tasks” such as street vending at all hours of night and day.
“In 2016, Samoa made a moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour,” the report reads.
Fuimapoao told the Samoa Observer the issue is difficult and challenging.
“We have put emphasis on putting together a comprehensive legal framework which looks at the children’s care, but ultimately the aim is for the parents to have the ability to support their children in areas they are not at risk,” she said.
“We piloted a programme in 2016 called the Samoa Supporting Children initiative; this is all part of addressing core issues of child labor.
“These programs we have worked with 11 families in giving them pathways to create their own businesses and for the children to return to school.
“The first thing we have set aside is being judgmental and to be quite honest, unless you have walked in the shoes of these parents or mothers, you cannot pass judgement.
“We don’t want our parents to feel stigmatised because that can draw different reactions and most of them are negative and we also don’t want to stigmatise these children because if you talk to them, they see it as their duty to help their parents out.
“I know everyone is concerned about this issue, but please don’t judge because we don’t want to stigmatise them.
“We need to be looking at what is the root courses of these issues and a lot is around economic opportunities.
“Also sometimes these parents they go back to educational opportunities they themselves had.
“So part of what we are working is to develop different pathways either for the parents or the children to get back into businesses and educational opportunities.
“But ultimately the aim is for the parents to have the ability to support their children in areas they are not at risk.
“Our approach is that we are trying to change the mindset of parents as they need to place value on education,” said Fuimapoao.
The C.E.O. places emphasis on working with the families to have a change of perspective.
“While we have proposed the Bill and programs in place, but also what should be equally important too are the practical opportunities.
“It is all very well we can say that to parents, but their practical reality is that they see no opportunities and this is the only way to meet their daily needs, street vending, and then unless you walked in their shoes, you cannot say what they’re doing is a bad thing.”
She told the Samoa Observer there is a Bill drafted by the committee on the Rights of the Child and it’s a comprehensive framework to protect our children.
“So this Bill it is the legal framework which looks at the children’s care and how we address it from a legal perspective.
“The Bill is like any other Bill, it is there to guarantee rights of the children and it is a solution.
“It also sticks to ensure that standard for care of children are deemed to be safe in their homes and in any environment.
“The proposed child Bill introduced sets restrictions on a child to sell goods; a person must not allow a child aged 14 years and below, to sell goods on the streets or in any public place.
“A person must not sell or provide goods to a child under the age of 14 for the purpose of sale of goods by the child on a street or in another public place,” said Fuimapoao.
The outgoing C.E.O. believes while the Bill is a good start, there should also be standards that should be met as to what are the arrangements that is in the best interest of a child.
Another gap in the law is that a girl can get married at the age of 16 while the boy can legally get married at 18. “This current law was left over from the old Act that we have and just ensuring that it is standardized at the age of 18.
“All included in the Bill, Child Care and protection Bill which looks at the comprehensive issues that is needed for children. Not just child vending issue,” she said.
The Bill is there as a safety net to address issues pertaining to children, but equally important is addressing root courses.
“It means that what will happen is that every time that a cop finds a 14-year-old child selling, they can charge the parents or guardian.
“Now if we were to do that without giving any assistance via programs, we would struggle to enforce that law.
“So if you prosecute the parents and they will go to jail, what happens to the child and that is why we need to implement the ongoing program we have to again address core issues within homes,” said Fuimapoao.