The real issue here is child labour and exploitation

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Dear Editor,

Re: Let’s not panic  

Tuala has made some valid points and I applaud him for speaking his mind. This is not in any way to discredit him nor judge his way of thinking but to redirect the conversation around “Child Vendors.”

For the sake of the argument let me clarify what I mean by child vendors. Child vendors are not the children who help their parents at the stall or shop sell products. These are not the kids who are selling goods from their plantation or seafood using their roadside stalls (makeki) in front of their properties. Child vendors that I am referring to are the ones walking around town selling a variety of goods and at times revert to begging.

This is not a new issue. It is one that has been debated over and over again. The great child vendor conundrum is what it should be called. 

The one constant that is obvious is that no change has been done to alleviate and decrease the number of child vendors on the street. Nor has there been anything done politically so we can protect these children’s basic human rights. Yes some developed countries have child vendors in their main cities but are we really going to blame it on the rest of the world. 

Some of our leaders are professionals at deflecting the main problem and putting the blame on other things. Let us look at the issue for what it really is.  

Children as young as five are being exploited on our streets. This is a form of child labour! Why? These children are deprived of their childhood and a good education. These children are exposed to traffic accidents, abuse from the public as well as other moral dangers not to mention loss of innocence.

The loss of education through lack of concentration and interest caused by having to walk around for hours selling their goods, has the effect of limiting future opportunities to unskilled low level paid jobs locking the child into a repetition of the cycle of poverty that their parents or guardians experienced. 

Let me reiterate the obvious, children as young as five are on the streets selling all sorts of goods in the hot Samoan Sun. 

What are our leaders doing? Our leaders are either immune to this or they are simply ignoring the children. 

The simple question that should be asked is “Would you let your young children brave the streets selling goods and begging people for money?”

The issue has been around for a years. 

However Samoa as a developing country should see a reduction with Child vendors not an increase. Even taking into account factors that influence this such as population growth. 

The sad truth is our leaders are sitting idly by and thus allowing this issue to grow. It is not hard to pass a law that bans children at a certain age from walking the streets in an attempt to get extra income for their household. 

Again if there is resistance then ask yourself should young children (under the age of fourteen) be allowed to sell goods on the streets? 

It is our responsibility as a society to make sure that this is unacceptable.

Whatever reasons the parents or guardians have for sending their young children on the streets one thing is certain Child labour is never acceptable.

 

A.S.E. Meleisea

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