M.P. searches for answers

The Member of Parliament for Faleata West, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, said the increasing number of child vendors in Vaitele is something that should be addressed.

But before anything is done, Lealailepule believes it is important to find out why more and more young people are resorting to this.

 “I hear that parents go to the supermarket and buy that stuff so that they can give it to their children to sell,” he said.

“If that’s the case, those wholesalers should be charged.

“If the law is already there that no child is allowed on the street during school hours – so why don’t we enforce it now…there are Ministries, pulenu’u and organisations that are already there to look deeper into the situation.”

Lealailepule says most child vendors aren’t from his constituency.

“But that’s besides the point. All of these children will grow up as the future generations of Samoa and something that I will look more into if I succeed in the next general elections.”

Lealailepule is optimistic that a solution can be found.

 “No problem is too big …there’s always a way out for every single one of them (solutions)”

So what is Leala’s solution?

“Well firstly, I need to go and talk to the parents of these children to see what the problem is and what causes it?

“As I mentioned earlier, we need to know and find the root of the problem before seeking solutions…then we can all work together accordingly.” 

Speaking to one Asian businessman in town who refused to be named, he said that they’re not dealing with parents or children in their daily business routine.

“Anyone can walk in the shop and buy small stuff like clippers, sei, and then they re-sell it with their additional cost on it without our knowledge

“We understand that (not selling goods to children for them to resell it).

“Anyone can buy from us…from the eldest to the youngest…we’re treating them as customers…not as our employees to deliver our goods to resell it on the road.”

In December last year, the International Labour Organisation National Coordinator in Samoa, Tomasi Peni, said that law reform would be a good first step for dealing with Samoa’s growing child street vendor problem.

According to Mr. Peni, there is currently no specific legislation stopping child vendors from working at night time in Samoa, with existing legislature only preventing it during school hours.

Other legislation did not apply to child vendors as it does not consider the street “a formal place of work”, Mr. Peni said.

“The country needs to work together, especially the ministries and [social organisations] that deal with child labour,” he said.

“What they need to do is look at the gaps [in legislation] and see where they can work together to include the street vendors in legislation.”

He said young children were working into the late hours of the night on the streets of Apia, selling various things. That exposed them to a variety of dangerous activities as well, with some children stealing.

Mr. Peni said the street vendor issue would take some time to solve, but government intervention was important. In the meantime, the community and social organisations throughout the country had an important role to play in ensuring children weren’t working as street vendors, he said.

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