This is the only hope
Auro is a 12 year old boy from Leonē.
He became a child vendor when he was even younger and he can be found on the street every day.
“Back then, I used to come with my mother, but now, she’s staying home to look after my baby brother,” he said.
“This is all for my family. This is the only hope for my family. My mother told me that I need to be on the street every day for us to survive, “Yesterday, I earned $10.50 from selling this stuff,” he said, indicating the seis.
“I gave the money to my mother and she was really happy.”
“Sometimes she tells me to go and live on the street if I don’t give her money from selling. Then I sleep in front of shops in town until I finish selling it all.
Auro would like to go back to school.
“My mother told me to quit school when I was in Year 3 at Falefitu Primary,” he said.
“But, I always want to go back to school like other young boys in my village, but my mother told me not to, “She told me that selling this stuff for my family to survive is way better than going to school.
“I am not sure, what she really means but to me, I want to be in the classroom again.
He said that once he was beaten up by some of the old vendors at McDonalds one night.
“I was beaten because I refused to give them money. One of them slapped me in the face and then punched my nose.
“Luckily, the security man came and saved me. I had been trying to sell these sei late that night.
In Samoa, one of the biggest challenges is the growing number of child vendors. This year, in commemorating World Day Against Child Labour the International Labour Organization (I.L.O) National Coordinator, Tomasi Peni, said that their ultimate aim is to find ways to eliminate child labour once and for all.
Mr. Peni alsosaid that from a study they have done, not only are children being used for child labour, they are also exposed to other illegal activities.
“There are children who are selling things at the odd hours and from the Rapid Report that we had shows that these kids are also engaging in other activities like theft, begging, starvation as we see on the newspaper,” he said.
“After selling products on the streets, some of these kids cannot find transportation to go back home so at the end, they sleep on the streets and the bus routes.”
To address the issue, Mr. Peni said everyone has a role to play, especially parents.
“From what we surveyed in 2014, the cause is mainly the parents having too many commitments in fa’alavelaves,” he said.
“These families are living beyond their earnings, they spend more money on family commitments and fa’alavelave they don’t have enough to provide for their families and their kids so this is their way of surviving.
“Another reason is that the parents were born as street vendors and so when their children are born they are also street vendors. It’s the cycle that the parents think is the way of life.”
Poverty, Mr. Peni said, is a contributing factor.
So what should be the solution to this problem?
“The solution is that everyone should come together and eliminate this issue by playing their roles,” he said.
“For instance, the church ministries should use some of these children in their youth programmes, the government should play a role by coming up with a legislation that covers all the hours.