Tackling child labour

Samoa commemorated the World Day Against Child Labour yesterday with a Child Labour Awareness Forum at Hotel Millennia.

The theme of the gathering was “End Child Labour in Supply Chains: It’s everyone’s business!”

World Day Against Child Labour falls on the 12th of June every year. However, because the 12th of June falls on a Sunday in Samoa, the International Labour Organization (I.L.O) commemorated the day yesterday.

According to the I.L.O National Coordinator, Tomasi Peni, their ultimate aim is to find ways to eliminate child labour once and for all. 

In Samoa, one of the biggest challenges is the growing number of child vendors.

“We have the Ministry of Education’s Act that only serves the school hours but what happens after 3 o’clock?” he said.

“There is also the Ministry of Labour Act which only covers the formal sector but what about the informal sector because these street vendors are on the street and this is considered an informal kind of trading that they have every day.

“These are the gaps that we are trying to bring in to discuss and so the focus of the this forum today is to bring in the stakeholders from the government, the civil society and the private sector to share ideas of what solution they can come up with to solve this problem. The issue is getting worse.”

Mr. Peni also revealed 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 have surveyed in 2014, the cause is mainly the parents from 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 living.”

The I.L.O Coordinator added that there are other reasons.

“These reasons are different from what we have found in Savai’i,” he said.

“The parents will loan from a lender and instead of using that fund to start a business, the parents use it in their own personal needs so when the time comes for the payment of the loan to go in, they send their children out to sell products so they can get money for the payments.

“That is the common cause of the issue mainly happening in Savai’i.”

Asked if poverty is one of the causes, Mr. Peni said it is a contributing factor.

“However, I wouldn’t say it because the word poverty is very sensitive but it is very clear in the Ombudsman’s report that it is there,” he said.

“But the I.L.O’s focus is that we are here to assist but I cannot comment on that issue because we are just here to assist whenever Samoa needs our help.”

So what should be the solution for this problem?

“The solution for the issue 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 legislative that covers all the hours.

“The Civil Society also has a role to play like the A.D.R.A Samoa is starting up their own programmes with the collaboration of Seiuli Allan Alo and Su’a June Ryan to help with the ongoing problem and to assist with this.

“So these are the kinds of programmes that we need to have to try and eliminate the ongoing issue of Child Labour and so we are here to support.”

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