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N.G.O. wants long-term solution to child vending

Non-government organisation Tofa Sinasina Inc. has welcomed the Government’s state of emergency orders which they credit for reducing child street vending, and are pushing for a long-term solution to the issue.

Tofa Sinasina Inc. President Tavui Anne Eves-Laumea and Vice-President Matamua Mandy Scalton Keil told the Samoa Observer in an interview that the S.O.E. has resulted in less number of child street vending and their organisation is keen to address the issue long-term.

Matamua said the amended S.O.E. orders show that the restrictions are becoming relaxed which can open the door to the children returning to sell on the street.

"This S.O.E has helped a lot because the cabinet has been very strict on it and the police have been on their feet all the time. From our point of view in regards to child vendors, it's a big help and we were hoping that at some stage they will completely cut it off, especially when we can't cut out street vendors but the child vendors, children up to 18 years old," she said. 

The vulnerability of the children to crime, while they peddle goods on the street, is a concern for Matamua and their organisation as there has been an increase in offences targeting and involving children.

"I think the issue has been there for a long time, a few years back or more. I think with the higher corporate level of business people thinking that with these child vendors is good, that they are getting the skills of how to look after families which is in a way good,” Matamua added.

“At the same time, that was then when there were not a lot of crimes that involved children. So starting to have that business mind at such an age because it happened then in those years back, and there weren't a lot of crimes but I think towards this age we should really look at the danger.

“Lately, we have had cases that they have broken into shops or beat up people on the side of the roads. They reckon it's fun but this is where the parents don't realise that we're exposing them to crimes and here we are trying to prevent crimes."

Emphasising that children are the future of Samoa, Tavui said a child street vendor could become a chief executive officer in Government if guided well and given opportunities.

"We worry about the kids because they are the future of the country and we want them to grow up and get educated well, get good jobs being a nurse, a teacher or whatever,” she added.

Tavui then shared an experience when she advised a 10-year-old street vendor to return to school and met him a few years later as a married man.

"I met one of them, he was only 10 years old. Now he's married and he knows, he understands when I met him and he said, yeah I thought of you, I went back to school," she said.

A 2015 International Labour Organisation (I.L.O.) study into child labour in Samoa found that 41 working children were below the minimum age of employment of 15 years with the youngest being two 7-year-old girls. The study also discovered that the majority of working children were out-of-school or school dropouts with some children that have never attended school.

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