Child exploitation on Apia's streets draws international condemnation

The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child opposes child labour of every kind, Samoa's representative Acting Chief Justice Vui Clarence Nelson, declared in response to pictures of child street vendors working late and sleeping rough on Apia's streets on Tuesday. 

A photo of two young boys seen sleeping in broad daylight in front of the Apollio movie theatre on Tuesday morning in Apia was obtained by the Samoa Observer. 

The boys’ faces were covered with a cardboard box which contained frangipani plastic flowers for sale. The reporter attempted to wake up the boys, but they just turned their heads to the other side and continue to sleep. They appeared under 13 years of age. 

“There are different kinds of child labour," said Vui,  

“Working at your parents store after school hours is not an objectionable practice and it is very different from street vending which exposes children to all types of potential hazards,."

“The danger of street vending is seriously amplified when the sun goes down and the Apia nightlife emerges".

Child labour, or street vending, is everyone’s responsibility, said Tomasi Peni, Samoa's National Coordinator for the International Labor Organization. 

“Child labour is a violation of fundamental human rights and has been shown to hinder children’s development, potentially leading to lifelong physical or psychological damage, and it is one of the main priorities of I.L.O.," he said. 

"And we will continue to fight against it.” 

Mr. Peni acknowledged the role of the media in highlighting child labour issues and the work of the Government in trying to address it. 

“When we look at child labour or street vendors, it is everyone’s responsibility, but at the end of the day it all comes down to parents," Mr. Peni said. 

He said the I.L.O. already conducted a Rapid Assessment Survey of the Street Vendors in Samoa in 2017. 

“And what we seen mostly happening with these street vendors are identified in this survey and also the recommendations that are there to support the next step of actions for the Samoa," he said. 

“So at this stage we keep providing our technical supporting at national level through partnership programmes to eliminate the street vendors, but the recommending actions and decisions should be directed and proposed by the member state based on current the situation". 

The Samoa Observer contacted the theatres where the children were sleeping and a Manager, who declined to give his full name, refused to comment whether the issue of street vendors sleeping in front of their businesses is an issue for them.  

In 2018 the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development announced a proposed Bill on the Rights of the Child by could ban children under 14 years old from being street vendors.

The proposed Bill is part of the Ministry’s plan to address core issues that deal directly with child labour and street vendors in Samoa said the former C.E.O, Fuimapoao Beth Onesemo-Tuilaepa, during an interview with the Samoa Observer. 

This newspaper also sent questions via email to the current C.E.O., Afamasaga Palepua Mulitalo, on the status of this proposed measure and there has no response yet. 

The United States Bureau of International Labour Affairs, named Samoa as one of the countries with some of the “worst forms of child labour” last year. 

The report highlights the fact that children in Samoa perform “dangerous tasks” such as street vending at all hours of night and day.

 “In 2016, Samoa made a moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour,” the report reads. 

“The Government ratified two United Nations optional protocols on child labor and increased funding for the Samoa School Fee Relief Grant Scheme to enhance access to basic education for all children. 

“In addition, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Labor endorsed the findings of a study that provides information on children working on the streets in Apia, Samoa. 

“However, children in Samoa perform dangerous tasks in street vending.” 

According to the Bureau of International Labor Affairs, the Samoa Government lacks a mechanism to coordinate interagency efforts to address child lobar.

The report further points out that “Samoan laws do not comprehensively specify the types of hazardous work prohibited for children.” 


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