Child vendors increasing, getting younger: survey

By Fuimaono Lumepa Hald 17 July 2022, 10:00AM

A survey conducted this year of Samoan child vendors shows a 27 per cent increase in their numbers with more of them selling at a very young age compared to 2015. 

Data from a 2022 Rapid Assessment Survey of Child Vendors was discussed as part of a fourth consultative process at the Taumeasina Island Resort last Friday.

Associate Professor Tuiloma Susana Tauaa and Dr Mercy Ah-Siu Maliko of the National University of Samoa (NUS) presented the findings of the survey, which was a follow-up to a 2015 pilot study of children working on the streets of Apia.

Tuiloma said that child vendors do not exist in a vacuum as “they are participants of the wider informal economy of Samoa”. 

"The biggest economy of Samoa is our subsistence economies," she told the conference last Friday. 

According to Tuiloma, based on the data from the last survey conducted in 2015, there has been a 27 per cent increase in child vendors in Samoa. 

She said the other alarming factor that came out from this year’s survey was that the child vendors are getting “younger and younger”.

"In 2015 there was denial of child vendors and poverty, now we can see clearly that it is spreading," the academic said. 

"The dysfunction in Samoan families is apparent so we want to investigate that in another survey.”

Feedback from the survey also showed that the parents of the child vendors were the main reason behind the children going out to sell, according to the academic. 

"The parents are the main ones telling the kids to go sell, the blame should go to the parents, and the hammerhead should land on them," she said.

"Ten out of 135 mentioned church obligations, food is the biggest expenditure followed by school and family so there is nothing extravagant. It is a very basic need." 

International Labour Organisation (ILO) National Coordinator, Laufiso Tomasi Peni said the 2022 Rapid Assessment Survey of Child Vendors is a follow up of a 2015 pilot study of children working on the streets of Apia, which is an initiative of the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Labour (MCIL) and is co-funded by UNICEF and the ILO.

The Dean of the NUS Faculty of Arts, Saui’a Dr. Louise Mataia-Milo, told the Samoa Observer that it was the final consultation of the survey's findings before it can be collated and compiled into a report.

As part of the recommendations contained in the survey feedback, one was for the establishment of a children’s commissioner position within the Samoa Government framework. 

The C.E.O. of the Ministry of Women Community and Social Development, Dr Mema Motusaga, told the conference that the area of childcare and protection in Samoa has been neglected due to budgetary support limitations within her Ministry.

"The Ministry of Women includes children as seeing women should also mean that they have children," she said.

"We do have a policy, the policy is ambitious, over the years there has not been a big investment of Samoa in the children.

"We do not have budget support to finance activities that look at the protection of our children.

"There have been discussions on establishing a child's commissioner – our country is far from ready. 

“We have been depending on our development partners on this issue for many years, we started off with one officer and now only three officers in it for the Ministry.

"There are a lot of things that we need to prioritise internally but we have to look at the capability of this Ministry first.”

Gatoloai Tili Afamasaga, who is a member of the taskforce, said that the work is for everyone and not just academics or Government Ministries.

"We do not need new structures, we can all work together and work alongside each other,” she told the discussions.

“These findings are fantastic and the Ministry of Women as well as the Ministry of Education and other Ministries will be more clear on what needs to be done as a result of them.

"Very often children are not mentioned but are assumed to be included when women are mentioned. This is a contextual mistake. 

“A woman is an adult with a brain to do things. Children are children who need protection, we have to remember that difference.”

A spokesperson for UNICEF, who participated in the conference virtually last Friday, said it is a good idea to have a children’s commissioner but Samoa should reflect on the current structure and mechanisms it has.

"We currently have the National Childcare and Protection Policy developed and launched by the Ministry of Women Community and Social Development,” the UNICEF official said. 

“There is a provision there that requires the provision of a broader childcare and protection working group. 

“So we need to look at how we can support the Ministry of Women Community and Social Development in implementing provisions and national action on childcare.”

By Fuimaono Lumepa Hald 17 July 2022, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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