Day of the Child Worker in Bolivia

Most nations have laws that prohibit child labour. Yet throughout the world, children in large numbers can be seen toiling in sweatshops, hauling concrete, tilling fields, plucking garbage or peddling shoes. Some children work for as little as six cents a day, sometimes less, according to the International Labour Office.

Photo: A Bolivian boy wanders the streets of La Paz searching for customers to buy his cookies.

Br Eddie McArdle sends this report from Cochabamba where the Christian Brothers have an outreach to street children.

December 9th marked the Day of the Child Worker in Bolivia. In Cochabamba many boys, girls and adolescents must work to support their families. For the last two years, the Brother Manolo Center (CeHM) accompanies children working in the market La Cancha. This year the CeHM celebrated the day by raising awareness among residents, especially the vendors, drawing attention to their duties towards children and adolescents working there, while at the same time, raising the children´s awareness of their responsibilities.

Children and adolescent workers deserve respect, fair pay, and to be understood by adults. It is they who sacrifice their free time to work, it is they who are wasting  their childhood on the footpaths, it is they who suffer adult aggression. Sometimes they are humiliated and even have their earnings stolen from them.

By their own admission, the vast majority of the children recognize their responsibility to charge what is just, to do a good job, to be respectful to all customers and to take care of their health. At the same time they display positive features: – they work, study, support their mothers, pay for their studies and make difficult decisions. They deserve decent working conditions that are healthy and safe. Useful and productive work can be conducive to their personal development. These children deserve an educational system that is liberating, creative and flexible; even in the street they should be able to enjoy and exercise their fundamental rights.

How might adults treat the children working in the street fairly? Firstly they could greet the children by name, they could share some space on the pavement for the child to work. The adult does not have to compete with the child but could accommodate them from a sense of social responsibility, protect them  and care for their physical welfare.

Children working on the streets face risks from crime, lack of leisure and addictions. It is up to adults to anticipate and take some responsibility for the minors working in the market and to provide every opportunity to ensure they avoid the risks.

As older people with values, family members have to take into account the plight of the less privileged members of families whose children are forced to work in public with all the dangers involved. It is not protectionism or paternalism but the offering of a helping hand of fellowship to a co-worker who deserves an equal opportunity.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

One Response to “Day of the Child Worker in Bolivia”