Politics and Economy

The Unsung Battle: Child Labour 

Inside the premises of shelter home of The Good Weave Foundation, a 14-year old child sits listlessly on a warm Wednesday afternoon. School uniform covers his body, a torn blue socks in his feet, hands and cheeks are coarse-textured and he constantly looks down with a sigh. He looks afraid, for reasons unknown.

This child is a former child labour. At the age of ten, he left home with his older brother aged 18 and a younger one aged 9 and came to Kathmandu, looking for employment to make the ends of meet of the 7-membered family living in Makwanpur, a district abutting the Kathmandu Valley. They began working in a carpet factory for two years with a payment of Rs 4,000 per month individually.

Another 13-year old boy of Hetauda shares a similar fate. “Parents?” He says. “I don’t even know what those terms mean”, he goes on, “I don’t even remember when they died or how”. Since the time he can remember, he’s been living with his uncle and aunt, here in Kathmandu. He worked in the carpet factory for a duration of six months.

In both the cases, children were rescued by the foundation and is now living in the child care center. While these children resorted to labour at a juvenile age, they now have come to realize that their decision was wrong. Instead, in their new shelter home, they have begun to look at the life from new perspective.

Undisclosed Warriors 

Each child of the world should have the possibility to attend school and the right of education. Although this privilege belongs in industrial countries to everyday life, it looks different in the developing countries, like Nepal. Children below the age of 18, but specifically below 16 who are engaged in labour work are identified as the child labour by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). These childrens are the warriors who fight their battle with much courage and bravery, and instead, are turned blind eye to.

According to ILO, there are 1.6 million children (5-17 ages) in Nepal, who have to work. From those 1.6 million working children, 621,000 have to do hard and dangerous work. This involves work in brick factories, mines or quarries as well as forced labor and prostitution.

Despite the law in Nepal forbidding children until the age of 14 to work, child labour was and is one of the major problem. The reasons, why these young warriors have to work, are quite diverse. Usually the children work to support their parents due to the loan owned by the family or poverty,so they are sent out into the city in search of a job. Therefore, they labor in carpet industries, brick factories, agriculture or have an employment in households, hotels or restaurants. Especially in family businesses and agriculture, it is a tradition that the children assist.

The inevitable fate 

With the poverty percentage of 25.2%, as declared by the Basic statistics 2017, the fate of children turning into labours entangles directly with poverty. Kailash Satyarthi, the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner for his longtime advocacy for children’s rights and education claims that, “child labour perpetuates poverty and it is, child labour which is the root cause of poverty”. However, it is also other way around. Poverty and child labour are bonded together and are interdependent on one another.

The Executive director of Central Child Welfare Board (CCWB), Tarak Dhital points out that poverty leads to this cursed fate of the child labour in the hope of making their life a less difficult. He not only blames poverty as the root cause but also criticizes the government for not taking the issue seriously enough as it should have been. The fate alone, cannot be condemned here, as there is fault in the system of government. “The budget that has been seperated for the organisation homes for the care of ex-child labourers isn’t sufficient”, claims Mr. Dhital. He also states that rescue, rehabilitation and monitoring is still not potent enough.

Past versus Present 

Child Labor (Prohibition and Regulation) Act 2056 (2000) initiated the master plan of making our society free from child labours. This Act was enacted by the Parliament in the 29th year of reign of His Majesty King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah dev. It’s nearly two decades since that plan and yet the plan of freeing the society from child labour isn’t successful.

National Plan Commission (NPC) is due with the fourth strategic masterplan for the next ten years to confront the issues concerned with child labour. Nevertheless, the effort can actually be seen through the past years, as the rate of child labour is declining and child care homes are increasing, as stated by ILO.

As reported by the government of Nepal, Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Kaski, Chitwan and Bhaktapur are the top 5 districts in Nepal, which have the highest numbers of CCHs (Child Care Homes). The Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare describes that, “The CCHs are formed to provide care, education, health services, support and security to the needy children especially ones who are not in parental care and vulnerable children”.

Federal system, United dreams 

As per the schedule 4 of the Constitution of Nepal, adopted on 20 September 2015, Nepal has finally acquired government for the seven provinces. Due to this new federal system, everyone including Mr. Dhital, the executive director of CCWB hopes for better days ahead, as it will be easier for all the provincial government to focus strictly on their provinces making it free from child labour. Although, Nepal has been divided into provinces, the dream is to equilibrise the overall development which includes society free from child labour and poverty.

Miracles do happen 

In almost ten years the CCWB / DCWB rescued 328 children. Among them, 128 children could not be reintegrated because of fake documentation while the children admitted in the CCHs, whereas 200 children (112 boys and 88 girls) could be reintegrated in family again.

The fourteen year old boy from Makwanpur mentioned above, wants to become a policeman while the thirteen year old boy from Hetauda wants to be electronic engineer. Through the stories of these boys, the life of children inhabiting in the rural areas is represented. The hundreds that are rescued are the fortunates one who now, dare to dream beyond the works they did and have a brighter future ahead of them.

 

A text by Marcel Fianke and Pinki Rana 

 

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