Some children have been deprived of so many basic human rights that they never had the chance to experience childhood, and one of the major struggles these underprivileged children face is child labour. Child labour is a worldwide burden that is bleeding the life out of around 160M children across the globe. The number of children suffering from child labour increased by 8.4M in the last four years, says the latest estimates.
“There is no place for child labour in society. It robs children of their future and keeps families in poverty."
Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General
According to a 2019 study, countries that suffer from poverty, high unemployment rates and armed conflict are more prone to have high numbers of child labourers. That is largely due to the fact that the need for money to survive pushes children to work. Thus, governments have to proactively move towards improving the socio-economic situations of families as well as passing strict rules and regulations. Furthermore, the many conflicts occurring in the Middle East this past decade makes it more vulnerable to child labour. And with the pandemic proving a threat to many families, action is necessary and time-sensitive. Director general of ILO, Guy Ryder, says that the pandemic has had a negative impact on the progress that was made in fighting child labour over years. And that is why it is instrumental that we shed more light on it and talk about ways we can battle it.
That being said, it’s important to highlight the continuous efforts by Arab countries that have been trying to find ways to combat child labour. And with the support of ILO, many countries are now able to establish strategies to fight child labour. In Jordan, for instance, an ILO project to combat child labour was established with Noor Al Hussein Foundation. This project aims to utilize education as a weapon against child labour. This is a great step forward, especially when taking into account that around 64.5% of working children in Jordan said that they want to return to school and learn.
Another ILO supported project was launched in Yemen from September 2018 until July 2021 is “Countering the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers in Yemen”, which aims to fight child recruitment as soldiers in conflicts. The program is having significant impact so far (up until February 2021), in which hundreds of children were given counseling and different educational and psychological services. Yemen is also working on agreements with neighboring countries and providing training to border officials to help them spot child traffickers. In the UAE, the government works on returning children involved in child labourers in camel racing back to their countries. The private sector in Morocco is also working on establishing the Fight against Child Labor initiative which aims to fight and stop child labour. A nationwide campaign was also launched in Iraq to tackle the child labour issue in the country. The campaign targets 10,000 children and their families and aims to raise awareness, encourage action against child labour and help those most affected by child labour.
About 1.2M children in the Arab world are child labourers. With high numbers covering the MENA region, it is imperative for countries there to take proactive and strict measures to ensure the safety of children and to help fight child labour. And with 2021 being declared as the International Year for Elimination of Child Labour, then it is necessary today more than ever before to mobilise efforts and take serious action to put an end to child labour in our region.
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