June 12th marked the World Day Against Child Labor, a time set aside
each year to call attention to children throughout the world who work
under harsh, exploitive, and often dangerous conditions.
report by the United Nations International Labor Organization, the ILO,
acknowledged that while the number of children involved in economic
activities has decreased since 1999, there still remain
one-hundred-sixty-five million children between the ages of five and
fourteen in the labor force. Many of these children are denied an
education and toil in hazardous working conditions. Some are treated as
little more than slaves, sold to work off the debts of their
impoverished parents. Others are lured by fraud into dangerous and
degrading work, such as drug trafficking and domestic servitude.
problem of child soldiering, one of the worst forms of child labor, was
also recognized on World Day Against Child Labor. According to the
United Nations Children’s Fund, an estimated three-hundred-thousand
children are involved in thirty armed conflicts around the world,
including children as young as seven or eight-years-old. While many
child soldiers are forced into combat, others are made to serve as
cooks, guards, messengers, or spies. Both female and male child
soldiers are frequently subjected to sexual abuse, many times resulting
in unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
witnessed by the UN Secretary General’s 2006 report on Children and
Armed Conflict, forcible recruitment and training of child soldiers by
the Burmese armed forces remains a major problem. The Burmese regime,
however, has prevented an assessment of the full scope of this terrible
problem by limiting access to child soldiers. Other countries in which
child soldiers are used include Chad, the Central African Republic, the
Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda.
1995, the U.S. Department of Labor has provided more than
five-hundred-ninety-five million dollars in funding for projects to
combat child labor throughout the world. This includes a thirteen
million dollar global initiative, implemented by the ILO, to help
educate, rehabilitate and reintegrate former child soldiers.
Governments must work together with non-governmental organizations and
international organizations to offer hope to children by providing
meaningful educational alternatives to oppressive child labor.