The International Labour Organization (ILO) puts the number of children between 5 and 17 years involved in child labor at 215 million across the world. Just over half of that number do what the ILO calls hazardous work, which includes things like working with heavy machinery, at high altitudes or in mines.
For governments and NGOs in countries where hazardous forms of child labor are common it is often difficult to draw the line between harmful and harmless. Should a child helping his parents sell food at the entrance to a mine pit be stopped, or not?
Many children feel they simply have no choice. In Bolivia, for instance, child workers have resisted government attempts to outlaw child labor. Some claiming they are only able to afford an education by working. Others argue that if they didn't work, their families would soon be destitute.
To get a grasp of what's at stake, VJ Movement is in search of stories that show different ways to approach the subject of the child labor.
Cecilia Lanza got this project underway. She traveled across Bolivia’s Andean highlands and spent several days with 13-year old Victor Osman Sucso Quispe, who helps his parents with farm work. In the weekends he travels to a nearby city to sell newspapers. His work means he can afford to go to school, he says.
“Nowadays it’s not about whether children work or not. It’s about giving them the right to be able to choose if they want to or not.”
Pedro Mamani- Leader NATS Bolivia
Cecilia also spoke with Pedro Mamani, a leader of the working children’s movement in Bolivia and who himself has worked from the age of 7.
On the other side of the ocean, in Benin, Esther Thola tells the story of three children who, faced with little chance of proper schooling, decided at an early age to learn a trade as the only way to escape poverty.
“Working robs a child of their right to a childhood, violating their fundamental rights, particularly their right to education”.
CEO Regard D'Amour Children Foundation-Benin
In this west-African country, one in every three children works. Many of these children feel that training for a skilled job as opposed to school is their only option to avoid outright exploitation.
Meanwhile some of our best cartoonists sunk their artistic teeth into the subject. Giacomo Cardelli looked to Bolivia for inspiration. Orlando Cuellar's cartoon tells the story of children deprived of an education.
To offer some context to the issue at hand and to guide us through the complexities of the debate we spoke to Professor Kristoffel Lieten, director of the research institute IREWOC and one of the world’s leading experts on child labor.
Do you have a story to add to the debate? Do you have a different perspective? Help us show there is more than one truth.Back to the project