Uzbek youth parliamentarians take action to end child labour
Djizzak city, Uzbekistan June 12 2009. Elyor (17) is teaching pupils at the Solijoy secondary school about the worst forms of child labour.
‘We’re not trainers’ he tells them. ‘We’re here to raise passions for your rights. I want you to know about your rights.’
Child labour damages children’s health, education and upbringing and child labour in agriculture is an issue to be tackled. Also, adolescent girls, when engaged in work, have special needs regarding sanitation and living conditions.
The session, on the world day against child labour, is the sixth in a string of events across 3 Uzbek regions; Djizzak, Tashkent and Syrdaryra. It highlights UNICEF and the Governments commitment to end the practice.
In interactive sessions, 18 pupils learn about the worst forms child labour. What they are, why they’re bad and what they should do about it. Girls and boys equality is emphasized and clear lines are drawn between acceptable child work and harmful child labour.
Action for children, by children
Elyor is but one of 15 youth parliamentarians who were trained by UNICEF on child rights and child labour at the height of the cotton harvest in October 2008.
The youth Parliament, supported by UNICEF, meets once a year to take action on key issues for children. This year it’s setting its sights on child labour and is leading this training programme.
Supporting the youth Parliament and wider efforts to encourage youth participation are but parts of a comprehensive UNICEF communications and advocacy drive to end child labour in agriculture.
Ratifying the conventions that ban child labour and set the minimum age for employment were great steps, but all children should be in school - all the time. Children in the training stressed the importance of creating more jobs for adults, so they can stay in school.
The return of economic migrants from harder hit countries presents an excellent opportunity to help end child labour, but there’s no instant fix. ‘Imagine a ladder, you can’t jump up three steps at once - or you’ll fall and break your leg’ says Elyor.
His favourite subject, history, has broadened his view; ‘Child labour occurs in many countries and has done for centuries’ he says. But he understands that conventional attitudes never justify its continuity.
Today, Uzbekistan is a signatory to the Convention of the Rights of the Child and has its own law on the guarantees of child rights - so it’s committed to their full realization.
Changing minds, changing actions
Gulia (48) is working with UNICEF, Elyor and others to change attitudes on child labour. She’s child protection coordinator for the Uzbek children’s fund, a key UNICEF partner.
‘Before child labour wasn’t even on the agenda, but now new laws forbid it. We’re helping spread the word that child labour is unacceptable’ she says.
By the trainings end, the kids better understand the impact of missing school on their futures. They agree on detailed plans to spread the word in their communities. Elyor says, ‘I see it like planting a tree, you have to keep watering it to watch it grow.’
UNICEF will keep constructively working with the government, Elyor, Gulia and others to end child labour.