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With education, we can protect girls from exploitative work

UNICEF: Education is key to building a protective environment for girls and boys

KUALA LUMPUR, 12 June 2009 – Improving children’s access to quality education, particularly for girls in poor and rural settings is fundamental to protect them from being exploited for labour affirmed the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on the tenth anniversary of the World Day against Child Labour.

“Education is central to providing children with the first steps towards obtaining Decent Work and a decent livelihood as an adult,” said UNICEF Representative to Malaysia and Special Representative to Brunei Mr. Youssouf Oomar.

He added, “investing in the improvement of girls’ access to education particularly helps in her personal development while supporting social progress and economic development in general.

At risk of violence and HIV

However, some 75 million children are still not enrolled in primary school, 55 per cent of who are girls. Costs of education, poor quality education, and lack of birth registration are some of the barriers that limit children’s chances for a better, safer future.

Girls face added challenges that include the safety of the journey to school, lack of adequate water and sanitation facilities as well as traditional thinking that places little value on a girl’s education. More often, it is also the girl who is withdrawn from school to look after the family when a parent falls ill or dies.

The most recent International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates suggests that as of 2006 there are 218 million child labourers worldwide, 100 million are girls. More than half, 53 million, are exploited in hazardous work that includes prostitution and pornography which expose them to violence, abuse and HIV infection.

Most child labour is rooted in poverty, often associated with multiple disadvantages. Socio-economic inequalities based on language, race, disability and rural-urban differences remain deeply entrenched. Girls can face particular disadvantages due to discrimination and practices which allocate certain forms of work to girls. The current global economic and financial crisis casts a grave shadow for children for its potentially significant negative impact on education and child labour.

Free, compulsory and quality education

The ILO Convention No. 182 on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), along with other ILO Conventions and Recommendations, provide an important legal framework for challenging child labour and ensuring that girls receive special attention. The CRC also upholds every child’s right to primary education.

“Free, compulsory and quality education, at least up to the minimum age of employment, for every single child is the most important policy step a government can take to tackle child labour,” Mr. Youssouf pointed out. “Reducing indirect cost for uniforms, books, transport, food is also an important means of removing burdens that may otherwise prevent poor families from sending their children to school.”

At school, boys and girls can be taught about their rights and how to protect themselves from child labour. At the same time, the education system can itself be a very useful means of helping to monitor child labour with teachers keeping an eye on children who are at risk of dropping out.

“Education is an important safety social net for children. When girls are included, it provides benefits to their future families, their communities and society at large,” Mr. Youssouf highlighted.



About The World Day Against Child Labour
The World Day Against Child Labour is celebrated annually on 12 June. This year, it marks the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the landmark ILO Convention No. 182, which addresses the need for action to tackle the worst forms of child labour. Whilst celebrating progress made during the past ten years, the World Day will highlight the continuing challenges, with a focus on exploitation of girls in child labour.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child

  • Article 28:  States parties to the Convention recognise the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular: (a) Make primary education compulsory and available free to all; (b) Encourage the development of different forms of secondary education, including general and vocational education, make them available and accessible to every child, and take appropriate measures such as the introduction of free education and offering financial assistance in case of need.
  • Article 32: States parties to the Convention recognise the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child's education, or to be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development. States parties to this Convention must respect the rights set forth therein and ensure that they apply to all children regardless of sex.

Malaysia and its Ratification of International Conventions

  • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989): ratified in 1995
  • ILO Convention No. 138 concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment (1973): ratified in 1997
  • ILO Convention No. 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (1999): ratified in 2000


Indra Kumari Nadchatram
(603) 2095 9157 • (+6) 013 366 3452

Shiao Eek, Tee
(603) 2095 9154 • (+6) 012 207 0138

Faradiza Zahri
(603) 2095 9154





World Day Against Child Labour 2009

Give girls a chance
Friday, 12 June 2009

 • Brochure
 • Q&A
 • Poster

Six Steps to Abolishing Primary School Fees

Six Steps to Abolishing Primary School Fees, The World Bank & UNICEF, 2009

Give girls a chance

Tackling child labour, a key to the future, ILO 2009
 • Report
 • Media Summary

Convention on the Rights of the Child 20th Anniversary

Millennium Development Goals


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