In Latin America and the Caribbean, an estimated 13 million children are involved in child labor. Many of them come from poor, low-educated families, aren’t enrolled in school and endure dangerous working conditions. Often, they work for their families, whose economic survival depends on the additional income their children bring in.
The consequences of child labor are grave – and are felt by individuals, families, communities and countries alike. On an individual level, nearly one in four economically active children suffer injuries or illnesses while working. Nationally, countries with high levels of child labor are unable to harness human resources, and talents and skills are often wasted as future scientists, artists and teachers drop out of school after falling victim to child labor. This slows the overall economic growth of a country, perpetuates the cycle of poverty, and in turn, the cycle of child labor as well.
It’s a complicated cycle – one that, without intervention, is nearly impossible to break. But with a two-tiered approach that combines family livelihood support with quality education, we can break the cycle.
Today marks World Day Against Child Labor, and this year’s theme is all about education. Education, particularly free, compulsory and high-quality education is a crucial tool in the fight to end child labor.
But even parents who dream of a great education for their children often can’t afford basic necessities on the income of two parents alone. By offering families the job skills to secure better livelihoods, children are freed up to enroll in school and learn the skills they need to find work as adults. These same children are more likely to keep their own children in school – helping break the cycle of child labor.
In Panama and Ecuador, Partners of the Americas’ Proyecto EducaFuturo, with support from the U.S. Department of Labor, is reaching thousands of children and families in a multifaceted approach to improve livelihoods, increase education levels and eliminate child labor. Our award-winning after-school program, Espacios Para Crecer (Space to Grow) makes learning fresh, applicable, and practical for children who have dropped out of school or attend irregularly.
Our dedicated teachers use proven learning methodologies to help children develop self-image, identity and help them dream about who and what they can become; ingredients essential to learning. Our holistic approach also includes vocational training for youth, livelihood support for households, the strengthening of public-private partnerships within the business sector, and raising overall awareness about the incidence of child labor.
By involving children, their families, communities and teachers, as well as the local government, private sector, civil society organizations and schools, we’re engaging the necessary stakeholders to ensure our results are sustainable.
The result? National and regional economic growth, and children being children again. It’s a weighty objective but one that, together, we believe we can accomplish. This year’s World Day Against Child Labor, will you stand with us to say “No to child labor” but “Yes to education”? Join the conversation by following us on Twitter at @PartnersAmerica or on Facebook.
“There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that there welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they can grow up in peace.” – Kofi Annan, Seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations
EducaFuturo aims to significantly reduce child labor in Ecuador and Panama, especially among Afro-descendants, indigenous, and migrant populations. EducaFuturo improves educational outcomes for children and adolescents involved in child labor and increases family income so that households do not need to rely on the work of children for survival. Funding for this project is provided by the United States Department of Labor. This material does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the United States Department of Labor, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products or organizations imply endorsements by the United States government.