To mark the 20th Anniversary of Global March Against Child Labour (Global March) as well as the World Day Against Child Labour, Global March and the International Labour Organization (ILO) organised a joint event on 4 June 2018 during the International Labour Conference (ILC) at the Palais des Nations, Geneva. The event, in the form of a panel discussion, saw the participation of dignitaries and panelists including the ILO Director-General, Mr Guy Ryder; Nobel Peace Laureate, MrKailashSatyarthi; former Global Marcher, BasuRai’ former child labourer in farm, Zulema Lopez, as well as Sue Longley, General Secretary of the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) and NazreneMannie, from the Board of Business Unity in South Africa.
The event began with showcasing a video on the historic Global March Against Child Labour of 1998 along with the 20 years of journey of Global March as well as a Virtual March Against Child Labour that was organised by Global March throughout the month of May 2018 on Facebook and Twitter. The Virtual March raised awareness on child labour to advocate for the universal ratification and implementation of the key child labour Conventions, i.e ILO Conventions Nos. 138 and 182, as well as the achievement of SDG Target 8.7. It mobilised voices across different online platforms through diverse mediums on this issue, engaging stakeholders such as children, youth, employers’ and workers’ organizations, influencers, parliamentarians and civil society, among others and reached 858000 people on Twitter and 206000 on Facebook across 4 continents of the world. The video ended with a strong appeal that only 7 years are left to achieve the SDG Target 8.7 to end child labour by 2025. Following the video of Global March, ILO’s video on hazardous child labour was also played for the audience which set the mood for the event.
The panel discussion started with introductions of all panelists and a key note address from the founder of Global March Against Child Labour and Nobel Peace Laureate, KailashSatyarthi as well as the ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder.
Reminiscing the global march that received a standing ovation from the delegates present at the International Labour Conference at Palais des Nations in 1998, Mr. Satyarthi remarked saying “It was 20 years ago when for the first time ILO opened its doors to the most vulnerable children in the world.”
The event in Geneva also marked the 20th anniversary of the Global March against Child Labour, which culminated in June 1998, when hundreds of marchers, including children, took to the stage at the International Labour Conference, where delegates paved the ground for the adoption in 1999 of ILO Convention No. 182 on “Eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labour.”
KailashSatyarthi, an Indian children’s rights activist and Nobel peace prize laureate who had led the march, told the panel that much still remains to be done.
“If the children are still trapped in the international supply chains, if the children are still enslaved, if the children are still sold and bought like animals – sometimes for less than the price of animals – to work in the fields and farms, and shops and factories, or for households as domestic workers, this is a blot on humanity,” he said.
ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, called for urgent action to tackle the economic root causes of child labour, pointing out that attention needs to be paid not only to global supply chains, but also to unpaid family work in agriculture.
“The challenge is not just about globally-traded garments, tobacco and cocoa; it is also about local markets for sorghum, millet, bricks – and it’s about domestic work as well,” he said, at a panel held on the sidelines of the International Labour Conference and ahead of the World Day against Child Labour, marked on June 12.
Ryder pointed out that some 152 million children aged 5 to 17 are in child labour worldwide. Between 2012 and 2016, there was “almost no reduction in the number of children aged 5 to 11 in child labour, and the number of these most vulnerable, youngest children in hazardous work actually increased.” This, Ryder added, is partly because child labour in agriculture – which is mostly unpaid family work – increased. “These children typically begin child labour at the age of six or seven and they commonly perform hazardous work as they get older.”This year’s World Day Against Child Labour also seeks to promote safety and health for young workers.
BasuRai, from Nepal, who had been the youngest of the marchers who reached Geneva in 1998, said: “Still there are 152 million children who are languishing in a kind of slavery. So this is the time to act collectively.”
Several delegates held back tears as Zulema Lopez recounted her days as a child labourer in the United States.
“At the age of seven … it was normal for me to wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning, put on my shoes and my T-shirt and go to work in the hot sun, burning, 20- to 30-pound buckets of cucumbers next to me, trying to make ends meet.”
Sue Longley, General Secretary of the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) stressed the importance of keeping a strong focus on agriculture, which is where about 70 per cent of child labour is.
NazreneMannie, from the Board of Business Unity in South Africa, highlighted the difficulty of tackling child labour when it takes place in family farms or enterprises, often hidden from public view.
The panel discussion ended with Mr. Satyarthi’s urgent appeal to all the guests and government representatives and other stakeholders present, that the issue of child labour needs urgent attention. He said that the issue of child labour is personal to him and the same personal attention must be given to it by all stakeholders. Ending child labour is urgent and it is possible.
In the afternoon of 4th June, a Facebook Live was also conducted with Mr. Satyarthi, BasuRai and Zulema Lopez on what has been achieved since 1998, which was followed by revisiting the historic monument of Global March Against Child Labour placed in front of ILO-Headquarters in Geneva. Mr. Satyarthi was also then invited to unfurl a new monument placed at the premises dedicated to child labourers in brick kiln.
The eventful day of 4th June concluded with the screening of the documentary film on Mr. Satyarthi’s life, a Sundance special Jury award winner, KAILASH.