…And do you know that one of his/her official and fundamental right is to have a name?? This is defined by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). I thought “does it really have to be a right?” It had to be written, because in some places around the world, children don’t even have a name. The CRC is a text agreed by 193 countries which has 54 articles defining 41 rights of the child that set up the rules so they can all Learn, Develop, be Safe, Healthy and Happy. Sounds just normal in developed countries, ideal in so many other places!
This week my colleague is on holidays. My task is to prepare factsheets about this CRC, and also C138 the convention concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment, C182 the convention on Worst Forms of Child Labour and about the law on Trafficking in Human beings. So I am studying and learning.
In Haiti birth registration is not well fulfilled, and it is one of the reason why some kids, who lose track of their parents too early, or were found orphans after the 2010 earthquake, don’t have a name.
Child labour is an endemic issue. So deeply rooted in the mentalities. More than 200.000 children are in situation of domestic work that we can call slavery. These children are sent to families by their own parents with the hope to get access to education and because their parents can’t afford to feed and breed them, mothers are forced by poverty, there is no social welfare here. Nothing. But these kids don’t get paid for this domestic work, they are not officially employed. And most of the time they don’t get education either, hardly no food, they sleep on the floor, are not allowed to play with the children of the host family, and most of the time they are physically and sexually abused. In Haiti they are only called “restavèk” which is creole for “satywith”. It a a very stigmatized word.
This is not only a Haitian problem. Googling and Youtubing “child rights” last night to read more, see more, learn more, I realized that many countries in sub-saharian Africa but also Pakistan and Philippines have this same major problem. And it’s nearly a cultural norm there too. In Kenya for example the state implemented free primary school and legislation, but there is still 1 out of 4 children working in the fields. Families need to put food on the table. It is a complex situation and the more you learn about it the more you feel that you put your finger in a nasty gearing!
There are laws and conventions to clearly regulate this and set the boundaries, but they’re hardly if ever enforced. Laws are not the only answer, people need a helping hand from governments and leaders, there is a crucial need for more educational opportunities, social help, and family planning. Who can provide alternatives to these families in need? Who will think out of the box and be able to provide practical ways in which to help the most in need, so their children can have access to education until they reach a reasonable age to start working and then only, bring food on the table.
The task is very hard, and is the matter of all. Social mobilization is important and the civil society has the power to pressure the governments who ratified these international conventions and laws. And this is one of the mission of Save the Children in Haiti.
Awareness is a first step. And Unity makes strength!! Please forward…
The International Labour Organization (ILO) is the first organisation to regulate child labour. You can find more information on their website.
Also if you search in YouTube “Child slaves – Slavery: a 21st Century Evil”, you’ll see a very good documentary about this issue in Haiti, by Association Maurice Sixto and Gertrude Séjour, who is one of Save the Children key partner in Port au Prince.
* I masked the face of the boy on the picture as I don’t have his formal permission to publish his image.