2021 is the United Nations Year for the Elimination of Child Labour. Child labour can be defined as any work that deprives a child of their childhood. A child who is forced to work instead of play loses her easy laughter and her chance to learn in curious and creative ways. Children work because their survival and that of their families depend on it, and in many cases because adults take advantage of their vulnerability, and national education systems fail them.
There are currently 40 million people in modern slavery and 160 million children in child labour. Furthermore, there are now 79 million children aged 5 to 17 years in hazardous work and more than one in four children in the world’s poorest countries are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health. The progress to end child labour slowed down for the first time in twenty years.
Target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals calls for us to work together to end these unacceptable human rights violations. Target 8.7 will not be achieved unless efforts to fight modern slavery and child labour are dramatically increased. Members of our Mary Ward network are already supporting and advocating for children working in the brickfields, in hidden domestic labour situations, and other agricultural contexts.
In line with our commitment to the elimination of human trafficking and the care of women and children, we joined the global alliance and pledged to act to Eliminate Child Labour by raising awareness and inspiring local actions among our global network of over 50,000 students, staff and members.
The International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour is marked on the 12th of each month with an information toolkit, including an infographic and prayer. Each Loreto Province around the globe will focus on a specific area in which child labour is prevalent in their part of the world.
The Loreto Province of Australia & South East Asia is present in four countries. In Timor-Leste, child labour is widespread in rural areas where children are expected to help on the family plot or farm, often undertaking hazardous tasks to help pay family debt. In Vietnam, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on recent progress made concerning child labour, with many children not returning to school and vulnerable families suffering due to insufficient social protection systems. Children in the Philippines engage in some of the worst forms of child labour, including commercial sexual exploitation, drug trafficking and armed conflict. In Australia, our Australian schools have an excellent track record in challenging confectionery companies to address the issue of child labour.
We invite you to read the Toolkits below, already prepared and distributed by our UN representatives.