UN agencies call for greater access to education for girls to tackle child labour

12 June 2009

The United Nations today called for greater efforts to combat the underlying poverty that leads to child labour, especially better access to quality education for girls in poor and rural areas.

As many as 100 million girls worldwide are trapped into working for survival, often enduring serious hardships in situations that are out of sight, hidden behind the walls of factories, deep in fields or behind the doors of their own homes, said the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on the occasion of the World Day Against Child Labour.

Noting that many girls work in the same agricultural and manufacturing jobs as boys, Susan Bissell, UNICEF Chief of Child Protection, said that girls “carry a higher burden by taking on long hours for unpaid household [work] inside the home and working elsewhere.

“What the public does not see is the domestic work done in other households – this exposes young girls to other dangers and risks,” she added.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the worst forms of child labour include practices such as selling or trafficking children, the forced recruitment of child soldiers, and using or offering children for prostitution or the production of pornography.

The most recent ILO report on child labour said that in 2004, there were 126 million children engaged in hazardous work, and the most exploited were girls, orphans, ethnic and minority groups and street children – the majority of the out-of-school population.

In a message marking the tenth anniversary of the World Day, the head of the ILO said that too many girls “suffer multiple handicaps” keeping them bound to work.

These include the “poverty that deprive them of options, traditions that devalue girls and deny them their rights, and education systems and practices that may effectively perpetuate their exclusion,” said Juan Somavia, ILO Director-General.

“Investing in girls’ education and training is an investment in equality and social progress – a girl with an education is better armed to break the cycle of child labour and poverty,” he added.

Ms. Bissell noted that “education provides a safe environment for children, but when a family has to choose between a boy or a girl attending school, so often the girl loses out.”

Some of the measures advanced to help educate more girls included improved schooling for children from poor communities, the guarantee of flexible and properly funded education programmes for child labourers and other marginalized children, and the abolishment of tuition fees in primary education.

 

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