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Starting with the girls to empower rural communities to end hunger and poverty

08 March 2012: The Global March Against Child Labour is using International Women’s Day to bring spotlight on the girls in rural communities working as child labourers and missing out on an education.

Amina is nine years old and for the last two years she has been working picking peanuts with her parents in the north of Turkey. She has three younger brothers and an older sister who stays at home to look after their mother. Their mother is disabled and cannot walk. Their father died two years ago. Amina works from 7 in the morning until 6 in the evening. She is given one main meal and one snack a day. Amina used to go to school but now her family depends on her wage. She misses her school friends and is too tired to see them when she goes home. She was able to read and write but now she has forgotten most of what she learned.

Majority of the world’s child labour is concentrated in the agriculture, and girls like Amina in agriculture forms a significant part of the workforce, and helps maintain this phenomenon. Girl child labourers have a double burden and are particularly disadvantaged since they usually also undertake domestic chores in their own homes before and after their work and at weekends. Rural women and girls face some of the highest rates of educational poverty in the world.

Key contributors to global economies, girls and rural women play a critical role in both developed and developing nations. In some parts of the world, women represent 70 percent of the agricultural workforce, comprising 43 percent of agricultural workers worldwide. UNESCO estimates that about 80 percent of the 67 million children out of school live in rural areas, the majority of whom are girls. Young girls from poor rural households are the least likely of any social group to be in school or to ever gain access to education.

Global March recognising the need to focus on child labour in agriculture, especially girls is organising the International Conference on Child Labour in Agriculture in USA in the summer of 2012, highlighting the need to focus on rural communities, rural education and rural employment. The conference will bring anti-child labour advocates and practitioners, farmers and their organisations, trade unions working on agriculture and with rural communities, employer groups and organisations and voluntary initiatives to highlight the key areas of concern and deliberate on possible solutions and skills needed for elimination of child labour in agriculture, empowering rural communities, ending poverty and hunger.

Until there is a concerted action by the government and the civil society, gender injustices, marginalisation and discriminations will continue to prevail in communities and in schools. Speaking on the International Women’s Day (8 March), Global March Chairperson Kailash Satyarthi affirmed, “Children, especially the girl child in a rural community are at the lowest rung in the social ladder, concentrating and shouldering the burden of discrimination, exploitation and exclusion. One in four people, globally is a rural girl or woman and they work in fields, farms, homes for little or no pay, do not have access to education, produce large percentages of our food, while have little to eat themselves. Society or community can move out of the poverty trap, become educated and empowered if it puts its children, especially its girl children at the centre of its thinking, priorities and actions. It is time we focused on the rural communities and the boys and girls there, remove barrier to their education and re-affirm our commitments towards education for all and no child labour and exploitation.”