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South Asia Regional Meeting of Global March says "Keep up the Promises High!"


Kathmandu, December 2006: Global March Against Child Labor Regional Secretariat Kathmandu organized jointly with the International Center on Child labor and Education (ICCLE), Washington, D.C. South Asia Regional Strategic Planning Meeting on Child Labour in Kathmandu on 16th and 17th of December 2006. The participants were welcomed by the Director of CWIN Nepal and Regional Coordinator of Global March South Asia Mr. Gauri Pradhan. 

The meeting concluded by reminding the Governments of South Asian Region to keep up the promises high in regard to withdrawing millions of children from exploitation to education. 

Mr. Subas Nembang, Speaker of the Nepalese Parliament, said: "Even though we are party to many international conventions and successive governments enacted laws related to the children, they are still exploited, sexually abused and new forms of abuses like adoption, child pornography are coming up against them." Mr. Nembang added that the commitment of the regional meet would ensure in improving the status of children within the region. 

Speaking on the occasion Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, Chairperson of the Global March Against Child Labor said that South Asia offers the biggest challenge and at the same time the biggest hope that child labor elimination is possible. He appreciated the recent steps taken by the Governments of Pakistan, Bangladesh and India that will enable fighting the curse of child labor. These he counted were first few encouraging steps such as from free education to girls in Pakistan and text books to all children, mid day meals in select number of states in India and the generous contributions and willingness on the part of the Federal Government to expand it to states with credible means and intent, declaring employment of children in domestic work as illegal in India, providing modest Taka 100/ to every girl in Bangladesh as incentive to attend full time school and realizing full attendance. He said that these are encouraging signs.

He also cautioned that still a lot has to be realized in these countries and children are rampantly engaged in various activities and in many situations the governments have preferred to stay in the state of denial. In India the rampant use of children in agriculture by MNC’s and their local associates is disturbing and in Nepal the large scale trafficking of children to India and the complete displacement of children because of ongoing low intensity warfare in side Nepal and complete collapse of the school system and related infrastructure are very serious concerns. The conflict in Afghanistan and Eastern part of Sri Lanka has exposed the children to grave risks and has also allowed the children to be forced into war. 

Mr. Satyarthi also mentioned that children in agriculture still happen to be the largest source of employment of child labor and largest percentage of hardest to reach children because of long hours of forced work. Mr. Satyarthi also mentioned that child trafficking is another area where there is need for long term concerted joint action  on the part of the Governments in the region. Mr. Satyarthi also welcomed the suggestion on the part of the Minister of Education, Government of Pakistan to hold a joint meeting of the Ministers of Education and Labor of the South Asian Association For Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Kathmandu at the earliest to address this problem jointly. Mr. Satyarthi mentioned that Global March will shortly organize such a meeting and proposed that this is a great opportunity for International Labor Organization (ILO) to open a new frontier of joint action in the South Asian Region to address this problem at a higher 
political level of action. 

Mr. Satyarthi also mentioned that South Asian child labor situation is biggest challenge to the realization of education for all goals and the achievement of MDG’s. He said that the largest percentage of out of school “hardest to reach children” happen to be from this region. He said that it is up to the donors of the EFA and Fast Track Initiative to deepen their knowledge that we cannot reach all the children to schools till the time that we do not have specific mechanisms and strategy in place to bring visibility to the conditions of these children who are out of the national plans and efforts ongoing on EFA and corresponding FTI mechanism. If the Donors Government’s want value addition to their investments in EFA then they need to ask where are the missing 15-20% children who are hardest to reach and what are the Governments doing to bring them to schools. Mr. Satyarthi said that ILO-IPEC needs to work with the Ministries of Education to facilitate technical skills and support to bring these children under the EFA plans and out reach strategies by assisting the Governments.

Dr Sudhanshu Joshi, Executive Director of International Centre for Child Labor and Education, said the meeting would focus on finding out where the South Asian Regions stand on the Global March against Child Labor (GMACL) and its challenges in the region specifically as it is one of the most unique alliances of the global trade unions and the NGO’s. He added that as child labor perpetuates poverty, it is important to invest in education for children and bring them out of the labor market. "In the past five years, the governments have become conscious about the existence of child labor in their respective countries," he said. He reminded that donor coordination is necessary first step in harmonizing various ongoing efforts on education, poverty alleviation and elimination of child labor and detailed the progress made towards the establishment of the Global Task force on Child labor and Education with Secretariat in ILO Geneva. He said that donor harmonization is essential pre requisite and UNDP has a very important role in this regard at the national level. 

The Deputy Resident Representative of the UNDP, Nepal Dr. Sri Ram Pandey elaborated the efforts undertaken in Nepal by the UNDP and the Government in addressing the issues of poverty alleviation, adult unemployment and the distortions in the labor market because of the rampant child labor problem.He said that there is a clear correlation in Nepal on the extent of poverty, adult unemployment and prevalence of child labor. These distortions require immediate steps to correct to bring fairness in the labor market and realizing the agenda of decent work environment. 

Major conclusions and recommendations of the meeting:

  • Education has to be interlinked with child labor and poverty to deal with the issue of eliminating child labor. National plans on education in every country in the region has still to address the issue issue of where are these children who are missing out of schools. National plans and strategies need to be adjusted and mid course corrections made to create mechanisms for hardest to reach children. 
  • The meet deplored the extensive use of extremely low paid para teachers, poor infrastructure and poor quality education for the poor communities and  warned that this will create further deep fissures in South Asian region which is already facing structural inequities. It also asked the donors to critically evaluate their support is not further leaving the  poor communities marginalised. Para teachers should not become the prescription for the children of the poor as has been the case recently and prescription country after country. 
  • There should be genuine partnership between the government and the civil society and non governmental organizations. (Genuine partnership is a partnership where space and ownership is provided to the partners ensuring their participation right from planning, implementation and monitoring). 
  • There should be main streaming of child labor issues in national development process. 
  • There should be encouragement of unionization in informal sectors and make link with Trade Unions so that there should be no more child labor exploitation. 
  • The national coalition need to intensify their efforts to demand from Governments to make conscious adjustments in the national plans. Global March to undertake capacity building and strengthening of the national coalition in countries which have large number of children out of schools and large percentage of children hardest to reach.
  • The donor Governments should launch special efforts in the form of new funding mechanism to support the Governments with serious problems in hand with the hardest to reach children. This is essential precondition to realize and leverage value addition to their financial commitments made to EFA and FTI. ILO needs to step up its technical role and facilitation in this regard.  
  • There should be consultations in local and national level to make the issue more indigenous. 
  • There should be effective child labor inspection system in the government Mechanism. 

Recognizing the South Asia as a motherland of innovative campaigns and movements, the regional meeting agreed to keep the movement vibrant in coming days to create the social pressure to keep free the world's largest poverty stricken and child labor area. 

Participating Organizations and Networks:

  • Global March Against Child Labor International Secretariat
  • Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN, National Coordinator of GM, Nepal)
  • Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangbadik Forum (BMSF is an alliance of 600 Journalists in Bangladesh)
  • Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF a network of 235 NGO’s in Bangladesh working on child rights issues)
  • Bangladesh Institute of Labor Studies (BILS an association of 13 national trade union organizations in Bangladesh)
  • PEACE, Sri Lanka
  • M. V. Foundation, India
  • Peace Trust, GM National Coordinator, India,
  • Bachpan Bachao Andalon, India (BBA today represents a convergence platform of numerous stakeholders including the teachers union AIFTO (All India Federation of Teachers Organization) AIPTF (All India Primary Teachers Federation), various NGO’s, human rights groups, and trade unions numbering almost 750 members).
  • Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC), National Coordinator of GM in Pakistan
  • Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS Centre of Trade Unions with 4.5 million members in India)
  • GMACL – South Asian Regional Secretariat c/o CWIN – Nepal
  • International Center for Child Labor and Education (ICCLE), Washington, DC.