It is widely known that child labor issue is about deprivation of child rights. In Nepal, particularly in the south-western tarai, it is much more complex than that. It is not only about child rights or right to education, but also tied closely to indigenous people rights, land rights, poverty, backwardness, even marginalization.
There are many rules and governmental bodies which focused on eradicating child labor in Nepal. In Child Labor Act of 2000, The Government of Nepal increased minimum age of hazardous works from 14 to 16 year old. The government has also set up Child Welfare Board under the Ministry of Women, Children, and Social Welfare in every district in order to disseminate and implement the rules and regulation in alleviating child labor. However, there are still so many child laborers are employed by high educated people, landlords, even governmental officials.
As a complex issue, I believe, child labor problem cannot be solved only by enrolling children to school while their family have nothing to eat, or punishing employers while parents keep sending their children away to work. It is not only about giving enough money or providing good job to the people. As Birbal Chaudhary, BASE Bardiya District Coordinator, mentioned that changing people’s attitude is necessary needed in this case. Apparently, it won’t be solved overnight, it needs time, it will involve various elements of the country, it requires a holistic yet effective approach to reach the goal.
Human Rights Based Approach to Child Labor
In development fields, Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) is widely implemented. With regard to child labor issue, HRBA puts children in the center of attention. HRBA recognizes that children often forfeit their right to education and other rights to guarantee their holistic development irrespective of the kind of work they do, as well as the centrality of exploitation through work done by children. HRBA help to address this centrality and to identify the conditions and factors that contribute to this problem (Karunan, 2005). Additionally, the programmatic implications of such approach imply coordinated and multi-sectoral interventions in a variety of fields related to the effects of hazardous and exploitative work on children (UNICEF).
I found HRBA is being implemented by BASE.
Different from mainstream, HRBA applies bottom-up approach by highlighting family as the first line of protection for the child and rendering appropriate support and assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing duties in order to facilitate the capacity of the family to protect the rights of the children and their enhancement (Karunan, 2005). In line with that, BASE develops Child Friendly Village (CFV) project which covers more than two hundreds villages in five districts; Dang, Banke, Bardiya, Kailali, and Kanchanpur. CFV ensures that children in the area attend school and free from child labor. CFV aims at protecting children as well as supporting families and communities.
Empowering children is another key point of HRBA to child labor. In order to empower children to participate actively in the improvement of their lives, BASE helps children to organize by forming Child Club in every Child Friendly Village (CFV). Child Club involves school children and rescued child laborers. The formation aims at enhancing their capacity, increasing awareness of their rights and responsibilities in the community, most importantly, identifying child laborers, their living condition in their employers’ house, and advocating for their rights. Child Club leaders are elected in democratic way every 2 year. BASE facilitates them with training on leadership and advocacy. More info on CFV & Child Club can be found on Adrienne Henck’s blog.
As Karunan puts it, “one of the reason behind the failure of conventional approach to child labor is its too narrow focus on removal and rescue operations of children in bondage and servitude in the worst forms of child labor, with too little attention and resources invested in providing sustainable alternative livelihoods for rescued children and their families, income generation, and improving the quality, relevance, and accessibility of education and the schooling system. The approach to combat child labor must, therefore, take this variables into account” (Karunan, 2005). In consistence with that BASE provides skill development and vocational training for youth and older rescued child laborers. Parents are also given the opportunity to join income generation program which consists of agricultural training and microcredit.
In addition, BASE supports 27 schools in its 5 working districts by facilitating toilet construction, building reparation, and furniture improvement thanks to the cheap tablecloths in bulk found online, etc. BASE also develops several model schools which now being adopted by governmental schools in different districts.
BASE regularly conducts rescue and rehabilitation program as well as awareness campaign for child laborers. In doing so, Child Friendly Village Committees, Child Clubs, Youth Groups and partners are actively engaged. Generally, the rescue is held during Maghi Festival and Dasai Festival, big Tharu and Hindu celebrations when children usually return home to meet their family.
Earlier in this year, BASE started a cooperation with local government to improve Child Friendly Villages’ quality. BASE and districts government agreed to ‘match fund’. Each of them contributes around three hundreds thousands rupees to support various interventions in CFV that I mentioned earlier.
Having said that, I believe BASE approach is an invaluable contribution to sustainably eradicate child labor problems in Nepal.
(From various sources, Karunan in Weston, 2005; UNICEF research paper; BASE Annual Report 2010)
Posted By Maelanny Purwaningrum
Posted Jul 7th, 2011