By Heba Girgis
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
LIMA, Peru—Manuel is one of many young Latin American boys who wake up around four in the morning to help his family with the harvest before setting off for an hour-long walk to school. Manuel is one of 215 million children around the world who faces this type of lifestyle—sometimes he doesn’t go to school at all.
In Latin America, one in ten children and adolescents work like young Manuel, and mostly in agriculture. The majority of them grow up in poverty, and while this problem percolates throughout Latin America, the International Labor Organizations notes that it is the most serious in Peru. In Peru, about 28% of children have a job—often in dangerous jobs such as mining and construction.
Last week, on Wednesday July 11, 2012, Peru’s labor ministry announced a $13 million project to improve access to education in rural areas of the country. The $13 million grant given by the United States will also help parents by augmenting their incomes and crop yields so that they become less dependent on their children for labor.
United States Ambassador to Lima, Rose Likins, welcomed the grant and said, “This pilot project will speed up the reduction of child labor, encouraging girls and boys to go, and stay, in school.” She also noted that education is the key to ending the cycle of poverty in Peru.
This Project will fund training and assistance for rural families to increase incomes without the use of child labor and expand opportunities for vocational training for Peruvian children. The Project also aims to help at-risk communities to partner with government institutions to organize and improve public services.
The Project Director, Maro Guerrero, said that the project may not end child labor altogether, as Peru is not opposed to children working, however, their work should not interfere with school and should never involve dangerous activities.
Some children and young adults oppose this Project, arguing that it will take away their right to work. Peruvian children have worked in the fields since Inca times, and Manthoc, a Peruvian organization representing child workers, believe this tradition should continue as part of the normal development of the Peruvians.
The Peruvian government hopes to persuade rural families not to send their kids to work. Government officials know that it will not be easy unless they can improve income and employment opportunities for the millions of Peruvian who live in poverty.
For further information, please see:
The Guardian – Peru Takes its First Step in the Eradication of Child Labor – 16 July 2012
Angola Press – Peru Launches Project to Fight Child Labor – 12 July 2012
International Business Times – Peru Launches Anti-Child Labor Project With $13M US Grant – 12 July 2012
BBC News – Peru Launches Project to Fight Child Labor – 11 July 2012