Peru Launches Project to Fight Child Labor

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.

According to International Labor Organization, About 2 Million Children Work in Peru. (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

220 Brazilian Firms Accused of Slave Labor

By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

BRASILIA, Brazil—On Monday, 88 more private firms were accused by the Brazilian government of engaging in slave labor, or forcing laborers to live and work in conditions equivalent to slavery.  The Labor Ministry now lists 220 such firms on Brazil’s registry of worker exploitation.

The accused companies will be punished by steep fines and will be unable to obtain credit at public banks or sell their products to government entities.  The firms will be blacklisted this way for at least two years until they demonstrate that they have brought their practices up to code.

Agricultural firms listed on the registry are believed to have forced workers to live and work in dangerous conditions, threatening their safety, hygiene and health.  There have also been allegations that the agricultural workers have been made to work illegally long hours and receive less than adequate pay.

The majority of the workers who have been trapped in slave labor were recruited from the poorest areas of Brazil.  After the laborers agreed to be relocated in promise of a job, they became imprisoned by employers who demanded money for food, rent, and previously unmentioned services.  The workers become imprisoned in debt bondage and have little choice but to do as their employers order.

The recent influx in slave labor in Brazil is the most severe since records on the matter emerged in 2003.  The 220 firms on the updated list include plantations, sugar mills, coal yards, timber businesses, construction companies and textile factories.

The government blacklist is updated every six months and 14 firms were recently dropped because they improved their operations to meet government standards.

Last year, a government task force rescued almost 5,000 slave laborers after conducting 133 raids on suspected farms in Brazil.  According to the United Nations International Labor Organization, there are roughly 12.3 million workers suffering from similar situations throughout the world.

For more information, please see:

EIN News-Brazil Cracks Down on Farm Slave Labor; 88 Firms Accused-5 January 2011

Sify News-Over 200 Brazil firms found treating workers as slaves-5 January 2011

Fox News-Brazil accuses 220 firms of using slave labor-4 January 2011

Indigenous Right to Water Threatened in Ecuador

By Sovereign Hager
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

Indigenous communities protest a new water bill in Ecuador. (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)
Indigenous communities protest a new water bill in Ecuador. (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

QUITO,EcuadorA controversial water bill has led to unrest as indigenous communities in Ecuador protest what they view as an unconstitutional intrusions into their rights to water. Protests began several weeks ago when the Ecuadorian government released a new bill on water regulation. The initiative includes provisions of water for industries such as mining and agribusiness. Indigenous communities argue that this “privatization” will damage their small farms.

The bill has been postponed for several months and the head of Parliament, Fernando Cordero has proposed a “non-binding pre-legislative consultation” with Ecuador’s indigenous peoples. Indigenous communities make up forty percent on the population. This proposal led to temporary suspension of demonstrations and roadblocks that have been ongoing for the last two weeks in seven provinces.

Consultations with indigenous communities on the impact of industrial projects are required by the Ecuadorian constitution, which has been in effect since 2008. This was meant to align with the International Labor Organization’s Convention Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, which requires prior, free and informed consent, and participation by indigenous peoples in the benefits generated by such projects.

Ecuador’s Constitutional Court confirmed that the consultation was mandatory under the constitution, however the incorporation of the results is not required. There are three indigenous associations opposed to the bill: the Ecuadorian Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities, the National  Federation of PEasant, Indigenous and black Organizations, and the Federation of Evangelical Indigenous Peoples and Organizations of Ecuador. Native leaders demand that the results of the participation be binding.

Modifications proposed by indigenous groups include a  mandated respect for the order of priorities for water use established by the new constitution. This provision establishes that water resources must go first to human consumption, then to irrigation for domestic food production, next to maintaining adequate levels of water in the ecosystems, and finally to non-food productive activities. The interpretation that water use in export-oriented industry is not contemplated in constitution is opposed by the Congress.

Indigenous communities accuse the government of trying to privatize water resources, which the constitution establishes are a national good for public use. Private companies are only allowed to administer supplies of water through government concessions. However, indigenous associations insist that the concession system should be replaced by a permit system which would be subject to discretionary renewal.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera-Ecuador Water Law Sparks Protest-20 May 2010

Alternet-Water Conflict Mounts in Ecuador-20 May 2010

IPS-Native Standoff Over Water Bill On Hold-19 May 2010

Yemen to combat child labor

A new official report stated that Yemen’s phenomenon of child labor is closely related to the country’s high poverty rates.  The report, released by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, claimed that children with families affected by poverty were more likely to be employed as child laborers.  High poverty rates mean that there is a high population of families affected by poverty, and as a result, more child laborers.  The report concluded that as long as high levels of poverty persist in Yemen, Yemen will also be battling child labor.

Recent statistics show that the number of child laborers in Yemen is increasing.  A 1999 census show that there are 700,000 child laborers in Yemen.  The census also shows that in rural areas, 95% of children work.  Also, in 1999, ILO estimated that 19.2% of children aged 10-14 worked in Yemen.  The increase in child laborers is related to the increase in the number of dropouts from school.  Jamal Al-Shami, director of Democracy School, claimed that there are over 2 million children in Yemen who are not attending school; most of whom will end up illiterate.

On September 5, Yemen’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, working in cooperation with UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO), launched the first national policy to limit child labor.  The report also suggested that the government adopt a program whose purpose was to identify the poorest communities in the country.  These communities would be targeted by national and international aid programs so that their dependence on child labor would lessen.

A delegation from ILO spent a week in Yemen, meeting with their counterparts in Yemen.  There main focus of the meetings was to design a method of identifying sources of decent work in Yemen.  One reason for the high rate of poverty in Yemen is that there is a shortage of “decent work”.  ILO defines “decent work” as “productive work in which rights are protected; work that generates an adequate income; and work with adequate social protection. It also means sufficient work, in the sense that all should have full access to income-earning opportunities.”

For more information, please see:
News Yemen- Poverty aggravates child labor in Yemen: official report– 22 September 2007

Yemen Observer- ILO delegation to combat child labor in Yemen and present Decent Work Strategy– 18 September 2007

News Yemen- Labor ministry and ILO announce first policy against child labor– 5 September 2007

Yemen Times- Yemen: Fears over possibly rising number of child labourers– 5 September 2007