Summer events aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of child labor were held in four target governorates in Yemen this summer as a part of the awareness raising component of CHF’s ACCESS-Plus program. Enthusiastic families in Hajja, Hodeidah, Taiz and Aden came out in impressive numbers. ACCESS-Plus, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and implemented by CHF International and the Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW), is working to withdraw 4,100 children from the worst forms of child labor and aims to prevent 3,000 from entering exploitive labor.
As the events took place during the month of Ramadan, they were held at night, after the breaking of the fast, which only added to the festive atmosphere. In Aden the hall was filled to capacity in anticipation of speeches by representatives of local authorities, CHF and CSSW. The importance of education as an alternative to child labor was a common theme. Mr. Jarmal al-Aa’qil, deputy Governor of Hajja, stated “I am here tonight taking part in this festival to express the support of the governor and the Local Authority of Hajjah to the mission of the ACCESS-Plus program. I am confident that ACCESS-Plus will contribute to the overall effort to fight child labor and child trafficking.”
The highlight of the event, however, was a short play that followed the speeches. Three gifted actors conveyed a strong anti-child labor message with the help of a table, two chairs and a Michael Jackson wig. In the play, a father is inspired to educate his children after a bad dream in which his son dies after being forced to work as a fisherman. This moving story was adapted to each governorate: While Aden and Hodeidah focused on children working in fish farming, the Hajjah story involved child trafficking and in Taiz the child worked in agriculture. These adaptations increased the relevance to each community and tugged at viewers’ heartstrings.
Darweesh, a former child smuggler from Haradh, Hajjah, was particularly inspired: “Thank God I’m no longer a smuggler, I will enroll in the ACCESS-Plus literacy and vocational training program. I want to be a decent person and contribute to my society.”
Sana’a Yemen 9/6/2009 - On August 20th, 2009, CHF Yemen, in collaboration with its partners Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW) and the Yemen Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, organized a much-needed “Day Without Work for Working Children” as part of its ACCESS-Plus program. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, with special funding for this activity from the International Initiative to End Child Labor and the Emily Sandall Foundation.
The “Day Without Work” gave working children, forced to grow up before their time, the opportunity to play and express themselves in ways they are unable to in their everyday lives. In addition, the “Day Without Work” event raised awareness through arts activities about child labor in Yemen. Approximately 500 working children participated in a variety of creative activities.
Mohammed Hassan, a 14 year old boy from the Mawiya district, dropped out of school to work and help support his family. He works in the cultivation of qat, a common Yemeni crop and mentioned that he is harassed at work because of his age. “I am very happy; this day is the most beautiful day of my life. Thank you for the opportunity to enjoy playing with other children.” Mohammed said his dream is to continue studying until graduating from university.
The events took place in public parks in four governorates of Yemen: Taiz, Aden, Hodeidah, and Hajjah. In groups of ten, the children painted large pictures that reflect their experiences as working children. The best drawings will be made into posters and used as awareness and advocacy material against child labor. Children also participated in sports activities and other games. Lunch was eaten together, and all children received T-shirts and caps with slogans against child labor as keepsakes.
Entessar Saleh, nine years old, works as a domestic servant and gets very tired and fatigued of the work. “I am so excited to have been chosen for this day. I hope I can get to do it again.” Entessar wants to finish her studies and become a doctor.
CHF International, in cooperation with the Charitable Society for Social Welfare in Yemen and the United States Department of Labor (USDOL), implements the three-year ACCESS-Plus program to combat child labor through education. CHF and CSSW raise awareness of the importance of education and the negative impact of child labor. The goal of the program is to reduce the overall number of children engaged in the workforce.
All children who participated in the “Day Without Work” likely returned to work the next day. A large awareness and outreach campaign about child labor and education is currently taking place in all ACCESS-Plus target areas, and once parental approval is obtained, ACCESS-Plus will enroll children into the program together with several thousand other working children and children at risk of entering the worst forms of child labor. CHF will write a development plan for each individual child that takes into account the child’s age, previous education, future potential, and aspirations. Children who still qualify for formal education will receive social and educational assistance through the programs that CHF has set up in 24 target schools. Children who are too old to enroll in formal education will be provided with literacy courses and vocational training and will receive assistance in finding non-exploitative work in their trained fields.
Funding for this project was provided by the United States Department of Labor under Cooperative Agreement number IL-17761-08--75-K.This press release does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of United States Department of Labor, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the United States Government.
A new US-funded project aims to raise awareness of, and significantly reduce, child labour in four of Yemen’s 21 governorates.
Launched on 21 December, the three-year programme is funded by the US Department of Labor at a cost of US$3 million and will be implemented in the governorates of Aden, Hudeidah, Taiz and Hajjah. Thousands of children could benefit.
The programme, known as Alternatives to Combat Child Labour through Education and Sustainable Services (ACCESS-Plus), is to be implemented by the Cooperative Housing Foundation (CHF) International and the Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW), a local NGO.
"Hudeidah, Aden and Taiz have the highest incidences of child labour in Yemen. Hajjah was selected not because of child labour but because of child trafficking," Kunera Moore, the ACCESS-Plus programme director, told IRIN.
She said the programme would take children out of the worst forms of child labour, and on an individual basis determine whether they could be re-enrolled, go to school for the first time, or access vocational training and or literacy courses.
Over 4,000 children could benefit
She said the programme aimed to reduce the number of child labourers by 4,100, and work with another 3,000 at risk of entering the worst forms of child labour.
According to her, the worst forms of child labour are the trafficking of children into Saudi Arabia, the exploitation of children in slavery-like situations in the fishing and mining industries, and their involvement in illicit activities such as `qat’ [mildly narcotic leaf] smuggling.
"There is child soldiering [in Saada Governorate]. Children are sometimes given as loan-payback guarantees [debt bondage], and there is also child prostitution, especially in Aden," she said.
"Then you have work which… is likely to harm the health or safety of most children: For example, in agriculture, children without the necessary protection are working with pesticides dangerous to their eyes and skin."
Abdullah, 17, has cancer as a result of using pesticides on his father's `qat’ farm in al-Baida Governorate. He said he was spraying `qat’ trees with dangerous kinds of pesticides without knowing they would harm his health. "I was spraying `qat’ trees with pesticides and at the same time chewed the `qat’ leaves," he said.
According to ACCESS-Plus officials, the programme will attempt to combat child labour through raising awareness at local, governorate and national levels, with the help of religious leaders, community leaders, local councils, and in cooperation with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and the International Labour Organization (ILO).
It will also campaign for the implementation of national policies aimed at combating child labour and trafficking. CHF will conduct research in targeted areas.
ACCESS-Plus was built on a previous programme known as ACCESS-MENA (Middle East and North Africa), implemented by CHF and CSSW in 2004-08 in the governorates of Hajjah, Ibb and Abyan.
"ACCESS-MENA was successful as it had planned to reach 3,000 children but reached 7,700 children, more than double the targeted number," said Kunera Moore of CHF, adding that the programme also benefited many others indirectly by improving the school environment and raising awareness of child labour.
How many children?
There is no precise data on how many working children there are in Yemen, but a government survey in 2000 found there were 421,000 child labourers nationwide, according to Muna Salim, head of the Combating Child Labour Unit at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour.
"But the real number is much more than that. At present, the number of child labourers is increasing rapidly due to high food prices and deteriorated economic conditions," she told IRIN.
According to the 2000 survey, 52 percent of the child labourers were girls and 48 percent boys aged 10-14, and they worked 17 hours non-stop, Muna said.
"Parliament has yet to approve the 2002 law prohibiting the worst forms of child labour," she added.
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