12 Jun
  • By James Evans

World Day Against Child Labour

World Day Against Child Labour day is a day organised by the International Labour Organization (ILO). It has been running since 2002 and aims to focus attention on the large scale global issue of child labour. Its extent and the actions and efforts that can be taken to eliminate it. The day aims to bring together employers, workers, civil society, governments and people to highlight the cause child labourers and what can be done to help them. There are an estimated 168 million children engaged in child labour today and a large portion of these reside in areas affected by conflict and disaster. This is the theme for the day this year, focusing on the impact of conflict and humanitarian disasters on child and forced labour.


(A young boy who makes bricks in Pakistan)

Of course, all conflicts and disasters have terrible impacts on people’s lives. In crisis situations, the most vulnerable people in societies are the first to suffer and often fare the worst. When basic services such schools, hospitals, food supply are disrupted means that children are particularly vulnerable to forced labour and trafficking. Millions of children are forced into labour due to conflicts and disasters every single day.

Alejandra’s story:  

Twelve-year-old Alejandra is woken up at four in the morning by her father, Don José. She does not go to school but goes to collect curiles, small molluscs in the mangrove swamps on the island of Espiritu Santo in Usulutan, El Salvador. In the rush to get to work, Alejandra does not take the time to eat breakfast. It is more important to make sure she has the things she needs to make it through a workday that can mean spending up to 14 hours in the mud. These items include about a dozen cigars and at least four pills to keep her from falling asleep. A good part of the money that she earns goes to buy these things.

In the mangrove swamp without shoes, Alejandra has to face bad weather, mosquito bites and cuts and scrapes from having to pull the curiles out from deep in the mud. The cigars help to repel the mosquitoes, but when she runs out of cigars Alejandra has to put up with the insects as she moves from branch to branch and from one area to another in search of shells. When she returns from work, her body is nearly always covered with bites.


(Child Labour in India)

She earns very little. If she is lucky in one day Alejandra manages to collect two baskets of curiles (150 shells), worth little more than 12 colones, or $1.40. Alejandra, who has seven younger brothers and sisters, has no time to go to school or play with other children. Anyway, she prefers not to play with other children because they say she smells bad and exclude her from their games for being a curiles worker.

Little by little Alejandra has lost her self-esteem. Like the other children who work collecting curiles, she feels separate from the rest of society. For Alejandra, life seems like a tunnel with no exit.

Alejandra’s story is just one example of the countless tales of child labour. Everyone deserves a childhood and these children are being denied many of their fundamental rights. No child should have to live like this yet sadly, millions do. The world has the ability and funds to change this and there are many little victories being made but there is still a huge struggle ahead. As the world strives to achieve the elimination of child labour by 2025, on this World Day Against Child Labour, let’s join forces to end child labour in areas affected by conflict and disaster!


Story courtesy of International Labour Office “Child Labour Stories”—ed_norm/—declaration/documents/publication/wcms_decl_fs_44_en.pdf