FIGHTING CHILD LABOUR
The IKEA Foundation
Do you know much about the scourge of child labour? Most people know nothing, even less give it a thought. Well, it does exist, but how do you combat such a thing? Here is a view from the Ikea Foundation.
"Fighting the root causes of child labour
Millions of school-age children worldwide are not in school, leaving them vulnerable to abuse, neglect or being forced into labour. We fund programmes that promote children’s rights, giving them access to education, healthcare and a sustainable family income so they can create more opportunities for themselves and their families.
UNICEF estimates that 69 million school-age children are not in school.
School offers children a safe environment with support, supervision and socialisation. Beyond regular school subjects, children also learn life skills that can help them prevent diseases and improve their health, as well as that of their family and community.
Access to quality education reduces a child’s vulnerability to abuse, exploitation and disease. Girls particularly are at greater risk of such abuse when they aren’t in school. Getting girls into schools and ensuring they stay and learn has proven to be of tremendous importance.
Through our annual Soft Toys for Education campaign, we also help fund UNICEF's Schools for Africa programme and Save the Children’s educational projects in Asia and Eastern Europe.
When it gets dark, Ines studies under a streetlamp because there’s no electricity at her house in a neglected part of war-torn Ivory Coast.
But just the fact that she and her little sister go to school at all is a big deal in this region, where girls are often still seen as little more than household help. In a nation of dramatic need that garners minimal worldwide attention, Save the Children , with support from the IKEA Foundation, has been able to transform the lives of over 250,000 children by helping them enjoy quality education in a safe environment.
“The school wasn’t nice before—everything was broken,” Ines says. But since Save the Children got involved, the school’s been completely rebuilt, the roof got fixed, and there’s new furniture in the classroom. “This year,” she adds “they built us new latrines.”
Developing better teachers
But beyond the buildings, perhaps the biggest difference is in attitudes, as everyone is learning—grown-ups and kids alike—that children deserve respect. “I never heard of children’s rights before,” Ines recalls. “Now, when students misbehave or talk in class, the teachers don’t hit us anymore.”
In an effort that began years ago and continues today, Save the Children trains teachers to use positive reinforcement instead of humiliating or physical punishment. Today, a teacher’s Code of Conduct hangs on the wall of Ines’ classroom for all to see.
In addition, Save the Children organizes parents’ groups, which help reinforce the vital role mothers and fathers can play in their children’s education by encouraging them —both boys and girls—to stay in school, study, and succeed.
Girls in India are empowered to create a brighter future
It’s hard to believe that in the 21st century, girls are still treated so unfairly: kept out of school, forced to marry young, even served less food than their brothers. But today, Meena Radio is broadcasting into schools, homes and communities across India and changing attitudes—and girls' lives—while it also brings a smile and helps people talk about tough issues too.
Meena Radio is based on a beloved cartoon character UNICEF helped create decades ago to change stereotypes of girls in South Asia and empower them to do more with their lives. Now, UNICEF, with support from the IKEA Foundation, is expanding the reach of this vital message with Meena Radio.
In just 15 minutes a day, with stories, songs and games, the show helps change the way people think about girls, and the way girls think about themselves. Adil, a 15-year old boy who lives in Amthia Salempur says, “I always thought girls can do anything, but after hearing Meena it’s made me even more confident that girls and boys are equal.”
In addition to stories about how important it is to stay in school, Meena helps with hygiene tips, like always washing your hands with soap, and teaches that girls deserve to be treated with respect.
Changing attitudes toward women and girls
Broadcast in Hindi, which helps broaden its appeal, Meena Radio reaches 191 million people in the state of Uttar Pradesh alone. Children hear it at school where the government encourages teachers to use Meena Radio as a teaching tool. Hearing Meena’s stories—a young girl just like them who shares their daily struggles—young women see how their lives can be better.
Boys learn a lot too, and have started to change their minds about picking on or abusing girls. Meena is also helping parents see their daughters in a whole new light. Sushma, 13, from Gasaiganj wants to be an engineer someday, and she sees how her parents’ attitudes have changed. “They didn’t want me to go to school before, but now they do. Girls are now expected to do a lot more with their lives.”
Laxmi, a 12-year old girl from Kalori, agrees. “They used to worry that sending a girl to school would cause problems. Now they see that if girls study they can become something. I love to study, and one day, I can stand on my own two feet.”
Teaching children in Moldova they have every right to learn
"In Moldova, the education system isn’t great for kids,” said Ludmila Lefter, a project coordinator for UNICEF.
Illustrating her understatement, she adds, “Teachers routinely yell at students and use corporal punishment. A foreign teacher was told she had discipline problems in her class because she didn’t have a large stick to hit students.”
Complicating the situation is a cumbersome national curriculum and an accepted system where teachers explain lessons only to children whose parents pay for special attention. Those who can’t pay are berated and educationally ignored – for them, mouthing the words in a manual is what passes for ‘learning.’
But thanks to UNICEF, with support from the IKEA Foundation, things are changing. "I have the right to express my opinion, to be heard," says Anna, a 15-year-old student. It’s the anniversary of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child declaring that all children are entitled to education, a decent place to live, and quality health care. Putting these rights into their own words, Anna and other children are designing a poster to be printed and distributed to every school in Moldova. It’s part of a broad scale campaign to let children know that they have such rights – and give them the tools to promote and protect them.
Changing attitudes toward children
Children see changes already. "Teachers stopped saying bad words to us. They’re much more careful now that they know we must be respected," says 15-year-old Vicky. “I learned my rights and started telling my friends – now they know everyone has the right to say what they think.”
This massive UNICEF effort includes an awareness campaign to reach parents and the entire community, as well as lesson plans that help teachers and students find new ways to relate. Teachers are trained to support children and encourage self-expression. Children learn to recognize rights violations and stand up for themselves as much as possible.
Through this multi-faceted approach, UNICEF looks to improve the quality of education and student participation in school issues for 400,000 children across Moldova.
Solar lamps help light the way to a better life
At 13, Mantasha was sent to work for a wealthy family in hopes of a better life – instead she toiled past midnight, endured beatings and was given nothing but the family’s leftover food.
A local teacher helped Mantasha’s parents enroll her at a Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya residential school. Launched by the Indian government, these schools target rural areas where female literacy falls below the national average – which is just 46 percent.
Mantasha and her classmate Anamika, two of the 37,000 girls enrolled in Uttar Pradesh alone, both hope to be doctors one day. “There’s no way I’d ever have gone to school if I couldn’t come here,” says Anamika. “I’d never been to school before.”
Lamps change lives
But just a simple thing like doing homework after dark is a major hurdle. “There are lots of problems with electricity here,” says Anamika, explaining that it’s often out for days at a time.
But solar-powered SUNNAN lamps, donated by the IKEA Foundation, arrived for every girl in the school. Giggling, they unwrapped the brightly-coloured lamps and assembled them. “I like it. When there’s no light, we go to bed right after dinner. Now I can stay up and study.”
Designed for rigorous living conditions, the lamps even have batteries that can endure high temperatures and keep working.
Around 100,000 SUNNAN lamps were distributed to schools and women’s literacy groups in this state alone.
Preparing children for a future beyond the cotton fields
Her task is to raise awareness of children’s rights and to promote education among both children and adults. Nearly all Kawali children help out in the cotton fields to some extent, but Rupali’s goal is to prevent them from becoming child labourers and to give them more options in life. “If we don’t send our children to school, there will be no development in the village. And those who don’t go to school can’t go far in life.”
Already, Rupali has been around to visit the parents of children who don’t attend school regularly. “I’ve been able to convince most of them to let their children to go school.”
Making school joyful
She runs a children’s group that meets at her grandmother’s house in a room that the children have decorated themselves. Here, Rupali introduces the children to children’s rights and stresses the importance of education through discussions and storytelling. “It’s all quite new to them. The children hardly ever get a say about decisions that will affect their future. But if we teach the children that it should be fine for them to have a say, they will be more confident to do what they believe is right when they get older.”
Rupali sometimes steps in as a substitute teacher in the village primary school, and is familiar with the challenges that prevent many children from completing school. Absenteeism is high not only because children work in the fields, but also due to a lack of motivation. “There can be 40 children in one classroom, and it’s mostly very strict lectures, even for the very young children. They don’t learn to think for themselves. It should be more about joyful learning and less about textbook learning,” says Rupali.
A child rights committee of influential villagers has been set up to support Rupali’s efforts, and she is optimistic that her whole community is ready for change. “Parents don’t mean any harm to their children. They love them. They know we live in a competitive world, and they like what I’m trying to do – preparing children for the future.”"
Clancy's comment: What do you think? At least something is being done, and not before time. I am supportive of any plan that helps kids, young girls especially, to reach their full potential - in any village, any country any continent. Kids are our greatest resource.
Think about this!