Social issues of child labour

Dec 6 (IL) A workshop was conducted by the National Workers' Congress on the "Social Issues of Child Labour" for senior management representatives of plantation companies and managers and superintendents of several estates including members of the Plantation Human Development Trust on December 1 at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute. The ILO/IPEC in Colombo funded the Workshop and cooperation was extended by the Employers Federation of Ceylon.

Chairman, National Child Protection Authority Professor Harendra de Silva delivered the keynote address Ms. Shyama Salgado, National Programme Manager, ILO/IPEC spoke on the relevant ILO Conventions and Trafficking of Children. Presentations were also made by M. Shyamala Gomez, Senior Consultant, Human Rights Commission, and former lecturer Faculty of Law, University of Colombo on issues relating to the Child Rights Convention, and Ms. Meghamali Aluwihara, Industrial Relations Advisor, Employers Federation of Ceylon on the Role of the EFC in preventing child labour.

The field study undertaken by the National Workers Congress highlighted that child domestic labour is one of the important causative factors of child abuse and exploitation in Sri Lanka. It was noted that children of plantation workers, both boys and girls, drop out of school at an early age.

The plantation sector has been identified as a prime sending area for child domestic workers. Raising the awareness on social issues of child labour among plantation communities is a very relevant, important and necessary aspect of combating child labour for preventing the malady at its source.

The participants of the Workshop made the following recommendations after their deliberations.

* Awareness programmes on preventing child labour and trafficking of children must be undertaken for the plantation community and neighbouring villages as a high priority.
* Non-formal education should be provided for school drop-outs
* Plantation companies should continue with their commitment to improving the social living conditions of resident workers and their families.
* Provide training in market-driven vocations to support feasible alternatives to exploit new employment opportunities.
* All efforts should be made to actively discourage trafficking of children for domestic work and identify the traffickers.
* Since alcoholism is rampant within the estate population, this social problem must be addressed as a special project.
* Establish Youth Clubs, "drop-in centres" and provide recreational facilities for children and youth of the estates as an effective strategy in reducing the incidence of child labour.
* Plantation workers must be given an opportunity to offer solutions to problems on the estates and they must be made partners to the progress of the plantations.

The participants decided to set up a special task force of the plantation management, to implement the above recommendations.

Anton Lodwick, Secretary General, National Workers' Congress, thanked all the participants and the management of the plantation companies for their active participation and support and was happy to note that a strong bi-partisan approach between trade unions and employers is being forged to combat child labour - in the true spirit of improved social dialogue.