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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cambodia: Child labour is no choice

Our field staff in Cambodia (and elsewhere) regularly document the circumstances of individual families before HOPE International Development Agency is able to begin working with them. This is important to do for many - probably obvious - reasons.

In reviewing these cases, we are struck by the similarity of the problems faced by families in the most severe echelon of poverty. Possibly the most universal one is this: the futures of their children are shortchanged for present-day survival.

Take these stories as examples...

Sompha and his wife Moeng Euth have 5 children - 3 girls, and 2 boys. They only have enough rice to eat for 5 months out of every year. They have half a hectare of land for farming. All the children stay at home and do labor for other farmers or go to the market to try to sell rice. Moeng is sick very often. Her health problems have made the family even poorer.

Peim Moer and Ouch Seng have 8 children - 4 girls and 4 boys. They have half a hectare of land for farming, and only produce enough rice for six months of the year. All the children work in the rice fields, working for other farmers. Mostly they do hard labour like clearing land. Once, when Peim and Ouch both became very ill at the same time, they had to send one of their children to go stay in the local temple with monks, because they simply could not afford to feed all of the children.”

Perhaps this comes as no great revelation to most people, but it seems that child labour exists for no other reason but that families across the world are dreadfully poor - and a child in school means a lost source of labour or revenue. Child labour is no manifestation of parental abuse, callousness, or greed. It’s a last resort for the family as a whole.

The International Labour Organization has published an article about the issue.

Their conclusion? Eliminate poverty, eliminate child labour. Work with the parents on securing sustainable sources of income, and you will free the children to become educated.

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