Since 2002, June 12 has been instituted as the World Day Against Child Labor by the International Labor Organization (ILO), with the goal of making society, employers and governments all over the world more aware.

Alarming Data

At the present moment, what we still have is a terrifying picture both in terms of numbers, as well as the types of work, that children are subject to.

According to data made available by the ILO, in 2016, 152 million children between 5 and 17 years old were victims of child labor in the world, in which almost half of them, 73 million, carried out dangerous types of work, and 19 million of them being younger than 12 years old.

In Brazil, according to a survey done by the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), in 2016 the number of working children and adolescents was more than 2.4 million.

Just between 2007 and 2018, 43,777 work accidents involving children and adolescents between 5 and 17 years old were recorded by the National Disease Notification System (SINAN), of the Health Ministry. Among these cases, there are mutilations, traumas, poisonings, and fractures, besides 261 deaths.

What the Law Says

Brazilian law stipulates that work is allowed only  from the age of 16, and it is admissible at the age of 14,  with a special apprentice contract, which only has the aim of offering the young people professional training compatible with school life.

There is also the Statute of the Child and the Adolescent (ECA), Law 8069/90, in which, among the basic rights, there are: food; life and health; education; culture, sport, and leisure; dignity, respect, and freedom; family and community coexistence. The responsibility for fulfilling these rights rests with the State, the parents, and society.

Irreparable Harm

Child labor gets in the way of a normal and safe childhood, generating negative consequences in the physical and psychological health of the child, since it inhibits the possibility for a full development when it restricts the expression of their innate capabilities and abilities. In addition, it is responsible for reducing or eliminating school attendance, preventing basic education and a free expression of being. It thus constitutes a violation of human rights.

Besides the damage caused to the child, it has an even broader impact, according to what the ILO emphasizes: “Child labor is a cause and effect of poverty, impacting the level of development of nations, and many times, leads to forced labor in adult life.”

For the Right to a Full Childhood

The eradication of all forms of child labor by the year 2025 is one of the Objectives of Sustainable Development of the United Nations (UN), in which Brazil is a signatory.

Countless educators defend playing as not only a child’s right, but also as the real possibility for the formation of integrated human beings with the capacity, when adults, to create a just society, as the philosopher and educator Rudolf Steiner so well summarized: “If the child is able to give themselves over to the world around them in their play, then in their adult life, they will be able to dedicate themselves with confidence and strength to service in the world.”

Through art and education, offering experiences to children and adolescents, and strengthening the discussion among adults, in this the way the Fraternity – International Humanitarian Federation (FIHF) offers its contribution to mitigate and transform this reality.

In the Roraima Mission, for example, the activities developed by the art-education team, which include play activities, singing circles, body expression and working with the hands, as well as painting, music and handicrafts, are measures of protection that seek to develop the potential of children and help to prevent child labor, which often occurs with the incidence of children begging, cleaning car windshields, selling fruit, candies and even cigarettes at traffic lights and in shops.

Another important initiative with great repercussions was in October of 2019, when the Light-Community of Figueira held a Seminar on Education in Emergency Situations and Humanitarian Responses, in which inclusion, appreciation, a recognition of the importance and the right to life and education of vulnerable children and young people was widely discussed.

The meeting, which lasted four days, had the participation of professionals invited from various parts of the world and all the lectures were recorded and are available for free access.

Given the overwhelming reality presented in the numbers, which may be even greater than the surveys show, these initiatives seem small, but a great teacher of compassion and selfless service, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, with great humility and awareness, considered that her work was just a drop in the ocean. Following this elevated example, the Fraternity (FIHF) moves forward with the certainty that it is through doing what is necessary and what is possible that unimaginable results are achieved.