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“We need scholarships for children to start, continue or finish their formal education!”

Ashley (15) participated in the Children´s Forum during the V Global Conference on Elimination of Child Labour and hold a powerful speech about her experiences, including messages to political stakeholders worldwide. Read her full statement.

My name is Ashley. I am from Guatemala, representing Latin America. And I am going to talk to you a little bit about my story and the story that working children go through. For most of working children as such it is very hard for us to express ourselves. And all working children have different necessities and most of their parents cannot supply these like nutrition, clothing, health, education; and the key cause of child labour is poverty. Poverty is the root cause of all this. It makes us as working children get out of our houses, go risk our lives and be able to help our family in different ways.

It is important to recognise that children and youth, especially working children are not done with their formal education at the primary and basic levels. This happens because a lot of families do not have economic resources. This is why there is a need for working children to go out to work in order to be able to sustain economically ourselves on a day-to-day basis. In other cases, child and adolescent workers are exploited by family members or third parties who abuse them for labour, violating their human rights. Especially those who do not know their rights.

In the case of my experience from where I come from or from my country or the whole Latin America is that, if we go deeper into it, day by day we can see or observe working children or children in parks, by the traffic lights, markets, avenues and streets doing any kind of work. But not only any kind of work, they do work in bad conditions. First of all, they risk their lives, because they are not dignified in the work they do. They risk their lives, their health, they go through dangers on the traffic lights, on the street and are being raped by people they don’t know.

So, from my point of view, I’ve worked in agriculture, I have been a tailor and a small-scale vender, it’s very sad because to suffer because of something that doesn’t go well. People tell you that you’re not able to do things. That is why I come from Latin America to make these advocacy proposals to all of you decision-makers so that you are able to take action on the matter.

Number one, in order to ensure the fulfilment and dignity of working children. Considering this, it is important to demand, not only to demand, but also abide by rights such as education, health, free expression, participation, food, recreation, and other rights that many working children and adolescents do not know about. That is why in this way they have been violated and have been silenced so that everything that has been done to them is kept quiet. So, number two would be to eradicate child labour. Because when we talk about child labour in order to eradicating it, I know it is very hard. But the first thing we must do is to take into account the laws and rights of working children. There is also the establishment of scholarships for children to start, continue or finish their formal education, succeeding in all levels of education. We also want vocational training for children to be dignified and included in working environments for them to be able to work in the future. Lastly, for them to be able to discover or strengthen all the creative and recreational activities so that they can promote their human rights and belonging to their communities. Thank you!

Regarding the question how can we being supported as working children: As I was saying before, enabling participation, because there is a lot of discrimination, and we don’t want any more discrimination. First of all, we need support to raise awareness among parents, education comes also from home. First of all, we have to help our parents to be aware so that through them children can know about their rights. Not only that, but it is also important that working children can learn about their rights. For them eliminating child labour is something hard that we are trying to fight against but to reduce their amount. Not eliminating just as such but step by step go searching strategies, involving us, not only us as children but also parents, the whole population, inviting them to support us and join for us to take the initiative so that in the end decision makers can guarantee our rights so we can also have scholarships so that other children that come after us can start education in a proper manner and can discover and strengthen their skills in a creative manner and that they can see their rights promoted. Thank you!