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Latino Daily News

Saturday June 11, 2011

Reducing Child Labor in Latin America and Caribbean

Reducing Child Labor in Latin America and Caribbean

Photo: International Relations Office Kathryn Chinnock (left) visits a Department of Labor project working with children and families in Jinotega, Nicaragua.

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

Imagine your child working long hours under hazardous conditions, using dangerous chemicals or carrying heavy loads over long distances.  Unfortunately, this is a reality for far too many families in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The International Labor Organization estimates that 5.7 million working children in this part of the world are under the legal minimum age for employment or are otherwise engaged in the worst forms of child labor.  Many of these children work in agriculture, exposed to dangerous chemicals and tools.  Others work in mines, garbage dumps, manufacturing, or fishing, while still others produce fireworks or work as domestic servants.

In rural Nicaragua, for example, 16-year old Carlos Ismael used to work digging deep water wells, hauling bags of cement, and fumigating crops with pesticides.

Fortunately, Carlos found a way to build a better future for himself.  He is a beneficiary of the U.S. Department of Labor-funded ENTERATE project in Nicaragua.  Thanks to this project, Carlos is now attending high school and no longer engaged in hazardous labor.

Carlos has also helped his family by applying the improved agricultural techniques he learned through a technical training course to his family’s own agriculture plot.  Today, Carlos dreams of becoming an agricultural engineer.  I’m proud that we are playing a role in making his dream come true.

The department has been supporting efforts to reduce exploitative child labor in Nicaragua since 1998.  ENTERATE works to increase school attendance, reduce hazardous child labor, and improve the livelihoods of families through improved agricultural practices.

Carlos Ismael is just one of more than 11,000 children directly benefiting from the USDOL-funded ENTERATE Project.  There are more stories like his to come!

When I visited the project in the town of Jinotega, I saw children dancing and learning to write instead of working in the fields.  I witnessed the dedication of people working to improve the lives of families and children like Carlos. I’m proud to play a small part in changing the lives of these children and their families.

The author, Kathryn Chinnock is an International Relations Officers in the Office of Child Labor Forced Labor and Human Trafficking of the Bureau of International Labor Affairs.