Adolescents and youth in Latin America and the Caribbean say No to child labor

17 de June de 2021

Adolescents and young people from the region came together to make known, through new forms of communication such as TikTok, the challenges they face in the context of the pandemic and their vision of the future of work.

Within the framework of the World Day against Child Labor, Latin America and the Caribbean joined the global campaign with a virtual event entitled "#ChallengeAccepted: adolescents and young people facing child labor", organized by the Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Initiative Free of Child Labor and the Office of the International Labor Organization (ILO) for Brazil.

The meeting convened representatives of youth organizations in the region, both rural and urban, and other actors involved in the fight against child labor, with the aim of making visible and reflecting on the importance of taking into account their experiences, commitments and proposals to address present and future challenges for education and work, and thus advance towards the achievement of goal 8.7 of the 2030 Agenda, which commits to ending child labor in the next four years.

Noemi Rosales, a member of the Crecer Juntos Civil Association and a former child worker from Tucumán, Argentina, stated that “when you are poor, dreams change during adolescence and youth. One goes from dreaming of a profession to dreaming of at least having the security of a home and being able to fight hunger ”. Along these lines, he pointed out that “accompanying and listening” are two tools that can change the lives of boys and girls who go through a situation of vulnerability that pushes them to work from a very young age.

For his part, Henry Pilco, community promoter in the child labor program of the Development and Self-Management Center-DYA, of the Global March against Child Labor, and a former child worker from Quito, Ecuador, insisted that child labor is not a game that puts the education and safety of children and adolescents at risk. And he reminded teens and young people that they can make a difference by getting involved in the cause.

The event also featured the participation of Vinicius Pinheiro, ILO Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, who stressed that the current situation is complex. He pointed out that the loss of jobs, the fall in income, the increase in poverty and the amplification of inequalities due to the crisis have an impact on children, adolescents and youth in all of our countries, which, according to recent world estimates of labor children of ILO-UNICEF, achieved a decrease in the number of working children and adolescents until before the pandemic, going from 10.5 million in 2016 to 8.2 million at the beginning of 2020. A figure that could be reversed in a region harshly hit by COVID-19 at different levels.

Likewise, representatives of governments, employers and workers from Latin America and the Caribbean joined this event through the video “Voices from the world of work”. From Brazil, Ana Maria Villa Real, Labor Prosecutor and National Coordinator of Coordination of the Public Ministry of Labor; from Mexico, Luisa Alcalde, Secretary of Labor and Social Security; from Paraguay, Carla Bacigalupo, Minister of Labor, Employment and Social Security; from Suriname, Rishma Kuldipsingh, Minister of Labor, Employment Opportunities and Youth Affairs and; from Uruguay, Pablo Mieres, Minister of Labor and Social Security. Employers' organizations were represented by Carla Caballeros, Executive Director of the Guatemalan Chamber of Agriculture; and the workers' organizations were represented by Jordania Ureña,

The meeting was divided into three blocks with three youth representatives for each of them; the first - referring to studies during the pandemic - included the participation of Andrey Nascimento da Silva, a young activist from the National Network of Adolescents and Young People of the National Forum for the Prevention and Eradication of Child Labor in Brazil; Guadalupe Díaz Labra , member of the Campaign for the Right to Education in Mexico; and Paulocesar Santos Moreno , member of the Campaign for the Right to Education of Peru; The second block -referring to the experiences of the youths during the confinement measures- had the participation of Vívian Silva Guedes Siqueira, representative of the National Network of Adolescents and Young People of the National Forum for the Prevention and Eradication of Child Labor in Brazil; Jazmín Elena Alfaro , member of the Salvadoran Network for the Right to Education; and Karen Mosqueira , representative of former students from agricultural schools in Paraguay; Finally, the third block -referring to the perspectives on the post-pandemic and the future of work- included the participation of Sergio Cabrera Calvache , member of the Better World Foundation of Colombia, Ana Lícia Felipe Bezerra Luz , member of the State Committee of Adolescents for the Prevention and Eradication of Child Labor in Brazil; and Henry González Guevara, member of the Contra-Peso Organization of Panama.

“ChallengeAccepted: adolescents and young people facing child labor” stood out for the creativity with which each youth representative addressed these issues and their link with child labor if the necessary measures are not taken now.

Among their proposals, they highlighted that responses to the crisis take into account investment in education, inclusive and quality, to be qualified, take advantage of opportunities and access decent jobs. In addition, they reminded us that all of us must take responsibility for fighting for a region free of child labor.

Ana López Castelló, coordinator of the Technical Secretariat of the Regional Initiative, highlighted that adolescents and young people in the region have strong leadership and commitment as agents of social change for the region.

8.2 million boys, girls and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 17 work in Latin America and the Caribbean. 5.5 million perform hazardous work.

Source: Global Child Labor Estimates, ILO - UNICEF 2021

In this sense, so that there are no more stories like those of Noemi and Henry, we must bet on including adolescents and young people in the design of proposals, especially for the school-work transition and entering the world of work. 

In 2021, the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor, including the voices and capacities of this sector of the population in the fight against child labor is even more important to maintain the rate of reduction, especially in the context of the health and economic crisis that countries face. It is urgent to count on the commitment and action of all and all to build more inclusive and prosperous societies.


Relive the event here .

Learn about the new global estimates on child labor here .

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