“Working together to eliminate child labor in Sugar Production” was the theme under which the first stakeholders meeting was held in relation to child labor in sugar cane production. According to its 2014-2015 report, the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association was audited by Flo-cert which found out that one of the major non-compliances was the use of child labor in the industry. The report states that the BSCFA partnered with Fairtrade International in order to quickly address the issue in several regards including implementing a child protection policy. This workshop is taking it a step forward according to Facilitator, Anita Sheth.
“Child Labour is a risk communities live with. Children themselves reporting that there’s threat of violence. They have indicated issues related to alcoholism, gang violence, these are all the root causes of why children live in anxiety so BSCFA has done that and also the household surveys and they have indeed identified that children are encouraged, enabled to go to sugarcane in order to support mostly single households run by the head of the household who is either female whose husband has either died or decided to leave her and she’s struggling to survive to put food on the table. So as you can see from this, the Child Labor problem is complex. There’s no simple solutions and we need partnerships with resources and skilled sets pooled in, in order to truly find sustainable solutions to this issue so we’ve invited the governments, UNICEF, the industry and also the producer groups in order to openly and also safely debate this issue and talk how they can pool their resources together in order to find sustainable solutions. The stake holder meeting is to share results of child labor findings and detections by the Belize Sugar cane Farmers Association. They engaged in a self-monitoring and community based system, identifying child labor and responding to the child labor problem but the Belize Sugar Cane Producers want to do more than that. They want to scale up this work, they’ve just piloted in these two communities, they’re going to scale it up to four other communities and will be seeking out partners with government, the industry and ngo’s that can pool resources and skill sets to be able to collaborate to find sustainable solutions to the problem with child labor.”
The main objective of the policy is to prohibit and eliminate the worst forms of child labor in sugar cane production.
“We’re hoping that the government and other stakeholders recognize the stakeholder group and periodically launch stakeholder consultations on this. We have program proposals in order to respond to this; for of them. One has to do with education, the other to do with empowerment, regarding running schools for women and leadership so they can own more and more responsibility, take on more responsibility in terms of voicing solutions to the problem. We also have project against protection against violence against children, we call that a protection project and we have an advocacy project as well. We’re hoping to find partners as well to fund it and then to implement these projects on the ground so the long term pathway of the stakeholder meeting is that we gain partners, we design projects , we implement it and we monitor it, we engage communities to take leadership roles in running them and we scale up to other communities that grow sugar in Belize.”
The workshop was held at the Inspiration Centre in Belize City.