The Child Development Foundation, in collaboration with the Youth Enhancement Services today held a consultancy to research Child Labor and Youth wellbeing in the Sugar Industry. The consultations will lead to the development of a draft hazardous list for the sugar industry. The session was held with government and nongovernment organizations. Karen Cain, Director of Youth Enhancement Services spoke about the objective of the project.
Karen Cain – Director of Youth Enhancement Services
“This workshop is also about consulting with the NGOs and we’ll have one consultation with sugar cane farmer and the associations in the north to look at defining child labor, looking at a hard work list and a light work list. I would want to say anything that is directly related to the sugarcane industry directly and indirectly because children sometimes are used in both factors. What we want to do specifically at this time is to look at what it is that children can do safely without any harm which is the light work and we also need to define hazardous work so that at least our cane farmers will be able to be aware of the regulations and rules so they don’t break it because child labor we know is getting to be on the rise in Belize and we want that to not happen at all.”
Diana Shaw, Executive Director at CDF, explained that the work is not clear cut and there are several factors that need to be studied and considered when preparing the final document.
Diana Shaw – Executive Director
“Legally the definition of a child is a person under the age of 18 but that does not mean that everybody sees it in the same way. We have cultural ideas about what childhood is and so culturally people may see a child as somebody who is not developed or under puberty so that once you start developing and finish primary school then they start to assign more adult responsibilities. Sometimes the law also creates some dichotomy with that because the minimum age for work is 14 whereas 14 you are still legally a child but now you can be gainfully employed. And so because of that we have to then look at what do we mean by a child who is employed because it’s not the same as an adult who is employed- there are legal restrictions on what children can do even though they can be employed at 14 and that is not always easily appreciated in communities especially when children are working with families because for them the child is developed, they are physically able to do work they feel that they should contribute or should learn certain skills and so they may want to put children in situations where we are saying that that is probably not right for that child’s development because of their age they should probably be in school or that is going to be dangerous for them over the long term because they are lifting heavy loads or they may be exposed to chemicals and that sort of thing. So part of this is providing that guidance, making a list of what should not be allowed so that when we do educational campaigns, when there is enforcement by the labor officers there are clear guidelines as to what is prohibited in terms of the employment of children.”
Shaw adds that as they work on the document, they remain keen on not turning young people away from working in the sugar industry. The consultations form part of the Accompanying Measures for Sugar Program. Efforts to address child labor in the sugar industry have already been started by producer associations to address to meet certification criteria with FAIRTRADE. Shaw says that government intends to extend the efforts to the entire agriculture sector and other industries. A second consultation with stakeholders within the sugar industry will be held in December. The draft document is expected to be ready by February 2018.