Activating local leadership to eradicate child labour

In the wake of the International Day against Child Labour on 12 June 2014 the International Labour Organization (ILO) rallied to ‘give a #RedCard to Child Labour’, calling upon the world to accelerate progress towards eradicating child labour, including social protection systems as a key part of the response.

The fight against child (and forced) labour is enshrined in Principle Five of the Charter of Fair Trade Principles: «Organizations who buy Fair Trade products from producer groups either directly or through intermediaries ensure that no forced labour is used in production and the producer complies with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and national/local law on the employment of children. Any involvement of children in the production of Fair Trade products (including learning a traditional art or craft) is always disclosed and monitored and does not adversely affect the children’s well-being, security, educational requirements and need for play.».

Over the years Fairtrade International experienced though that standards based upon relevant international laws are not enough in order to ensure the well-being of children; a bottom-up approach was needed, and Fairtrade International set up a system whereby communities are concerned in both international and national legislations. Producers, their communities and their Fairtrade International Producer Networks get a key role in the identification and remediation of unacceptable child labour practices.

Throughout 2013 Fairtrade International has directly engaged producer groups in making their own Child Protection Policies and Procedures. In the Africa and Latin America networks, these will be in place by the end of 2014, with Asia currently in discussions. The schemes were developed with the help of focus-groups conducted with approximately 500 children in Fairtrade certified organizations and their communities: tea producers in India and Kenya; cocoa in Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Ghana; cotton in Burkina Faso and India; sugar in Zambia, Fiji, and Paraguay; coffee in Honduras; bananas in Dominican Republic. The aim was to understand and learn from working children about their lives, the impact of the work on themselves and their peers and the possible alternatives.

On the beginning of April Fairtrade International and the Coordinadora Latinoamericana y del Caribe de Comercio Justo (CLAC) held child labour prevention workshops with coffee producer organizations in Mexico (with the Federación de Indígenas Ecológicas de Chiapas, FIECH) and in Guatemala (with the Asociación de Cooperación al Desarrollo Integral de Huehuetenango, ACODIHUE). As explained above, before the workshops, focus groups were conducted with children to learn from their point of view about their schooling, involvement in coffee production and future aspirations.


Already in February, Fairtrade International hosted in Paraguay, one of the countries on the Child Labour Global Index for sugarcane production, a child labour discussion and training with producers, and held focus groups with school going children. Caroline Hickson, Director of Communications and Strategic Partnerships, was there to learn more about Fairtrade International’s rights based approach to child labour prevention, facing the hiding of the problem by some farmers, listening to the children´s perspective and helping communities, and a first potential Fairtrade sugar cooperative in Paraguay, to take up the project. Read her story here.

To find out more details about the work of Fairtrade International against child labour go to this page.

For more details on ILO’s campaign to eliminate child labour click here


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