Child labour rate in Guyana higher than Caribbean, Latin American countries – UNICEF

UNICEF representative Sylvie Fouet
Social Protection Minister Amna Ally

A Child Labour Policy has been launched by the Social Protection Ministry, one that will focus heavily on the prevention of child labour, as well as preventing the exposure of children to situations which do not augur well for their well-being.
This is according to Social Protection Minister, Amna Ally, who at the launching ceremony on Friday stated that with regard to child labour – whether it is the trafficking of children for sexual exploitation or for purposes of forced labour in dangerous abusive circumstances – the outcomes are the same.
“These children are robbed of their childhood, robbed of their education, robbed of their future and as a consequence, the cycle of poverty is perpetuated. A nation can neither achieve nor sustain prosperity on the backs of its children. The exploitation of children must not be tolerated under any circumstances or for any reason. When children are exploited for the economic gains of others, everybody loses – the children lose, their families lose, the nation loses. When even one child is exploited, every one of us is diminished,” she vehemently said.
The Minister explained that this is why the launch of Guyana’s first Child Labour Policy marks an important milestone in the fight against the worst forms of child labour in the country.
“Fight against child labour requires a multi-sectoral approach. No single agency can deal with this problem considering the many dimensions it takes and different skills required in addressing each form of child labour,” she added.
According to the Minister, it is in this context that all stakeholders need to work together, pooling our resources and expertise to enable our nation to eliminate child labour in all of its forms. It is envisaged that the implementation of this policy will provide outcomes that include strengthened coordination and collective action, promotion of decent livelihood in Guyana for adults and youths of legal working age, mitigate economic vulnerabilities associated with child labour, mitigate the impact of social detriments that often lead to child labour, expand school access to vulnerable populations and increase access to post-secondary and vocational education.

High rates
UNICEF representative, Sylvie Fouet, while addressing the gathering at the launching ceremony, explained that the Child Labour Policy for Guyana is a result of a three-year effort by various stakeholders, both locally and internationally.
“We have been pleased to support the journey. In 2017, we begun with reviewing the law together. Then last year and this year elaborating the policy and also drafting an action plan that will operationalise the policy and supporting key intervention. As you may know, Guyana is among the first sets of Caricom countries to lead in the policy process…the police and the national action plan are steps to prevent and reporting on child labour.”
She noted that the rate of child labour in Guyana is higher than the average figure of other countries in Latin America as well as the Caribbean where about one in every 10 children in the country are engaged in some form of child labour. It is hoped that this new policy will correct such a situation soon.
Meanwhile, representative of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Claudia Coenjaerts stated that the policy provides a coherent framework on the way forward in tackling child labour issues in Guyana and that its implementation is very important.
As part of collaborative efforts, and in keeping with guidelines of this policy, in the next few weeks there will be the piloting of a child labour risk identification model in the country.
“This is a statistical tool…which really uses national data to identify levels of risks for child labour in specific geographical areas. So it will make it easier to identify where prevention but also operationalisation of active measures would be more important.”
Additionally, General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), Lincoln Lewis, stated that the launch of such a policy forms an important ingredient in the armoury of Guyana’s Development Strategy.
“This launch, while significant, can be insignificant if we do not as a people, continue to influence the policies and decisions of that institution. Once again, on behalf of the GTUC, let me commend the Government of Guyana and the ILO for the significant work both are involved in,” he added. (Kristen Macklingam)