There is a popular saying “children are the hope and future of a nation and their overall growth must be the supreme concern of every country”. Yet, millions of children aged between five and 17 in Nepal are deprived of their right to quality education, food and health services. They are employed in hazardous work.
Families living below poverty line are forced to send their kids to perilous work to sustain their households. Children in large numbers still are out of school. Many of them suffer from exploitation and end up on the streets.
Child labour refers to any work that deprives children of their childhood and their right to education, health, safety and moral development.
The practice of child labour has been condemned as a violation of their basic rights and also for its negative impact on the mental and physical health of children.
Even though the constitution says children cannot be employed in factories, mines and other dangerous work places, there are many children who have still employed at brick kilns, restaurants and public transportation sector.
It really feels terrible when I find a child working as a helper in a public vehicle, calling for passengers. It is sad that these children are often treated unfairly. They are exposed to highly risky situation and polluted environment, which causes serious health problem. They are always prone to accident.
Similarly, in many rural areas of Nepal, lots of children, particularly from indigenous communities, drop out of school to work. When they are supposed to go to school, they have to go the jungle to collect firewood. They return in the evening carrying loads of fodder and firewood on their shoulders where they should be hanging their school bags.
The root cause of child labour is extreme poverty. Similarly, inadequate education and lack of awareness of society and parents are other reasons.
Eradication of poverty and education and awareness are a must if we were to eliminate child labour. Laws and policies related to child labour should not be limited to papers only to ensure children’s right to education, food and health.
There remains a huge gap between various commitments made to eliminate child labour and efforts to translate them into effective action. As per its international commitment, Nepal aims to eliminate all forms of child labour by 2020. Time is running out.