Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, January 18th, 2021

Unknown Fate of Two Million Child Wanderers

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Unknown Fate of Two Million Child Wanderers

World Day Against Child Labor is held every year on June 12. In 1999, the International Labor Organization (ILO) ratified the Convention on the Prohibition and Immediate Action against Child Labor. According to the organization, with the existing rules, the rate of child labor has dropped about 30 percent within the last decade. 
Child labor may have been decreased globally, enterprises and stores may stop child labor in their product supply chains; however, the story of child labor and street children in Afghanistan is a much more complex issue.
“Child labor” refers to working kids who are recruited constantly and continuously in a way that deprive them of their childhood and very often they cannot attend regular school either. This kind of work is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful. They work like adults and are robbed of their childhood leisure.
Child labor is formally defined based on two factors such as “type of labor” and “minimum appropriate age for that labor” in different states. Generally, child laborer refers to the one who is involved in activities which are detrimental to his or her physical, mental, social, moral, and behavioral health and overlap with the child’s education.
The appropriate age for each job is determined based on the effects of that job on the child’s health and growth. Based on this, International Labor Organization Convention No. 138 has determined a minimum age for different occupations, and if a child under that certain age is engaged in certain occupation is called a child laborer. These ages include 18 years for high-risk occupations (occupations that endanger the child’s physical, mental or moral health), 13-15 years for light occupations (occupations that do not threaten the child’s health or safety and prevent them from schooling), Of course, 12-14 years may be acceptable in poor countries under certain conditions.
Child labor has existed to varying extent throughout history; but with the commencement of public literacy and the changes in working conditions during industrialization, the concepts of rights to work and children’s rights were discussed and debated publically. Child labor is still prevalent in places where the age for school dropout is low. The issue of child laborer is somehow complex and is influenced by several factors including family structure, poverty, accidental economic changes caused by war and etc. – which result in migration to neighboring countries so as to work for higher wages – and cost of tuition and wrong educational system.
Child laborers live in an unhealthy condition in terms of nutrition, hygiene and carry out hazardous works. They can be easily an instrument of professional bands, including robbers or drug trafficking gangs, founders of morally corrupt centers and so on. Similarly, dropping out of school prevent them to compete with their fellow children in improving a healthy life.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), 250 million children aged 5 to 14 are globally deprived of their childhood each year. According to these statistics, 120 million of them enter the labor market and are engaged in full-time activities. Except for manual labor; the children trafficked are exposed to the use of prostitution and their body organs are sold.
According to existing statistics, there are more than 1.9 million labor children in Afghanistan - if it can be trusted. Child laborers in Afghanistan are also in an alarming situation. They are working in carpentry factories, car manufacturing, kilns, bakeries and salesmanship in the market. Many of these children are deprived of their basic rights and have to work from dawn to dusk to earn a living. Many of these children face violence at work, sexual harassment, overwork, and abuse. On the other hand, these children are deprived of going to school and adequate education opportunities.
If we consider the factors of increasing the annual number of child labor in Afghanistan, it will be realized that cultural and ethnic misperception have been effective. For instance, some cultural norms suggest that a boy has to work to become a man or a girl does not need to study because she has to get married early. So instead of going to school, she should do the household chores to get ready for marriage; but this is part of the story. The unending war and poverty are the most fundamental factors that drive children to the streets to beg or labor. At least in the past two decades of fighting, hundreds of families have turned dysfunctional. A child who has lost a father or lives with a disabled father in a poor country like Afghanistan, where “the government has no plan to solve this problem,” must forget about school and library and has to endure manual labor and backbreaking activities to survive. Employers are likely to exploit child laborers sexually, especially when there is cultural and sexual poverty.
It is obvious that all children who work on the streets have suffered psychologically and physically. More importantly, they are denied from going to school and education opportunities. Being deprived of school and university, the two million street child laborers, whose future is unknown, is unguaranteed not to join members of mafia gangs, organized robbers or major criminals?
If this potential threat is not taken into consideration seriously, the circle of breakers of social-discipline will expand in the future.

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