South Asian unions mark World Day Against Child Labour

BWI affiliates in India and Nepal carried out various activities to mark the World Day Against Child Labour on 12 June. The unions emphasized the need for joint actions to protect children from abuse and their families, who have been affected negatively by the COVID-19 crisis. This coincided with a BWI statement calling for an end to all forms of child labour by 2025 in line with the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goal Target 8.7

In Uttar Pradesh, the most populous State in India, the Uttar Pradesh Grameen Mazdoor Sangathan (UPGMS) submitted a nine-point charter of demands to the state’s Chief Minister. The charter urges the government to ensure no child labour across sectors and as part of the supply chain, strengthen the mid-day meal program to prevent cases of malnutrition, especially during the lockdown period, prepare and update the children’s database under 18 years of age, including migrant workers families who have now returned to the state, carry out enrolment drives to prevent drop-outs and ensure enrolment and retention for children of school-going age, strict implementation of existing legal framework on child labour and education and to include trade unions and civil society groups as part of joint actions to address the issue of child labour. The UPGMS also convened a meeting of all the key state and district office bearers to conduct union actions on curbing the problem of child labour and ensuring linkage of workers and families with government relief programs.  

The Bhatta Mazdoor Sabha (BMS) in Punjab State conducted a meeting in its union office with union and community members to spread awareness on child labour and reported violations of child rights. Meanwhile in the Bihar State, the Hind Khet Mazdoor Panchayat (HKMP) commemorated the day at two union-run schools, Salguri and Belgachhi Child Labour School in the Kishanganj and Purnea districts. The union organised a poster-making competition for children and short-distance children rallies to generate awareness in and around the schools. 

On the other hand, unions whose movements were limited by the lockdown used traditional and social media to join the event. Some of these unions are the Construction Labour Union (CLU), Bihar State; Rajasthan Patthar Khan Nirman Mazdoor Sangathan (RPKNMS), Rajasthan State and the BWI-Nepal Affiliates Committee (BWI-NAC), which took up the issue of child labour in their discussions on strengthening trade union organising and outreach amidst COVID-19.

The unions’ actions were widely covered by both print and audio-visual media.