The Ministry of Labour and Social Security is urging Jamaicans to speak out against the issue of child labour that is affecting the nation’s youths.
Colette Roberts Risden, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, said that adults have a duty to protect children against exploitation and to steer them away from child labour, and called for more voices to be raised against the issue.
“Child labour is one of the greatest challenges facing our society and yet, it is an issue of which so little is said. It has been perpetrated on those among us that are the most vulnerable and voiceless for decades and perhaps centuries, tolerated and ignored, quietly eating away at the fabric of our society, and contributing to many of the blatant social ills with which we grapple and for which we seek solutions,” she said.
She further noted that the impact of child labour can have several long lasting impacts on a child’s access to education, as well as their physical, emotional and mental health.
Roberts Risden also said that it robs children of their childhood, hinders their development and violates their human rights.
She said that while the ministry is committed to promoting decent work for all, children are not a part of the workforce, and they have the fundamental right to education, play and safety.
“We believe that it is our duty to protect Jamaica’s children from exploitation and ensure that their rights are respected and upheld,” she stressed.
According to a survey done by the Jamaica Youth Activity in 2016, it is estimated that 38,000 children in the country, ages five to 17, are involved in child labour, with Clarendon, St. Elizabeth, St. Andrew and St. Catherine having the highest cases.
Following the recent incidents of child labour across the island, the ministry implemented a child labour competition to bring awareness to the issue.
“We wanted the Jamaican population to hear the cry for help from the children themselves and so we used this competition to encourage them to use their voices and creativity to advocate for change,” she noted.
She said that the quality of the entries was “truly remarkable” and served as a testament of the commitment of young people to making a difference in the world.
“I encourage you all to continue using your voices and creativity to raise awareness among your peers and the adults with whom you come into contact. Continue to be advocates. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of millions of children and build a better future for all,” she said.
–Jamaica Information Service