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) Freedom to join: Unionizing freed bonded labourers



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63) Freedom to join: Unionizing freed bonded labourers

Period of implementation: 2008 -2010

Where: Nepal

Main focus: Workers organization to protect children from exploitation

Lead organization: General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions and Nepal Trade Union Congress-Independent website: http://www.gefont.org/

Results: 3,000 people from former Kamaiya families and 2,000 people from Haruwa or Charuwa households joined a national trade union – having never belonged previously, what has given the minority groups new local and national allies to champion their needs; a total of 43 Vigilance Committees were established, with some 300 members in total; due to the trainings and awareness raising on minimum wages, workers’ rights and Nepal’s labour law, the minimum wage for many agriculture and other informal economy workers increased; 11 Vigilance Committees were created in three eastern districts while 27 committees were estableshid in other five districts;


Context and objective: A cabinet decree abolished bonded labour in Nepal in July 2000, which was followed by a law enforcing it in 2001 (the Kamaiya Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act, which was passed by the parliament by an overwhelming majority of support for it). It outlawed all forms of bonded labour, but principally the Kamaiya (bonded labour) system, primarily found in the far and mid western Terai districts and the Haruwa and Charuwa (also bonded labour) systems in the eastern Terai districts. In the Kamaiya system, landlords or moneylenders provide loans to families typically in exchange for a child member who is sent to “work off” the debt as a household “servant”. In the Haruwa and Charuwa systems, a landlord gives a family a meagre parcel of land in exchange for labour service. In this arrangement, wives or other family members (including children) are sent to the landlord for agricultural work, which is sometimes remunerated though slightly, or children do menial work in the landlord's home. These unwritten arrangements are interpreted as a contract between a landlord and the labourers, although they bear no time limit. Thus, the obligation of service is often passed on to the next generation due to a family’s alleged inability to pay off its debt for the loan or land or the landlord’s willingness to release them from the obligation. Despite the landmark proclamation and law and the Government’s “rehabilitation package” (which experienced heavy delays), the practice of bonded labour continued. This was attributed partly to the lack of alternative options for families to borrow money or earn income. To assist Nepal in eliminating bonded labour, the ILO, with funding from the United States Department of Labor, initiated the Sustainable Elimination of Child Bonded Labour (SECBL) Project in December 2001.

The SECBL Project’s first phase, which involved a comprehensive package of socio-economic activities, focused on the five western Terai districts of Dang, Banke, Bardia, Kailali and Kanchanpur where the Kamaiya system was largely practised. Ending in August 2005, the SECBL-I Project was evaluated as successful in bringing real change and removing children from the practice. That success led to the development of a programme to address the Haruwa and Charuwa bonded labour systems in three eastern Terai districts (Dhanusha, Siraha and Saptari) that had been ignored by the Government when it first set out to free bonded labourers but only targeted Kamaiyas. A similar comprehensive package of socio-economic activities was launched from early 2008 to June 2010 in those three eastern districts; the SECBL-II Project also strengthened the work it was doing in the five districts of the first phase, specifically targeting gaps and included Kamaiyas.


Methodology:

Both phases of the SECBL Project aimed for the removal of all working children; they also targeted an adult family member for a particular skill training and setting up a micro enterprise as an income-generating scheme that would provide an income alternative to a working child. The project worked with 13 implementing partners, ranging from government agencies, non-government organizations, technical education providers and trade unions.

Labourers in the informal sector, including agricultural workers, make up the majority of the workforce in Nepal’s Terai region, the plains area that runs along the bottom of Nepal and known as the “grain house” because most crops are farmed there among the grasslands, savannas and forests. The labourers have long been subjected to various forms of exploitation by the landlords (including the handing over of their children as servants), local money lenders and even government authorities. Among the workers until 2003, there was no tradition of self-organization or standing up to landlords, nor had there been any organized structure that spoke out on their behalf.

The extremely poor families of the Terai region often fall into a trap of dependency on landlords largely because of their educational and financial illiteracy and their lack of skills for increasing their income. Most families in the region are involved in sharecropping, but they bear the cost of seed, fertilizers, planting, weeding, harvesting and threshing and then, in the end, carry the landlord’s share to his home. To cover those expenses, they need help from the landlord, who then imposes the bonded labour system in exchange. The daily wage they earn is usually lower than the national minimum wage, and women are paid less than a male counterpart.

Additionally, most did not understand the perils of child labour. If their children are to be protected and educated, the parents need to improve their income-earning capacity. This requires access to a channel that will help them achieve changes in their socio-economic situation. The ILO Sustainable Elimination of Child-Bonded Labour Project capitalized on the link between building up collective empowerment and individual empowerment and helped people who are extremely poor understand the disparity between the national wage and their local wage structures and the benefits that could be obtained if they joined a trade union, including improving their wage level.

To unionize agriculture workers to bring about changes in wages paid, the ILO SECBL Project entailed the following.



  • To develop trainers who could skilfully conduct seminars with both landlords and villagers, the NTUC-I and the GEFONT trade unions developed lead trainers within their district offices, with the help of ILO Nepal staff. A few of the trainers were also sent to the ILO International Training Centre in Turin, Italy, for a course on promoting the fundamental principles and rights at work, with a particular focus on the ILO Declaration (1998) that covers all ILO Core Conventions.

  • The trainers then worked with the implementing partners (NGOs) who organized meetings to sensitize and ultimately organize agricultural and other informal economy workers. The meetings took place within each targeted village and involved 20–25 people at a time; the discussions looked at national labour standards, Nepal’s labour law and workers’ rights (including the right to be paid a decent minimum wage equally) as contained within the constitution as well as their right to be paid a decent minimum wage equally. They also discussed children’s rights (particularly to an education) and the negative effects of child labour. To reach the workers, the unions and NGOs relied on the contact they had with the groups of former bonded labourers, such as the Haruwa-Charuwa Forum and the Kamaiya Society. The SEBL Project worked with NGOs to establish these groups and later the trade unions intervened on behalf of their workers’ rights.

  • The trade union trainers then worked with the District and Village Development Committees in the project areas to set up a subcommittee for monitoring the payment of minimum wages as well as the incidence of bonded labour. The 38 subcommittee members then participated in a two-day training to learn about their roles and responsibilities for monitoring, including making monthly reports to the district trade union offices and to work with the local NGOs (the project’s implementing partners) focused on bonded labour.

  • The trade union trainers then formed a Vigilance Committee in each settlement (a cluster of more than 300 former bonded labourer households), consisting of agriculture workers, social activists (trade union members affiliated with agriculture-based NGOs), the Village Development Committee secretary and representatives from the women’s and youth groups. The purpose was to engage them as a kind of village watchdog for monitoring the level of wages paid and to mediate between employers and workers in dispute cases. The Vigilance Committee reports to the trade union and the district authority that is responsible for labour standards. Each Vigilance Committee now monitors or conducts awareness-raising campaigns on: i) children’s rights protection and guarding against child labour (children younger than 16 are not to be employed), ii) equal wages, iii) domestic violence and iv) the various child protection mechanisms now in place.

  • The trade union trainers then organized meetings in the districts, villages and settlements once a month to discuss the wage and child labour situations. The district meetings include government authorities and NGO staff; the village meetings involve the Village Development Committee and the Vigilance Committee; and in the settlements, the trade union trainer meets with general community members (mothers and landlords specifically) as well as NGO staff. The purpose is to promote regular dialogue on the labour situation to both address issues but to impress on villagers and officials that these issues retain an ongoing relevance; they include the community to sustain the community-based protection “systems”.

During the project period, the trade union trainers also organized coordination meetings with implementing partners and other relevant organization staff to keep them up to date on the wage payments and village situations in order for them to respond to problems promptly, which served to reassure the communities of the project’s commitment to improving the local conditions.


Lessons learned: Social dialogue is key to convince landowners on paying a minimum wage and paying equal wages for female and male workers. Social dialogue was used as a tool to analyse the issues of wages and production. The organized bonded labourers now have more bargaining power than the unorganized. Due to the empowerment of labourers through the trade unions, it was easy to push the agenda in front of the landowners group.
Challenges: The SECBL Project worked within an unstable political environment, with security concerns flaring periodically, to reach what was considered remarkable achievements. The unstable political situation and conflict was managed with a “no harm” approach that was adopted by all UN agencies during the conflict. Although it was difficult to reach bonded labourers because they were not free most of the time, empowering discussions with them were conducted in the late evening, after they had left their work.
Next Steps: A competent institution developed through focused institutionalizing efforts is necessary for sustainability. The SECBL Project was successful in establishing a bonded labourers’ institution (organizations of former bonded labourers, such as the Haruwa-Charuwa Forum and the Kamaiya Society), developing members’ capacity and linking it with government and non-government organizations.




64) Creative youth lead the media campaign against child labour

Period of implementation: 2012 -2013

Where: Pakistan

Main focus: Social mobilization and awareness

Lead organization: ILO – IPEC Combating Abusive Child Labour (CACL-II) Project

Website: http://www.ilo.org/islamabad/info/public/pr/WCMS_191085/lang--en/index.htm



Results: good knowledge base estableshid at the universities on the child labour issue; 21 visual products (documentaries, short films and cartoon films) were produced, most of which are for ILO use and distribution; a major visibility event was organized in Islamabad on 1 July 2013 in which the student groups who had produced the best visual products received their awards, with the presence of: the Ambassador of the European Union Delegation to Pakistan, the Federal Secretary for Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resources Development, the Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator of the United Nations, the President of the Employers’ Federation of Pakistan and the General Secretary of the Pakistan Workers’ Federation. Heads of UN agencies, foreign diplomats, members of civil society, media personnel and university students;


Context and objective: Focusing on two districts (Sahiwal and Sukkur) in Pakistan’s Punjab and Sindh Provinces, the ILO/IPEC CACL-II Project organized a holistic range of interventions that included the development of a district education plan, establishment of a child labour monitoring system and creating links with social safety nets. Direct interventions included non-formal education for children aged 5–14 years and literacy and vocational training for the children aged 15–17 years. Targeted families of working children were linked to microcredit facilities and provided requisite training to start their own small businesses or other income-generating activities. The district model also included intensive social mobilization with the overall goal to sensitize the future generation of media professionals on media’s agenda-setting role in social change in general and in the movement against child labour in particular by providing opportunities for mass media students to conduct research studies and produce visual media products (video documentary, short films, cartoons, multi-media graphics) on child labour. The products looked at the drivers of child labour, its consequences and impacts on development issues, such as poverty, education, law enforcement, socio-economic development, cultural barriers and social norms, as a way of mobilizing the country to achieve the goal of ending the worst forms of child labour by 2016 and to develop a collection of quality media products on child labour and action against child labour for record and further dissemination.
Methodology: The CACL-II Project staff sent letters to the head of the mass communications department in Pakistan’s universities (Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan; Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi; Greenwich University Karachi; Islamic International University, Islamabad; Lahore College for Women University; University of Peshawar; and University of Sindh, Jamshoro), explaining the overall project and its knowledge base component and the plan to support students’ development of visual products. Seven universities formally agreed to participate.

  • Once the mass communications department agreed to take on the project collaboration, the faculty then selected three groups of students, each with five to seven students, for a total of 21 participating students per university.

  • A half-day orientation session on child labour issues was conducted with the faculty members and student groups of the selected universities. The briefing session for students was conducted in consultation and coordination with the media faculty of each institute. The CACL-II team acted as the resource persons and provided various reference materials, including ILO publications and links to websites/databases, while the faculty organized the orientation workshop. The briefing included working sessions on developing concepts for making short-duration (6–10 minutes) media products on various aspects of child labour.

  • The students could work in one of three categories: 1. video documentary 2. short films or docudrama 3. cartoon or animated film. They would be judged by local media professionals and the best in each category would be recognized with a certificate and trophy. The students also were guided on the ethics to follow: sexually abused children were not to be identified as such, facial identities needed to be protected and parental permission was needed for any child included in the film. They would have two to three months to produce the visual product.

  • Each group chose three topics and made a story outline, which they presented to the faculty for approval. Then the head of the mass communications department, a media professor and the CACL-II team reviewed them and chose one topic per group.

  • The students began their research and drafting a script. The CACL-II team reviewed the script to ensure that it had not gone off track from the child labour theme and that its focus was appropriate for the desired target group (whether the general public, communities, employers, workers or children). Once approved, the students started shooting with financial support from CACL-II Project, and guidance by the faculty staff.

  • Once the products were completed, they were judged by a three-member panel of local media professionals, and the best in each category selected.

  • Promotional highlights of those three products were presented during a public event in Islamabad in July 2013, with participation of the European Union Ambassador to Pakistan, the UN Resident Coordinator, representatives of UN agencies, senior officials of government ministries, university faculty members, students, media and the general public.

  • Copyright of the products is jointly held by the production team and the ILO. A media pack was created containing all 21 visual products developed by the university students.


Lessons learned: The timing of the project collided with scheduled exams and study periods and required extending the production time. A careful review of university schedules helps in planning the timing of the production.

Students can do a tremendous amount of creative work with a small budget, in this case $1,500. University faculty commitment is important to make the standards successful. In the institutions with the stronger faculty commitment to the project, the better were the final products. In fact, the public universities appeared to have greater appreciation of the financial support and the opportunity it provided their students. Several other departments took the project as a “free ride” and did not guide their students. To initiate the project, the CACL-II Project’s technical adviser proposed only to the mass communications department head but later realized that making the collaboration with the university vice chancellor would likely make for a stronger commitment. Collaboration at that level would likely ensure that the project becomes a product of the university and wider attention is paid to the results.

In the long run, fixing child labour won’t be achieved by only setting up non-formal education or vocational training centres and removing children from exploitation. Multi-facted strategies are needed and one of those is to support “non-traditional” activists groups, such as primary school teachers and make them child labour-sensitive; in 20 years, countless thousands of children will likely benefit. Training prospective media professionals is another mechanism.
Challenges: There were procedural difficulties to involve universities initially. They each had different policies on collaboration with international organizations. Some mass communications departments wanted to participate in the project but their university policy would not let them collaborate with an outside organization. For all universities, child labour was a “new subject”, something not covered in the curricula. The project included a half-day orientation on the subject.

The conflict with the academic schedules required compromises in the end; the planned two to three months for production was extended up to eight months.

Most of the groups chose a difficult theme that required them to engage in field situations that were new, challenging and sometimes dangerous. One group was chased away by the local mafia. An all-female group chose to work in a red light district, which required them to be there at night. Some students had “fights” with employers. While they didn’t have experience in this type of work initially, the project provided technical support and in the end, the experience matured them as media professionals.

Keeping some students on the child labour track required the constant monitoring of the process. In some cases, the group started with child labour but ended up with a drug addiction, smoking or alcohol abuse story line. The scheduled review of work done helped to bring that story line back to the child labour focus.


Next Steps: A relatively small financial commitment and interest in developing social justice awareness among the future generation of media practitioners are all that is needed to sustain this approach. Now the partnering mass communications departments know how to organize such a valuable learning experience and can approach other organizations and development partners as well as the ILO (such as health or human rights-oriented groups) to help them reach a larger group of the population on specific issues. Such projects help support the classroom experience and students’ exposure to issues of social importance.

65) Protecting children in rural communities through an indigenous support system

Period of implementation: 2008 – 2010

Where: Nepal

Main focus: Social protection and income generation for families in bonded labour

Lead organization: United Youth Community Nepal website: http://www.unycnepal.org.np/

Results: groups were formed mainly by family mothers and pooled their funds in a revolving credit scheme for emergency needs or to start micro enterprises; a total of 196 self-help (collective) groups consisting of more than 3,000 women from the Kamaiya, Haruwa and Charuwa households were formed; a total of 61 Child Labour Monitoring Committees were formed in the eight project districts of SECBL-II; there were nearly 200 women’s groups when the project closed; awareness levels on AIDS, women’s rights and human trafficking also have increased; the women discovered that group solidarity is an effective tool for controlling or preventing many social vices (alcohol drinking, gambling, domestic violence and child marriage).


Context and objective: A cabinet decree abolished bonded labour in Nepal in July 2000, which was followed by a law enforcing it in 2001 (the Kamaiya Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act, which was passed by the parliament by an overwhelming majority of support for it). It outlawed all forms of bonded labour, but principally the Kamaiya system, primarily found in the western Terai districts and the Haruwa and Charuwa systems in the eastern Terai districts. In the Kamaiya system, landlords or moneylenders provide loans to families typically in exchange for a child member who is sent to “work off” the debt as a household “servant”. In this arrangement, wives or other family members (including children) are sent to the landlord for agricultural work, which is sometimes remunerated though slightly, or children do menial work in the landlord's home. These unwritten arrangements are interpreted as a contract between a landlord and the labourers, although they bear no time limit. Thus, the obligation of service is often passed on to the next generation due to a family’s alleged inability to pay off its debt for the loan or land or the landlord’s willingness to release them from the obligation. Despite the landmark proclamation and law and the Government’s “rehabilitation package” (which experienced heavy delays), the practice of bonded labour continued. This was attributed partly to the lack of alternative options for families to borrow money or earn income. To assist Nepal in eliminating bonded labour, the ILO, with funding from the United States Department of Labor, initiated the Sustainable Elimination of Child Bonded Labour (SECBL) Project in December 2001.

The SECBL Project’s first phase success led to the development of a programme to address the bonded labour systems in other districts and the SECBL-II Project was launched. Both phases of the SECBL Project aimed for the removal of all working children; they also targeted an adult family member for a particular skill training and setting up a micro enterprise as an income-generating scheme that would provide an income alternative to a working child. The project worked with 13 implementing partners, ranging from government agencies, non-government organizations, technical education providers and trade unions.

The local leaders were not oriented towards preventing the use of children as bonded labourers or even their contribution towards household income. Neither were the leaders in positions to deal with the socioeconomic and political implications of advocating for change. Within communities, there was no sense that children would be more productive and earn more if they were first educated. And there was no tradition of child protection or working together as a community to protect children.

The indebted parents, the landlords, the communities’ own hierarchical social system, the School Management Committees, Forest Users’ Committees and local governing bodies would all be affected by the withdrawal, prevention, rehabilitation and integration into school of child bonded labourers. None were prepared for handling the change the project proposed, let alone the support, cooperation and co-action needed.


Methodology: The following strategy was initiated during the second phase of the SECBL Project.

  • Prior to the launch of SECBL activities within the communities, the project staff worked with The Friends of Dhanusha (one of the implementing partners) to adapt the ILO Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) training package to the Nepal context, mostly through translation but also with appropriate language and changes in various examples

  • Then the implementing partners conducted a household survey to determine the socio-economic status of the families with child bonded labourers.

  • Through resilience were shown by the traditional leaders, groups in taking the responsibility saying it is not their job, the implementing partners convinced the traditional community chiefs and other community leaders of the perils and law-breaking as well as rights-violating implications of child bonded labour; the national legislation and penalties (fine and imprisonment) were particularly emphasized. The information changed the attitude among the chiefs and leaders, which triggered shifts in other people’s perceptions and eventually led to acceptance of and participation in new social structures, such as the Child Labour Monitoring Committees and women-initiated collective business ventures, and greater support from existing mechanisms, such as the Child Rights Protection Forums, youth clubs and children’s clubs, the School Management Committees, the Forest Users Groups or the Village Development Committees.

  • Then the implementing partners conducted a serious of dialogues with community members to explain the project, its purpose and the need to keep children from working. Local groups were mobilized to help implementing partners convince families to enrol out-of-school children.

  • The PLA courses were organized, involving up to 30 members in one group who were mostly mothers but some fathers, to acquire livelihood skills. At the end of the course, the participants typically organized themselves into self-help groups, also referred to as collectives. They also set up a savings scheme and revolving credit scheme, which members and other people in the community who were not PLA graduate could draw from to develop individual livelihood enterprises, such as vegetable farming or raising pigs, goats or poultry. The collectives set up various types of businesses (making plates, lentil snacks, candles, spices or furniture or growing crops on project-leased land).

  • It was the training, activities and discussions that took place during the PLA course that worked to strengthen the self-help group principles of solidarity and mutual trust among the members. The SIYB training introduced entrepreneurialism and business managing skills. All this in turn helped influence local mindsets in terms of their social responsibilities towards children.

  • At the same time as the PLA courses were initiated, the implementing partners worked with two trade unions (Nepal Trade Union Congress-Independent and General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions) to promote fundamental principles and rights at work, including educating workers on minimum wages and equal wages for men and women for the same work.

  • Fifteen months after the project had started and just after the first PLA courses had been conducted, the implementing partners then worked with each targeted village to set up a Child Labour Monitoring Committee. By this point, communities were highly sensitized on children’s rights and child protection and a sense of inclusion among people traditionally excluded from community cohesion had been established.

  • Each Child Labour Monitoring Committee consisted of 7–11 members, including a community chief, other influential leaders, a former child labourer, a teacher, a social activist, PLA graduates and members from the newly formed collective initiatives. Members were selected through a meeting of the community.

  • Once formed, the Child Labour Monitoring Committee members then engaged in a three-day training followed by two-day refresher training seminar (about three months later) to learn more about child labour issues as well as their duties, responsibilities and working procedures. The training also included group mobilizing, gender issues, violence against women and children and identifying resources. A terms of reference was developed for the Child Labour Monitoring Committee.

  • A monitoring committee of three Child Labour Monitoring Committee members was designated to keep track of the child labour situation in their village. The monitoring committee produces a quarterly monitoring report and submits it to the Child Labour Monitoring Committee with recommendations for prevention, withdrawal or referral of a child.

The project staff then worked with the existing Child Rights Protection Forum (in the Haruwa and Charuwa districts) to strengthen its capacity to tackle children’s rights issues. The Forum helped to carry out decisions made by the Child Labour Monitoring Committee within villages. The Forum members also received training on group mobilizing, gender issues, violence against women and children and identifying resources for supporting Child Labour Monitoring Committee initiatives in the village.
Lessons learned: The social changes that the project wants to bring about during the project period can be achieved more rapidly by mobilizing social capital, such as indeginous groups and institutions already present in the community.
Challenges: The major challenge during the implementation was gaining the support of the traditional structures, which was eventually overcome through a series of meetings with each group and its leaders and discussing their role to change the lives of the people living with them in the same community.
Next Steps: The essential factors to ensure sustainability are ownership of the action under the project by the local community, institutional development, links with government organizations and capacity building of the institution so that it can operate independently.




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