Paraguay Okakuaa: Supporting the Fight to End Child Labor

Author: 
Marcelo Alas, Capacity Building Specialist, Paraguay Okakuaa.

According to official data, 400,000 boys and girls are affected by child labor in Paraguay. The department of Guairá, located about 81 miles from Asunción, is characterized by its sugar cane plantations and therefore, it is common to find children working in the fields with their parents. For this reason, Partners is supporting the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security (MTESS) in its efforts to change this reality.

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For the past year and a half in the community of Rincón 1, children have been able to participate in an “Espacio para Crecer” (EpC) where every day and after school, they are provided food and learning opportunities, in addition to attention, care and affection. This is a space where children can thrive, far away from child labor. The EpC in Rincón 1 is one of 32 that the U.S. Department of Labor-funded projectParaguay Okakuaa, is operating in five districts in the department of Guairá, and a month ago a 33rd EpC was launched in the Paraguayan Chaco to protect children of an indigenous community also vulnerable to child labor. 

To celebrate the World Day Against Child Labor, Paraguay Okakuaa, (“Paraguay Progresses” in the Guarani language) organized activities within three areas of intervention. Within the education component, on June 12th an art exhibit called “Happy Children Grow Up Happy” was organized at the EPC of Rincón 1. Throughout the month of June, exhibits will be displayed for the public in all of the project’s EpCs. Through artwork, the children envision their life where they have all basic human rights and are free from involvement in child labor. The exhibit began with a commemorative ceremony with the participation of representatives of the Municipal Council for Children and Adolescents of Villarrica, donors, and parents, as well as its participants: the young artists. 

“Commemorating this day with special events is important for us so that the public is aware of this issue - that children need to stay in school to study, prepare for their future and not be working at a young age,” said Nora Espinola, Director of the school at Rincón 1. Maria Media, a sixth-grade teacher, recognizes the importance of the EpC as a community space of protection. “The children love it, they feel good and they come...many children have access to the EPC,” said Maria.

Beyond the EpC, another key step in preventing and addressing child labor is working with families, which is also a part of the project’s livelihoods component. Within this component, in partnership with the District Development Council of Iturbe, a presentation was organized for donors, parents, and youth about the invisible dangers of child labor. There, the Adolescent Worker Registry was shared, which is a tool which is used to guarantee adolescent workers’ access to decent jobs and serves to prevent labor situations that may pose risks to their health and well-being. 

“It’s very important that institutions motivate us to reflect on the risks of child labor and the importance of protecting adolescent work,” said Gerardo Ortiz, regional director of the MTESS. In this context, together with the MTESS, two dialogues were held on the formalization of labor and the Youth Worker Registry in the districts of Villarrica and Paso Yobai, oriented towards employers and workers to raise awareness of labor inspection procedures, required documents for businesses and the requirement to register adolescent workers by the contracting party.

Funding is provided by the United States Department of Labor under cooperative agreement number IL‐ IL-28094-15-75-K-11.

This material does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the United States Department of Labor, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the United States Government. One hundred percent of the total costs of the project or program is financed with Federal funds, for a total of $6,683,557.87.

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