Partnership 2016: Best Practices in Combating Child Labor

Carmen Peña, Director of Program Development

From left to right: Macarena Jiménez, Project Director for Paraguay Okakuaa; Natasha Gartner, Project Director for EducaFuturo; Piedad Rivero, former Education Specialist for Edúcame Primero and EducaFuturo; Elizabeth Holst, Senior Officer for Program Development and Paraguay Okakuaa; and Carmen Peña, Director of Program Development. 

Partners of the Americas (Partners) held their bi-annual convention, “Partnership 2016: Inclusion and Innovation in the Americas,” in Guadalajara, Mexico from Oct. 25-29, 2016. On Thursday, Oct. 27, convention attendees had the opportunity to hear three professionals dedicated to addressing the issue of child labor share their perspectives. The panel, Las Mejores Prácticas en el Combate del Trabajo Infantil (Best Practices in Combating Child Labor), was held in Spanish and moderated by  staff from Partners’ headquarters; Carmen Peña, Director of Program Development, and Elizabeth Holst, Senior Officer for Program Development and Paraguay Okakuaa.

Peña started off the session with welcoming remarks and an overview of Partners’ 13-year history implementing programs funded by the U.S. Department of Labor to combat child labor in six countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC): Brazil, Guyana, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Paraguay. She then introduced the topic with an explanation of this important issue in the region.

“The topic of child labor is a multi-dimensional one that requires a comprehensive approach for its prevention and elimination,” Peña began. “Taking into account the multi-causalities of this issue, it is important to understand what child labor is and what is not. The International Labor Organization defines child labor as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially, or morally dangerous and harmful to children. Therefore, not all work performed by children should be considered child labor.”

“Moreover,” Peña continued, “Partners’ experience in LAC started with the provision of education services only and has grown to the provision of youth employability skills, livelihoods, social protection and public-private partnerships, among other components, in order to address the multi-causality of the issue. Based on these experiences we will review best practices and lessons learned to share with all of you today regarding the different components we now implement to address the issue of child labor.”

Peña and Holst moderating a panel on combating child labor at "Partnership 2016: Inclusion and Innovation in the Americas."

Holst then presented the first question to Piedad Rivero, former Education Specialist for Edúcame Primero (Colombia, 2007-2011) and EducaFuturo (Ecuador and Panama, 2012-2016). “Ms. Rivero,” she said. “Why is education an essential factor for strategies to combat child labor?” Rivero explained that providing safe spaces where children can learn and grow has been an important component of all of Partners’ past programs. Through the methodologies Espacios para Crecer (Spaces for Growth) and Espacios para Emprender (Spaces for Entrepreneurship), children and adolescents respectively are provided with opportunities to be engaged in learning environments during the hours before or after classes, keeping them out of work. Educational strategies such as teacher training and parental involvement help improve the quality of, and increase appreciation for, education. When parents see the value of education for their children, they will be more likely to keep them in school and out of work.

Next, Natasha Gartner, Director of EducaFuturo, discussed what strategies EducaFuturo has laid out to combat child labor. Gartner explained that the program targets afro, indigenous, and migrant communities in Ecuador and Panama. These groups are particularly vulnerable as child labor is common in the remote, rural communities where they reside. She stressed the importance of providing soft skills and technical training to youth of working age so that they can find decent, legal employment. Working with families to improve their livelihoods and increase their incomes is also an important strategy so that sending children to work to is no longer an economic necessity. Gartner also highlighted the need for engagement and partnership with the private sector to tackle the issue in their value chains and communities in which they are established.

Natasha Gartner, Project Director for EducaFuturo discusses strategies the program has laid out to combat child labor in Ecuador and Panama.

Finally, Holst presented the last question to Macarena Jiménez, Project Director for Paraguay Okakuaa. “In the case of Paraguay,” Holst began, “what does the intervention model add as a strategy to combat child labor?”  Jiménez pointed out that the government of Paraguay has been a key player in the effort to combat child labor, and has highlighted the importance of the issue nationally. Paraguay Okakuaa is completing its first year of implementation and its engagement with and empowerment of government actors, particularly Paraguay’s Ministry of Labor, has been of crucial importance in order to ensure that project actions can be sustainable after the four-year project ends.

The hour-long panel closed with an audience question/answer session.

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