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ILO Launches 'World Day Against Child Labor' - 2002-06-12

The International Labor Organization is launching the first World Day Against Child Labor Wednesday to intensify global support to eliminate the practice. The ILO says nearly 250 million children between the ages of five to 17 work worldwide and 75 percent of them are involved in hazardous jobs.

Frans Roselaers directs the International Labor Organization's international program to eliminate child labor. He says the ILO is working with governments to end what it calls the worst forms of child labor.

"The worst forms of child labor are all forms of slavery, trafficking, the use of children in criminal activities and drug trafficking, the use of children in armed conflict, the use of children in sexual exploitation and pornography, and all forms of bondage and slavery of children. Finally it includes all hazardous work," he said.

Fatma Adaranijo is a counselor working with an ILO project in Nigeria to help child prostitutes get off the streets. She talks about the fresh start one 16-year old girl has made after being forced to work as a prostitute.

"She had no parents, no relatives at all. So now we got her an accommodation, she is living fine and is learning hairdressing. She hopes to become a good hairdresser," he said.

Halfway around the world in Russia, 13-year old Sergei Slabovic said he picked buttons and begged near the underground train station in St. Petersburg to help feed his family.

Sergei says he was afraid to be in the streets, but his family's poverty and his young sister's illness forced him to work. He says he is now able to attend school with help from the ILO.

Mr. Roselaers says the worst forms of child labor are found everywhere to some degree. But the biggest numbers work in agriculture in rural areas in Asia and Africa. They spend long hours in the scorching heat, exposed to pesticides and suffering high rates of injury.

Yet he says it should be possible to end the worst forms of child labor in 12 to 15 years, if governments commit themselves to programs with precise timetables to reduce and then eliminate child labor.

Mr. Roselaers says the ILO has provided countries with guidelines, training, legislation, and ways to enforce laws stopping child labor. He says children in Bangladesh have been removed from the country's garment industry and positive steps have been taken to stop child trafficking in Southeast Asia.