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Invest in your future by standing up for children’s rights

By B.KHASH-ERDENE

We Mongolians pride ourselves on being a particularly child loving culture, one that encourages familial bonds above all else. But child labor under difficult and dangerous situations, human trafficking, and even sexual abuse and slavery still exist and are a major concern in Mongolian society.
World Day Against Child Labor was marked on June 12, which drew attention to the role of social protection in keeping children out of child labor and removing them from it.
Mongolian NGOs and organizations for protecting children’s rights held a press conference and called for a stop to all child labor, highlighting that child labor has increased in the past four years, despite the claims made by officials in the field.
“On this day, when the football World Cup is launching, let us raise a red card, the highest penalty in football, to all child labor… We all know what happens to a team or a player that receives a red card. We want the same for all organizations and individuals that utilize child labor. Therefore, we call upon all residents, businesses, and media outlets to join us in putting a stop to child labor,” said Kh.Baavgai, head of the Child and Family Department of the Ministry of Population Development.
Although the Head of the Capital City Family Development Authority, Ya.Baigalmaa, said that child labor has decreased in Ulaanbaatar, NGOs claim that child labor has increased 1.8 percent according to their studies.
“The National Statistical Office conducts a child labor survey every four years. The last one was conducted last year, in 2013. The survey revealed that, unfortunately, child labor rates have indeed increased in Mongolia. It stated that more than 98,000 children aged between five and 15 have been involved in child labor and employed in the nation’s economic activities in some form. This is an increase of 1.8 percent since 2009,” said a spokesperson for the NGOs at the press conference.
According to the latest studies on child labor, roughly 10 percent of children under the age of 14 are actively being employed, most of whom are working in the agricultural and animal husbandry sector in rural areas.
The 2010 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor Report, published by the US Department of Labor, said that children in Mongolia are engaged in the worst forms of child labor, most commonly in herding and animal husbandry. Herding exposes children to extreme cold and frostbite, exhaustion, animal attacks, assault or beatings, nonpayment of wages and accidents such as falling off horses or being cut by sharp knives while slaughtering livestock.
The report also highlighted that many children mine gold, coal and fluorspar, both on the surface and underground, in artisanal mines. “In mining, children handle mercury and explosives, transport heavy materials, stand in water for prolonged periods, work in extreme climate conditions, risk falling into open pits and enter tunnels up to 10 meters deep at risk of collapse.”
“The worst forms of child labor, such as child prostitution and child trafficking, also exist in Mongolia. Child prostitution, including child sex tourism, is a continuing problem. Girls are trafficked internally and forced into prostitution in saunas and massage parlors. Girls are also trafficked to China, Macau, Malaysia and South Korea for sexual exploitation and forced labor,” the report emphasized.
Numerous domestic children’s rights organizations have voiced their concerns regarding child jockeys in Mongolia, who work in extremely dangerous circumstances. It’s not uncommon for child jockeys to acquire serious injuries or even die during a race, especially during winter races, which can be dozens and sometimes hundreds of kilometers long. Around 50 horse races take place in Mongolia every year and more than 2,000 child jockeys are employed in total.
From personal experience, it’s not uncommon for me to be approached by children who sell chewing gum and other menial goods in cafes and restaurants around Ulaanbaatar, and when driving, I recently noticed more and more children knocking on cars lined up in traffic to sell drinks and car air fresheners.
As someone who occasionally volunteers at an orphanage, I’ve found that children there more often have parents, or a single parent, but they are unable to support them, or they have been abandoned or abused to the point that they had to run away. It’s always sad to see children, who are the future of this country, being neglected and abused, but I would rather see them at the orphanage, where they are have food, shelter and someone to attend to their basic needs, than on the streets or with abusive guardians.
In recent years, this issue has taken a back seat, with other immediate economic challenges taking precedence. The government has announced several programs to protect children’s rights, such as the National Program for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor 2011-16, National Program for Preventing and Protecting Children and Women, and others that attempt to prevent child labor, but none of these have been implemented or have shown any results, according to the Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor Report.
Children often hear the phrase, “You are the future of this country,” but reports show that around one in ten are forced to work and are exploited, rather than educated and taken care for. Mongolia, as a nation, needs to reflect on the message we give to our “future.”
I find working with children very chaotic and challenging, but also extremely rewarding. I do not see it as charity or altruism. My time spent with the children of Amgalan orphanage has taught me many valuable lessons that have spilled over in to my personal life, as well as my career. Therefore, I will encourage everyone who is able, to invest their time and energy for children, just a little, by standing for their rights and leading them by example. And if/when you do this, I want you to realize that the protection and support of children is more of a long term investment in your future rather than charity.

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=9805

Posted by on Jun 12 2014. Filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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