Sunday, the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Labor, Farouk Hadidi, on behalf of the Minister of Labor Nayef Stetieh, launched a series of national activities on occasion of the World Day Against Child Labor 2022 in the Haya Cultural Centre. The 2022 theme of this world day, which falls on June 12 every year, is “Universal Social Protection to End Child Labor”.
Those participating in these national events include the Ministries of Labor; Education; and Social Development; the Juvenile and Family Protection Department of the Public Security Directorate; the National Council for Family Affairs; the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); the International Labor Organization (ILO); Tamkeen for Legal Aid and Human Rights; Plan International; Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD); Terre des hommes; the Jordan Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD); International Medical Corps (IMC), Save the Children, Rowad Al-Khair Association and the Institute for Family Health (IFH).
All participating ministries, governmental entities, organisations and associations are existing members of the Child Labor Task Force, and are implementing a series of national week-long activities, starting with a launching event, which included a panel discussion wherein children from the Jordanian Child Parliament took to the podium to ask panel members (select decision-makers and relevant partners from the Child Labor Task Force) a series of questions surrounding child labor. Additionally, a freeze mob was conducted by children from JOHUD.
During his opening remarks, the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Labor, Farouk Al-Hadidi, announced that the Ministry of Labor, in partnership with the Child Labor Task Force, launched a campaign for 2022 under the title of #StillAChild to shed light on the national efforts being made to combat child labor, while focusing on the issue of working children and how to help them. Moreover, Hadidi called for more national efforts to reduce child labor by governments, employers and workers alike, in addition to the participation of the local community, civil society institutions and the media.
Furthermore, Hadidi indicated that the Ministry of Labor had established a specialised department to deal with child labor issues since 1999, matching the time that the Jordanian labor law aligned with international conventions on combating child labor. The law forbids the employment of children under the age of 16, and also forbids the employment of children in dangerous work environments before the age of 18, provided that their working hours do not exceed six-a-day, and that they do not work during the night time, on official holidays, or the weekend.
Hadidi emphasized that reducing child labor requires concerted efforts from all governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, in addition to efforts from society, families, civil society institutions and employers in the commitment and application of all relevant legislation that preserves the rights of children, especially the right to an education and attempting to minimise the number of children in the labor market in order to prepare them to return to school.
Following Hadidi’s remarks, the Secretary-General of the NCFA, Dr. Mohammad Miqdadi, confirmed that the NCFA, under the directives of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah is working to give priority to issues surrounding childhood, including an emphasis on child labor.
Miqdadi indicated that through its chairmanship of the Child Labor Task Force, the NCFA was able to coordinate and integrate efforts among all concerned parties.
He pointed out that this event embodied the spirit of the participatory approach and is an opportunity to emphasize the implementation of the national framework to combat child labor that was approved in 2021. This national working document defines technical methodologies and responsibilities for all parties concerned with childhood issues, and mechanisms for responding to cases of children in work situations, and provides comprehensive and integrated services in the best interest of them.
Moreover, Miqdadi emphasized the importance of the government’s recent approval of the draft Child Rights Bill, which is one of the pillars of early childhood, and constitutes a major achievement for providing protection and care for children.
Following Miqdadi, the Director of the Juvenile and Community Security Directorate at the Ministry of Social Development Ahmed Al-Zaben said, “child labor is considered one of the economic and social problems at both local and international levels due to its close connection with the rights of the child guaranteed by local legislation and international conventions”.
Zaben stressed that the Ministry of Social Development is keen to provide a sound environment and a healthy upbringing for the child, as a child labor department has been established within the Ministry and many agreements have been concluded with charities and partner institutions to provide psychological and social support to working children and their families after transferring cases from the relevant authorities.
Zaben pointed out that there is a draft system for the protection of working children in contravention of the legislation in force, and this system will be sent to the Legislation and Opinion Bureau to proceed with the procedures for its enforcement, indicating that the importance of this system comes by granting legal powers to deal with working children within a judicial framework that guarantees the rights and best interests of the child and guarantees this mandatory system. This system guarantees a legislative mandate that ensures consistent and integrated application, accountability and good governance in dealing with working child cases for all relevant institutions in order to achieve the best interest of the child.
The head of the Education Department in the Ministry of Education, Nabeel Al-Hanaqta, said that the Ministry of Education contributes, in cooperation with partners, to providing alternative educational opportunities for out-of-school children, indicating that the Ministry’s programmes aim to withdraw children from the labor market and provide them with the skills necessary to empower them in society, whilst also taking the necessary measures to reduce children dropping out of school in the first place.
Following Hanaqta, the head of the Juvenile and Family Protection Department of the Public Security Directorate, Colonel Firas Al-Rasheed said, “It is necessary to view child labor from the perspective of its potential risks and abuses, under conditions that may be harmful to the physical, intellectual and emotional health, in order to move away from a narrow point of view by looking at simple financial return, and seeing that the social return on investments into children’s education, especially at the primary level, indicates that a decrease in illiteracy rates directly contributes to an industrial and technological renaissance”.
Rasheed added that children’s lives away from exploitation and danger contribute to cognitive, emotional, social and moral development, in addition to healthy physical development that enhances their psychological and social balance and limits violence in all forms.
The Head of the Technical and Program Quality Department at Plan International Jordan, Hamida Jahama said, “through our interventions, we seek to reduce the risks on working children while focusing greatly on young girls to support and protect them. This comes through applying holistic approaches that we believe in and through direct work with the children themselves.”
Jahama also noted that the first circle of support to these children are their parents and society as a whole through campaigns and community initiatives to reduce the worst forms of child labor.
The Executive Director of Tamkeen for Legal Aid and Human Rights, Linda Al Kalash, indicated that Tamkeen is implementing a programme on child labor and begging issues, entitled “Preventing and Minimizing Child Labor in Hazardous Sectors in Jordan”, which aims to develop the institutional capacities of entities working on child labor and begging issues, and also aims to gain support by raising the overall technical capabilities through training on the aforementioned issues.
The Head of UNICEF Jordan’s Child Protection Division Mariyampillai Mariyaselvam confirmed that UNICEF is committed to supporting the Jordanian government to eliminate all forms of child labor in Jordan, noting that they are working with the NCFA to coordinate efforts for the work of the national framework for child labor, and with the Ministry of Labor to cooperate with business owners and local communities to reduce the phenomena, as well as supporting the Ministry of Social Development to provide multi-sectoral services for working children.
Mariyaselvam added, “child labor deprives children of their childhood and limits their true potential, as well as depriving them of their right to an education and protection. UNICEF is also committed to supporting the Jordanian government and partners to end all harmful child labor practices and give children the future they deserve.”
The ILO Country Coordinator and Gender Specialist Farida Khan said, “In its fight against child labor in the future, the ILO is focusing on achieving universal access to social protection and gradual expansion of access to comprehensive, adequate, sustainable, gender, age and disability-inclusive social protection, through the establishment of national social protection schemes and improved access to social services and agricultural insurance for communities that depend on agriculture for their livelihoods”.
Khan emphasised ILO’s commitment to scaling up work in order to accelerate the efforts of stakeholders to prevent and eliminate child labor, prioritizing the worst forms of child labor, particularly in the agricultural sector, by making decent work a reality for adults and youth above the minimum age for work, as well as recognising the rights of children to education and ensuring that everyone has access to free, quality, equitable and inclusive education and training.
Finally, the UNHCR Jordan representative, Dominik Bartsch, said that data and research indicates the precarious situation facing refugees and that a percentage of families are trying to adapt through very negative strategies, which may include child labor.
He underlined UNHCR’s commitment to working with local stakeholders and national institutions to identify the causes of this phenomenon while providing practical solutions to mitigate these harmful practices.