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Five ways to fight child labour during a crisis like COVID-19

Reaching the most rural and remote communities to support the fight against child labour can be difficult at the best of times, even more so during a pandemic.

Unfortunately, some of the consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak are also some of the key drivers of child labour such as lack of access to education, health services and means to earn an income. This is why it is critical, now more than ever, to find systemic solutions which tackle these drivers, accelerate progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 for the elimination of child labour.

Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the ECLT Foundation has adjusted its programmes to protect the children, families and farmers where we work. Here are 5 ways we can work together to continue to fight child labour during a crisis, like coronavirus, and bring long-lasting change for communities.

1. Support home learning amongst rural and remote communities

How can children learn at home if they do not have access to electricity let alone internet?

For millions of children around the world simply logging into a computer to access lessons online simply is not an option. During COVID-19, Governments had to find new solutions such as radio classes, distributing textbooks, and printing home school materials. In Guatemala, students could access Government provided online courses and ECLT supported by donating extra data packages.

Parents, guardians and caregivers are the first line of defense against child labour. When children cannot attend school, they need the support and guidance of a parent figure to assist with home-based learning, particularly at primary school age. For this to be a reality, the parent needs to be literate themselves, and to understand the monetary and social benefits of investing in their child’s education.

2. Empower community-led initiatives

During a crisis, it is often hard for organisations to reach rural communities. Restricting gathering crowds and people’s movements has been an important preventative measure to stop the spread of COVID-19. However, this has also meant that NGOs have not been able to provide the same level of support as prior to the outbreak. Supporting and promoting community-led initiatives like child protection committees, tuition groups, or locally owned Village Savings and Loan Associations all help keep children away from dangerous work in fields in the long run.

3. Strengthen rural livelihoods

During COVID-19, when farmers struggle to access markets, having diverse sources of income can mean all the difference for rural families. Programmes which strengthen farmer family livelihoods can boost incomes and improve resilience to poor yields and economic shocks. Farmer Field Schools, like those supported by ECLT in Mozambique, are adapted to the supply and demand of local markets so that farmers always have a place to sell their products. Local trainers work with community members to learn about land preparation, sowing, fertilisation, pest and disease control, and other activities before and after harvest. Basic business skills such as profit calculation, record-keeping, and marketing are critical assets for farmers to prepare and plan for more difficult months as they face new challenges like climate change and natural disasters.

4. Promote community savings groups

By giving people in farming communities better ways to lend, loan and save their money, we encourage stability, empower women, and help children stay in school. Village savings and loan associations (VSLAs) do just that, especially in areas where banks are not accessible. Rural families often depend on the success of harvests and demand for their crops. If yields are low, parents may not be able to afford to send their children to school and must send them to the fields to work instead.

5. Partnering for awareness raising

During the COVID-19 outbreak, visits to the field have been restricted so awareness raising campaigns to keep families safe from the pandemic and children protected from child labour have had to be redesigned. Since May of this year, ECLT has been working with relevant stakeholders, like organisations on the ground to assess the needs of the communities as well as Farmers' Associations to distribute flyers and posters on child labour and on the World Health Organization’s hygiene and prevention measures for coronavirus.

Ongoing response

We are evaluating the situation day by day, ready to provide additional assistance and support. ECLT is in regular contact with our implementing partners to ensure that field staff and communities are being protected from risks. We are also assessing and adjusting our approach to align with the evolving recommendations from the WHO and National Governments.

You can check back here for the latest updates affecting ECLT’s work