Despite still having
some dire problems, Brazilians are
commemorating the reduction in child labor in recent years. From
1995 to 2002, the number of working children and adolescents
in the 5-15 age bracket in Brazil decreased 42.95 percent,
which corresponds to 2,159,670 children and adolescents.
Instead of books and games, work. At an age when this kind of concern shouldn’t
exist, thousands of Brazilian children work like adults. According to the
most recent PNAD (Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de DomicílioNational
Residential Sample Survey), 2,988,294 Brazilians between 5 and 15 years old
are already working.
To remove children from
this type of activity, Brazil’s Ministry of Social Development wants to take
care of an additional 100 thousand boys and girls in 2004 through the PETI
(Programa de Erradicação do Trabalho InfantilProgram for
the Eradication of Child Labor).
The program currently
benefits 810 thousand children in 2,606 Brazilian municipalities. The PETI
is designed to eliminate the worst forms of child labor, the ones considered
dangerous, burdensome, unhealthful, or degrading, such as in charcoal kilns,
brickyards, sugarcane fields, and tobacco plantations.
The PETI pays a grant
to families with 7-15 year old children engaged in activities of this nature.
In return, the family must commit itself to removing the children from work
and enrolling them in school.
Besides the grants, municipalities
receive funds to implant the Expanded Schedule, which offers cultural, athletic,
and tutoring activities during the hours when the children are not in the
According to the Ministry’s
National secretary of Social Assistance, Márcia Lopes, the intention
of the government is to transform the PETI into a major national policy.
"Our goal is the
eradication of child labor. We want to be able to say in a few years that
we have no more children working, because they are in school, in their communities,
and are protected, and their parents are working," she said.
Lopes therefore asks state
and municipal governments to participate. "The more states and municipalities
we have as our partners, the fewer working children we shall have," she
Lopes commemorated the
reduction in child labor in recent years. During the period 1995 to 2002,
the number of working children and adolescents in the 5-15 age bracket decreased
42.95 percent, which corresponds to a total of 2,159,670 children and adolescents
freed from the obligation to work. "We are certain this will continue,"
The secretary presented
the program at a world congress on child labor last month in Italy. "One
hundred and fifty children from around the world took part and made important
declarations, saying that they want to attend school, play, learn a profession,
and develop as citizens. It would be very important if world leaders, those
responsible for the world’s social and economic policies, realized this,"
According to her, during
the congress child labor was regarded as the world’s great scourge. "We
want to end this great scourge," she asserted.
The discovery, earlier
this year, by the International Labor Organization (ILO) that over a half
million Brazilian children and adolescents are involved in domestic labor
is mobilizing the government, NGO’s, and the ILO.
But the fight against
domestic labor is a difficult task, because the problem occurs within homes,
and this type of exploitation ends up being hidden from government authorities.
Last year, the federal government was able to rescue 240 thousand children
from labor situations, but only 13 thousand were domestic workers.
According to Lopes, the
biggest problem authorities face is to identify the places where child labor
"Domestic child labor
is secret and hard to verify. It is necessary for society to denounce the
occurrence of this practice in order for us to improve and perfect the government’s
strategy to stop the use of child labor," the secretary emphasized.
For Lopes, it will only
be possible to combat child labor when all of society becomes involved. "Brazil
possesses very diverse realities, and only by getting acquainted with each
reality shall we be able to transform this country," she says. The hiring
of child labor can be reported to the Children’s Courts, the Tutelary Councils,
and the Regional Labor Superintendencies in the states.
According to Lopes, the
federal government will spend US$ 167 million (500 million reais) this year
to combat child labor. The Program to Eradicate Child Labor serves 810,792
children, 495,982 in rural areas and 314,810 in urban areas. It is projected
that another 90,000 children will enter the program this year.
The ILO develops projects
in various capitals to end domestic child labor. According to the coordinator
of the ILO’s Project to Confront Domestic Labor, Renato Mendes, projects are
being developed in Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Recife, and Belém, and
will be expanded this year to Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul, Paraíba,
and Maranhão. According to Mendes, the ILO operates in cities where
it forms partnerships to combat domestic child labor. (DAS)
only authorizes domestic labor for youths over the age of 16.
Luciana Vasconcelos works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press
agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.
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