At the age of 11, a girl named Suntali traveled from her remote village in Nepal to the bustling capital city of Kathmandu where she exchanged her school books for a mop. Suntali became one of the world’s estimated 15.5 million child domestic workers—foregoing her education to support her family.
Far from the safety and security of her home, she earned just $9 a month and two meals a day in exchange for working long hours as a house maid. Suntali and child domestics like her around the world are under the legal age for employment, work long hours for little pay, and are subject to injuries, accidents and illnesses at their workplaces. Many also suffer mental, physical and sexual abuse by their employers.
Every June 12 on World Day Against Child Labor, we take time to reflect on the plight of children like Suntali, who toil in hazardous conditions at the expense of their health, their education and their childhood. Since 1995, the Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) has supported projects in more than 90 countries around the world to combat exploitative child labor, including child domestic work. To date, ILAB projects have rescued nearly 1.5 million children and provided them with education and other services.
This short video describes the work of ILAB’s Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking and its impact on the lives of children like Suntali.
In Nepal, Suntali received help through a Labor Department-supported program, “New Path New Steps” that is implemented by the nonprofit organizations: World Education, Terres des Hommes, and their local partner CWISH.
Last year, Suntali started to take literacy classes at the age of 15. She remains passionate about learning and is currently enrolled in a special school for women who want to earn a high school degree. Suntali says that she is happy not only because she can read and write, but also because she has the confidence to speak out. She is also aware of her rights and is doing her part to ensure other children like her are getting a chance at an education. She brings other child domestics to classes and hopes, herself, to become a teacher because, “Teachers can bring positive changes to children’s lives.”
Like Suntali, millions of other children have benefited from ILAB programs that have not only removed them from hazardous working conditions, but have provided them with education and vocational training. These children have been given renewed hope and skills to break the cycle of poverty and empower their families and their communities.
Download ILAB’s World Day Against Child Labor poster here: http://www.dol.gov/images/world-day-against-child-labor.pdf.
Carol Pier is Acting Deputy Undersecretary for International Labor Affairs.