It may sound absurd, many might even argue that this is something of the outside world and may never even reach Grenada. Well, do not be so sure. Here is some news for you. Many of you parents might even be guilty because child labour is simply ‘any kind of work forced upon children that exposes them to harm and exploitation and interferes with their development.
In other words, any work that will cause physical harm, or wherever the mental or moral well being of a child is affected, it is considered child labour or can even extend to child abuse. Now that we have started thinking, let us not confuse child labour with chores, which is given to a child to help their parents around the house. In fact, this type of work is very much encouraged and is also a benefit for the child both in the short and long term.
On the other hand, what we are talking about here is work that is given to a child under a certain age, work, which could be too heavy or strenuous for that age, work, which will interfere with their school work, work, which will deprive them from attending school as they should, which in some cases might even cause them to leave school permanently.
Many persons have gone through this dilemma and as minor or less harmful as it might sound, having to stay away from school to take care of the younger ones so that mother can go to work or some place of importance, is still child labour and can be tantamount to child abuse. Sometimes just to help in order to put food on the table could be child abuse without the parents really realizing that.
The worst-case scenario, however, and the one that seems to be more subtle but prevalent in Grenada, is where single mothers especially, would sell their daughters to work as prostitutes. There should be absolutely no excuse or reason for a mother, single or not, to encourage, initiate or promote in any way, any kind of sexual activity, which involves her daughter or daughters to engage or participate in any kind of sexual activity for the purpose of obtaining money, food, a bus ride or any other favor.
Only recently, it has been brought to my attention that there are many single mothers who live in a populated area right here in St. George, who has been given a place to live by Government, but they do not have any work and so young girls from as little as ten years old are already soliciting money to buy food for home from men, one of whom had the guts to show me the girl’s picture on his phone, saying he is just trying to help.
My very first inclination was to call the police for him but then again, a crime was not committed as yet, and at the same time I did not want to betray his trust in me. This is precisely what prompted me to write this article.
It is fast becoming a culture in Grenada for men with money to prey on the circumstances of these families, which no doubt leads to full-blown prostitution eventually and all the other consequences that go along with it. Both the parents, especially the single mothers and the men, especially those who have some money but no conscience, should give these children a chance to live a normal life, without having to be victimized sexually through no fault of theirs.
Why should we as a nation be concerned about child labour? Well, there are several reasons why. For one it can just be a matter of saving a life out there. It can also be a matter of combatting crime. The use of children for prostitution and drug trafficking is a hideous crime that must be urgently addressed since they rob children of a bright future and the achievement of their full potential. The rights of the child must be protected from harm, abuse and exploitation. With little or no education or skills one is less likely to contribute to building a productive life and society and by extension, a nation, hence the cry by many employers today for skilled labour.
It could be concluded therefore that poverty is both the cause and consequence of child labour, and extreme poverty is conducive to child labour in all forms. Although the fact that the upbringing of our children is a God-given challenge, we do not have to do it alone. Indeed, children are an inheritance from the Lord and if you parents out there call upon him for help, instead of turning to child prostitution he is most willing to help. Some Caribbean countries have already initiated actions to address child labour. Right here at home, the Child Welfare Authority and other relevant organizations are also trying to help.
However, in order to solve a problem, one must first identify that problem. So, once again, take a good look around you and ask yourself, DOES CHILD LABOR REALLY EXIST IN GRENADA?