KUWAIT: The State of Kuwait, through its government and non-government organizations, is intensifying efforts to eliminate the phenomenon of child labor. Kuwait is keen on protecting children against abuses and violations and to help enjoy their childhood and get their rights for education and healthcare. The government policies and strategies also take into account the physical, mental, psychological and social needs of children and meet them. The government focuses on providing children with world-class education to qualify them be active members of society.
At regional and international forums, Kuwait stands out as a voice for children rights. It urges the international community to double efforts to implement international conventions on the protection of children’s rights and prohibition of child labor.
On the occasion of the World Day against Child Labor, which falls on June 12, head of the national bureau for protection of children rights Dr Mona Al-Khawari said the constitution and laws prioritize childcare and protection.
Article 46 of the Kuwaiti Constitution ensures caring of children. It guarantees their rights especially to healthcare and education, especially as some foreign children work to fend for their families, she said adding that article 47 of the Constitution also prohibits the employment of children under the age 15 years.
Khawari stated that the Constitution also stipulates that work should not endanger children health or deprive them from their right to education and obliges employers to insure and protect them. Laws also stipulate that underage workers should not work more than six hours a day and should have at one-hour rest time. They are not allowed to work between 6:00 pm and 6:00 am, she said.
Forced to work
Head of the national society for child protection Dr Siham Al-Furaih said that the society monitor the phenomenon of child labor in Kuwait. Some media figures have reached out to several working children to know the reason behind their work. They have found that those children, from foreigners and illegal residents, were forced by their parents to work, she said. Furaih noted that Law No. 21 of 2015 prohibits the deliberate exposure of the child to any physical or psychological abuse.
She said that the elimination of this phenomenon lies in the implementation of punitive measures against parents and employers who employ children. She calls for providing aid to families going through difficult financial conditions to be able to pay for the education fees of children and not to force them to leave the school and search for work.
Director of the Juvenile Welfare Department Dr Jassem Al-Kandari said that his department cooperates with the Ministry of Interior to combat child labor in the country. The ministry of interior refers working children to the Juvenile Welfare Department to study their cases and why they work before the legal age, he said.
The department provides the necessary care for children such as food, shelter, health and education services and exert efforts to help improve the financial conditions of their families, he said. He added the department also file a report against those who employ children under the age of 15 years. As per provisions violators pay a fine and in case of reoccurrence legal action is taken against employers, he said.
Providing for their families
Meanwhile, 14-year-old boy Yusuf, illegal resident, said that the reason for his work under the burning sun was to provide for his family because he is the oldest of his brothers and his father is unable to work.
“I dropped out of school and worked to eke out a living for myself and my family,” he said. Yusuf, who sells sweets on streets, said he has six brothers and he is the only source of income for his family. He pointed out that his earnings never exceed KD 15 a day. “I and my brothers were expelled from school due to inability to pay fees,” he said. “My health is at risk all the time and I suffer from working long hours under the scorching sun.”
Meanwhile, eight-year-old Ahmad, a Syrian boy, stated that he works to help his six-member family. Ahmad, who sells fruits on streets, earns less than KD 10 a day. He noted that he dropped out from school because his family could not pay the fees.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) launched the World Day Against Child Labor in 2002 to focus attention on the global extent of child labor and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it. Each year on 12 June, the World Day brings together governments, employers and workers organizations, civil society, as well as millions of people from around the world to highlight the plight of child laborers and what can be done to help them. – Kuna