ILO To Launch Child Labor Project in Phnom Penh, Kep, Kampot

The International Labor Organ­ization said Wednesday that in the coming months it planned to launch a two-year program with the government to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district, Kep province and the salt marshes in Kampot.

The initiative has the potential to emancipate more than 6,000 people from the worst forms of child labor, an ILO official said Wednesday.

MP Joseph, chief technical adviser of the ILO’s program on the elimination of child labor in Cam­bodia, said the projects in Kep province and Kampot’s coastal salt industry would start in June, and in July the project would kick off in Daun Penh district, where scores of children sell handicrafts and books on the street and many children beg for a living.

“The royal government is planning to declare Kep a child-labor-free zone by 2012. In 2011, the government is planning to declare the salt sector [in Kampot] child labor free,” Mr Joseph said, adding by that 2012 Daun Penh district would be free of the worst forms of child labor.

Government officials Wednesday were less sanguine about the project, saying it still required formal approval.

In 2006, Cambodia ratified the 1999 ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, banning slavery, child prostitution and work deemed dangerous, demoralizing or unhealthy for people under 18.

The projects, the ILO estimates, will help around 2,800 children in Kep province, just under 2,000 children in the salt sector and around 2,000 children in Daun Penh district.

The ILO-funded projects will first identify the children and offer their families support and opportunities to improve their livelihoods, while finding schools where the children can receive an education, Mr Joseph said, adding that monitoring will ensure that the project areas are then kept child labor free.

“One of the most important strategies is that the poorest families of the children are supported to set up ad­ditional income sources,” Mr Joseph said, adding that families will have access to microcredit loans, training to start small businesses and help setting up community saving schemes.

The projects are part of the government’s wider commitment to eliminate the worst forms of child labor by 2016, which the ILO said could be achieved by committing $100 million to the task over this time period.

The ILO previously estimated around 750,000 children between 10 and 17 years old were involved in child labor in Cambodia, and in 2008 around 313,000 of them worked in the worst forms of child labor.

Veng Heang, director of the department of child labor at the Ministry of Labor, was reluctant to comment on the upcoming projects.

“We are waiting for the reaction of the provinces and for the formal approval of the minister,” which is expected in early June.

Kampot province labor department director Duong Savann said preliminary project research had started in March.

“We will work to end child labor in the salt sector but we would like more funds to work in the fishing sector…because around 4,000 to 5,000 children are [involved in] fishing.”

Nou Niem, director of the Phnom Penh municipal labor department, said after government approval the project would start running in several communes in Daun Penh before spreading to the whole district.

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