The Belize Sugar Cane Farmers’ Association (BSCFA) has been arduously working with its members to address aspects of child labour in its sugar cane farming communities. Through various awareness campaigns, farmers have been exposed to terms such as “hazardous labour” and “ILO conventions”.
Today, the BSCFA has concrete data that farmers are choosing not to hire children and youth under the age of 18 years in the production and harvesting of their sugar cane. It is yet too soon to say that we have achieved elimination of child labour, nonetheless there have been some key lessons learnt from our experience in working with the communities, children and youth on responding to child labour. Recognizing the challenges ahead in working towards the elimination of child labour, BSCFA acknowledges that only by partnering with the government and other industry stakeholders for actions and results, we can move ahead to truly address child labour. Therefore, on January 14, 2016, BSCFA in collaboration with Fairtrade International and Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Comercio Justo (CLAC) hosted the first stakeholder meeting at the Inspiration Center in Belize City under the banner “Working Together to Eliminate Child Labour in Sugar Production – Partnering for Action and Results”.
There was participation from the Ministry of Labour, Department of Human Services, National Committee of Families and Children, UNICEF, Child Development Fund, Tate & Lyle Sugars/ASR Group, The Embassy of the United States of America, Centro Escolar Mexico Junior College, the Sugar Industry Research & Development Institute, Belize Sugar Industries Limited/ASR Group and the other two cane farmer associations, Progressive Sugar Cane Producers Association and Corozal Sugar Cane Producers Association. In the opening remarks, BSCFA CEO, Mr. Oscar Alonzo emphasized that key lessons learnt from monitoring of child labour are that in order to address the root causes of child labour at household member level we MUST also focus on alternative income generation for youth and families, food security, youth unemployment and under employment and livelihoods targeting vulnerable household members. Also presented was general information on child labour, including recent findings published in 2015 of the National CAS Survey (2013), where both Corozal and Orange Walk were identified respectively with the highest rates of children’s employment in the country. Findings from BSCFA and FI joint pilot of the Youth Inclusive community based Monitoring and Remediation System (YICBMR) on Child Labour and remediation activities currently being worked on; and its plan is to scale its YICBMR system into second phase implementation through joint agreements with local expert partners.
Additionally, four project proposal summaries were presented:
a) An Education project whose main goal is to enable access
to quality and relevant education for out-of-school children
between the ages of 5 and 15 involved in child labour in sugar
production. This project also includes the prevention of new
children and youth from becoming involved in hazardous labour.
b) An Empowerment project that seeks to empower women to
address community well-being to ensure a healthy household
environment for children and youth.
c) A Protection project to respond to children’s and young
people’s identification of issues for their wellbeing by addressing
attitudes and social norms that enable them to become
d) Additionally, BSCFA proposed an advocacy project to work
within the Government National Action Plan for the Elimination
of Child Labour, industry and civil society to enable wider
stakeholder discussion and actions.
A successful first stakeholder meeting has now paved the way for further stakeholder discussion on Elimination of Child Labour for actions and results; and a proposed
second stakeholder meeting where work groups can update on their discussions and progress.