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Why Should We Be Concerned About Child Labor in Nepal?
India Metal Worker, Nepal, 1995. Photo: David Parker.


The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that close to 250 million children worldwide are victims of forced child labor. These children, some as young as four years old, are subjected to long days of harsh, unhealthy, and hazardous working conditions that are clearly harmful to their growth and development. Frequently they must work to support their families and to pay their parents' debts in bonded or slave labor situations. In exchange they are paid little and exposed to physical, emotional, and sometimes even sexual abuse. These children sacrifice their health, well being and childhood. Education is rarely part of their lives. Indeed, child labor is closely linked to low education levels for women and girls. Even though the availability of good schools, books, and food would help improve the situation for many children, the global community is doing too little to eliminate this problem.  



International law provides a clear and accepted consensus on the nature and definition of child labor. The International Labor Organization has adopted many international conventions on child labor. The rights of children to education and freedom from exploitation are also clearly stated in the Convention on the Rights of Children (the Children's Convention) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on November 20, 1989. The Children's Convention is the most widely ratified international instrument. Only the United States and Somalia have yet to ratify it.



As of 1995, the average life expectancy in Nepal was 55 years, adult literacy was 41 percent for males and 14 percent for females, and only 52 percent of children completed a primary school education. These statistics are some of the worst in the world. Dozens of brickyards surround Kathmandu, where children make and carry thousands of bricks each day. Not only is the work arduous, but the children are at significant risk of injury from strain, falling bricks, and respiratory illness from dusts. In Nepal approximately 45.8% of children ages 10 to 14 are involved in the child labor force. More than one million of these children work in difficult, dangerous, and sometimes even slave-like conditions.



In response to the overwhelming number of Nepalese children who cannot sustain their basic needs and have no alternative to becoming child laborers, a volunteer committee of The Advocates for Human Rights established and opened the Sankhu-Palubari Community School in the Kathmandu valley of Nepal on September 9, 1999, for children under 16. The school is completely free and includes a daily meal. A Nepalese non-profit organization committed to ending child labor, Hoste Hainse, works with The Advocates to administer and monitor the Project.

At Sankhu-Palubari Community School, children are students, not laborers.