ILO Cries 'Foul' Over Child Labor

A red card, like that handed out by referees for serious violations on the soccer field, is the symbol for the ILO's latest campaign against the use of child labor.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) launched its "Red Card to Child Labour" campaign this month. The launch coincided with the start of the 2002 African Cup of Nations in Bamako, Mali. The new campaign against the use of child labor is symbolized by the red card handed out by referees for serious violations of rules on the soccer field.

The ILO, which hopes to take its initiative worldwide to include the World Cup, formally launched the campaign at a signing ceremony involving President Alpha Oumar Konare of Mali and cosponsors from the Confederation africaine de football (CAF) and the Comite d''organisation de la Coupe d''Afrique des Nations (COCAN) 2002. Africa is home to about 40 percent - some 80 million - of the world''s child workers.

"Child labor is neither a sport nor a pastime," said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia. "Child laborers work hard - on the farms, in mines and quarries or as domestic servants. Some are trafficked into slave-like conditions or prostitution. Millions are condemned to lifelong poverty and despair. Now, working hand in hand with the world''s most popular sport, we hope to galvanize the global campaign against child labor with this potent symbol - the red card that means you''re out of the game."

The initiative aims to seize on the popularity of the African Cup of Nations 2002 to generate the widest possible public awareness of the harsh reality of child labor and encourage people to support the global movement against it. The campaign adds a new, symbolic element to the global struggle against child labor, exemplified by the rapid ratification by over 100 countries - including the United States - of ILO''s most recent labor standard, the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention No. 182, adopted in 1999. Of the 115 countries ratifying Convention No. 182, 30 are from Africa, including the first two ratifying states (Seychelles and Malawi).

Following the launch of the "Red Card" campaign in Africa, the ILO plans to pursue the initiative to Latin America, Asia and Europe. The ILO International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), which is running the campaign, is active in 75 countries, removing children from abusive child labor, providing them with rehabilitation and education and providing their families with income-generating possibilities.

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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