Bhubaneswar: The Labour Directorate of Odisha in collaboration with UNICEF Odisha and Aid-et-Action organized a meeting to kick start a movement to eliminate child labour in Odisha.
The event was chaired by Dr N Thirumala Naik, IAS, Labour Commissioner, Odisha, Dr Monika Nielsen, Chief of field office, UNICEF Odisha, Ms. Neha Naidu, Child Protection Specialist, Radhika Srivastava, Communication & Advocacy Specialist from UNICEF Odisha and Mr. Umi Daniel, Director Migration Education, Aid-et-Action. District Labour Officers of Balasore, Ganjam, Khurdha, Cuttack and Rourkela along with representatives from CREDAI, brick kiln owners and stakeholders from both policy to implementation level shared their experience and opinion to eradicate child labour in the state.
The event commenced with welcome address from UNICEF Communications Specialist Radhika Srivastava who introduced the concept and objective of the initiative.
Setting the context, Ms. Neha Naidu, Child Protection SpecialistUNICEF said, “Child labour may rise, especially during this epidemic. Society has a mindset to accept child labour thinking that these children have to work because they are poor. Because of family circumstances, children drop out of school and start working. It is also inter- related with child marriage. The state of adolescence is the time children develop andaspire and if they start working at this time, it hinders their scope for development andmaximise their potential. Each one of us needs to come forward and prevent child labour.”
Speaking on the occasion, Dr N. Thirumala Naik, IAS, Labour Commissioner, Odisha said,“Education frees children from labour. When a child gets the opportunity to go to school, a world of opportunities open up for them. We have heard of former child labourers go on to do their Phd in London. We have to work together to help communities understand the value of education and send their children to school and not to work. We all have a responsibility to not accept child labour around us and make every effort to help them.”
Highlighting how COVID 19 pushed more children into labour, Monika Nielsen, Chief UNICEF, Odisha said, “During the recent times, children have been deeply impacted by the pandemic and its knock-on effects. Schools have remained closed for far too long and livelihoods have been severely disrupted, putting a large number of children as risk of being pushed into child labour. Children working as child labourers are also at a high risk of exploitation and abuse which can be physical, emotional and sexual in nature. Therefore, it is imperative to have a strong convergence across all measures that are taken to protect children. Without coordination or a shared objective, interventions have limited impact. With support from the government and key departments, civil society organisations, the private sector and UNICEF can work together accelerate actions to eliminate child labour in Odisha.”
Mr. Umi Daniel, Director Migration Education, Aid-et-Action said, “Over the past nine to ten years, we have taken many steps to prevent child labour.We have identified more than 200 child labourers and have been able to educate them.Government of Odisha has also been coming forward with number of initiatives to prevent child labour. We need to work more in tandem with industry partners to ensure no child works with or without their parents in labour.”
Brick kiln owners present at the meeting highlighted how they were aware of the laws against child labour and they made every effort to send back children who may be accompanying their parents. A model Code of Conduct was discussed with the brick kiln owners which would renew and strengthen their commitment of zero tolerance of child labour both within their business premises as well as those who were part of the industry supply chain.
Mr. Sunil Kumar Sahu, Additional Labour Commissioner, Mr Pradeep Kumar Mohapatra, Joint Labour Commissioner, Mr. Gouri Sankar Dash, Chairman, Odisha Assembly for Small Medium Enterprises (OASME), Mr Gopal Kar, State Convener, CACL and Mr Ranjan Kumar Mohanty, Secretary, PECUC also participated in the event.