By Eddy Montilla.
According to the Bolivian government and the United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF), there are more than 850,000 children between the ages of five and 17 working in Bolivia, that is, more than 25 percent of the child population. Many of them clean shoes and sell food in stalls in La Paz, the capital of the country, and other Bolivian cities, but you can also find others who work under abysmal working conditions in mines and agriculture fields.
Bolivia is one of the few countries that have reduced inequality in Latin America, which is one of the President Evo Morales’s greatest achievements. But when it comes to tackling child labor, with the new Code for Children and Adolescents that allows children to work from the age of 10, the Bolivian president and his government just came up with aspirin type solutions: They bring relief, but don’t solve the real problem. According to the media, President Morales said: “To eliminate work for boys and girls would be like eliminating people’s social conscience.” Some aspects of his arguments are true, but President Morales should also think that to let children work is also to deprive these kids of future, of their child condition, that is, of their right to be child.
Child labor creates and perpetuates poverty. The money that these children can bring to their parents will never solve their financial woes once and for all, and this situation only makes things worse because these kids will drop out of school and get married and have children who will follow the same steps as their father did, a vicious circle of poverty and misery very difficult to overcome.
Step by step, the parents of these children must be taught that their kids are not piggybanks. They must learn that they cannot enjoy the moment when conceiving their children without taking on responsibility for looking after and supporting them. Child labor is not something we can profit by. Bolivian government and society should find a way to face child labour more energetically rather than do things by halves that only ferment the problem. That is the only way we can see a smile on a Bolivian child’s face again.
This article was originally published in the digital newspaper World And Opinion with Eddy Montilla.
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