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Apr 12, 2018

Plan to Reduce Child Labour Unveiled but Will It Change Culture?

According to the International Labour Organization, “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. In its worst forms, it includes slavery and deliberate exploitation. Belize has been identified as one of six countries to participate in a project to help reduce the worst forms of child labour, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labour, Winrock International and partners Lawyers without Borders and Verité. Known as the Country Level Engagement and Assistance to Reduce Child Labour (CLEAR II) Project, it seeks to improve legislation, monitoring and enforcement and implementation of national plans of action on the issue. But at today’s launch in Belize City, Labour Minister Hugo Patt, citing his own experiences as a child in the sugar cane belt, said that while idle minds are the devil’s workshop, those responsible for the safety and well-being of our youngest must be careful not to go overboard.


Hugo Patt

Hugo Patt, Minister of Labour, Local Government and Rural Development

“We’re talking about having children, as was indicated earlier by one of the presenters, that we have children from seven to fourteen doing work out in the field, doing work in which they are exposed to agents that are harmful to them. Obviously, we have children that in many cases are working long hours. And so when we look at those kinds of situations that is where we have to address the issues. Certainly, we don’t expect, and I’m sure that we don’t have, a case where a mother or father having their children go to a farm and not go to school; certainly we don’t want to see a situation where we want to expose our children, right after school, going to do work that might seem hazardous, that might affect them.  I take my eldest son, he’s now sixteen, I take him to the fields. I have a son who is eight years old; I don’t expose him to that kind of work. As a father, we grew up in very harsh conditions so to say, but I cannot expose my children to tell them, ‘Unu wah lamp up fi di rest of the weekend and noh do nothing.’ Obviously that is not the case. For us, we grew up in an extended family; this is part of our tradition, this is part of our culture. Certainly, I will not expose my children to working long hours; they have to learn the work eventually. I grew up in an environment where my father and my mother used to tell me, ‘Son, it is not always the exercise book; it is not always the pen. You grew up where you had to use a machete. Never forget where you came up from.’ And that is how I am growing my children.”

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