The work of Iraqi children undermines their innocence…

The director of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) office in Iraq, Samar Abboud, said what she described as the phenomenon of child labor in Iraq “destroys the innocence of children, puts a heavy burden on them and exposes their lives to harm and danger.”

In an exclusive interview with “Arabi 21”, she called on the international community to pay attention to the problem of child labor in Iraq and to confront it with all available means, pointing out the importance of “collaborating with the Iraqi government to solve the root causes that still lead to dangerous practices child labor.”

While Abboud noted that “Iraq has made important achievements in protecting children’s rights under local law and in accordance with its international legal obligations,” she stressed that “the reality for many children across the country is very different from what they hope for, and we call on the Iraqi government to additionally ensure the implementation of laws that protect children from child labor.

Child labor is considered a violation of the rights of the child stipulated by the Geneva Declaration of 1924, a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, and Iraqi labor laws.

A few days ago, the world celebrated “International Children’s Day”, because every year November 20th marks the day when the General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of the Child in 1959 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.

The Assembly proposed that governments celebrate the day on a date each of them deems appropriate, as a global day of brotherhood and understanding among the children of the world, strengthening international interdependence, raising awareness among the children of the world and improving their well-being. being.

While many countries have chosen November 20 to mark this occasion, which began in 1990.

Below is the text of the exclusive interview for “Arabi 21”:

What are the reasons that have prompted some Iraqi families to rely on child labor?

The International Rescue Committee operates in communities in the provinces of Kirkuk, Salah al-Din, Mosul and Ninewa, providing support and services to people affected by the conflict in Iraq. We have noticed a slow economic recovery in some areas, such as Mosul and others. Families do not have access to the support they need to cover basic costs such as food, health and education. In some cases, families do not have civil documentation that would allow children to return to school; Without basic identification documents, children cannot enroll in school, and in cases where they attend classes without formal registration, they do not receive certificates that enable them to move through the evaluation system or obtain exam results.

In these cases, families do not have the opportunity to meet their basic needs, but their last option is to send their children to work, so that the income generated by child labor becomes necessary for families who struggle to put food on the table.

What are the risks of the high rate of child labor in Iraq?

Child labor simply robs them of their childhood, erodes their innocence, places a heavy burden on them and exposes their lives to harm and danger. When children work, they cannot go to school and face serious risks with long-term effects on their physical and mental health. In our recent statistical survey in East Mosul, 90% of caregivers reported having one or more children involved in work, while 85% of children said they did not feel safe in the workplace, did not live their innocent childhood and did not exercise their basic rights While all children rightly deserve a normal and safe childhood.

In 1994, Iraq signed the Convention on the Protection of Children. To what extent is this Convention applied in the field today? Are domestic laws sufficient to protect children’s rights?

Iraq has made significant achievements in protecting the rights of children under local law and in accordance with its international legal obligations. However, the implementation of these responsibilities can be strengthened at all levels from Baghdad to local governments to better protect children from abuses such as child labor or other, especially since the reality is very different from what is hoped for many Iraqi children, and we urge the Iraqi government to strengthen enforcement of its laws protecting children from labor and to put a special focus on registering children who have been without civil documents for more than five years since the end of the conflict.

How do you rate the government’s measures to solve the problem of child labor? Is full responsibility on the government?

The International Rescue Committee works with a number of partners such as the Iraqi government, community leaders and civil society partners to increase the implementation of legal protection for children. We know that protecting children is not only about local laws and policies, but also about mentalities and beliefs. Each individual has a role to play in promoting the safety and well-being of children, therefore the responsibility is shared by all parties and stakeholders.

And what about the role of the International Rescue Committee and other international non-governmental organizations in solving this dilemma?

The International Rescue Committee works at different levels to assess the damages children face and support solutions that allow them to live a safe and normal life. We work with governments, schools and carers.

Of course, there are also international non-governmental organizations that deal with this issue, but local non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations have a very important role, because they know best what is happening in their communities and regions, their experiences and analyzes of this problem are very important in protection work.

The International Rescue Committee has been working in Iraq since 2003, providing humanitarian aid and assistance to conflict-affected communities, and we currently work across Iraq providing multi-sectoral interventions to support internally displaced persons, returnees and host communities.

We also provide child protection services to vulnerable children and carers in Ninewa Governorate, for example, such as individual case management, psychosocial support, school enrollment support and referrals to positive parenting programs for carers.

In this regard, please note that the Child and Youth Protection Team in Iraq, affiliated to the International Rescue Committee, has provided a range of services to more than 18,000 people so far this year alone.

In your opinion, what is required of local and international authorities to deal with the phenomenon of child labor in Iraq?

The issue of child labor is linked to many factors, including slow economic recovery, especially post-COVID-19 and post-conflict, slow civil documentation processes and the lack of structures to support children in seeking a normal and safe life. All actors play an important role in strengthening the system of support and protection of children and helping families to get out of situations that lead them to use child labor.

At the International Rescue Committee, our integrated protection approach connects children and their families with economic support, legal support, aids and services to heal the trauma caused by harmful practices such as child labour.

We call on the international community to pay attention to the problem of child labor and the need to confront it with all available means, especially by increasing the scope of programs aimed at stopping the problem of child abuse in Iraq, as well as working with the Iraqi government to address the root causes that still lead to dangerous child labor practices.

How do you see the future of children in Iraq in the current circumstances?

Children are flexible. The International Rescue Committee works to promote a safe and healthy childhood for Iraqi children. Progress has been made on this issue since the end of the conflict was declared 5 years ago, but all stakeholders can do more to ensure that children are not harmed by child labor and have the resources they need to succeed in school, live healthy and happy lives, and hopefully is that all children have a future, a better, normal and safe life without burdens, risks and difficult conditions.

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