By choice or by chance? Hazardous work for children in Myanmar

According to a workforce survey conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) over 600,000 child labourers in Myanmar are engaged in hazardous work, likely to harm their physical, mental or moral development. Over 1 million children are in labour and half of them are in hazardous work. That means nearly 7 per cent of children in Myanmar are losing their childhood, their dreams and their schooldays.

What do you think about when you think of Myanmar?

Before we go for the data and research about child labour in Myanmar, take a moment to think what comes to your mind when you think of Myanmar? Natural resources? Agriculture? Inadequate infrastructure? Poverty? Democracy? An oppressive military junta? Everything that comes into your mind might reflect the real situations in Myanmar. But one thing for sure is the transition and the change. When people in Myanmar focusing too much energy to change the government, policy, law and economic status of the country, they neglect the future of the country, the children.

If you have been to Myanmar, you might probably see different kinds of child labour on the streets, in the teashops or somewhere else. I have asked some random people on the street about how do they feel when they see children doing hazardous work (i.e. working 10-hour shifts or in bonded labour). Some said “I feel sorry for them”, “it is their fate”, “the children are supporting the family for the income”. Others even said “it is normal because they are poor”, “you will see more in peri-urban areas”… the list goes on.

The truth is that people have watched this over the years, and have started to believe it is the norm in Myanmar – and by proxy, they are neglecting these children, albeit unintentionally.

What will CLARISSA do in Myanmar?

In Myanmar, we are in a transition period. With the political changes happening after 50 years, we believe we need to generate evidence and knowledge to improve the lives of children in worst forms of child labour. In CLARISSA, we will work to generate innovation from the ground, which can sustainably improve the lives of children and their families by using participatory action research.

CLARISSA is being implemented in Myanmar by Terre des Hommes (Tdh). CLARISSA Myanmar will focus on the fisheries and waste industries in Myanmar – starting in the township of Hlaing Thar Yar, on the Western Edge of Yangon. The entry point for our work will be urban slums where there is a concentration of child labour and children working in worst forms of child labour.

We will explore the harmful social norms that continue to keep children engaged in hazardous work within the fisheries and waste industries. We will seek to understand the intricacies of the supply chain behind child labour, and the people that work within it, so we can begin to implement meaningful and sustainable changes.

And it will show evidence that large scale of participation really works.

June 5, 2020
Moe Hnin Phyu Myint Lwin