by Hanin Elholi
Child labour is one of the international cortical obstacles that put the life and the rights of children in danger. Looking at this challenge in the Palestinian context, the scale widens to include the Israeli Siege on Gaza.
While the global number of children in the work force (246 million) has fallen dramatically since 2000, child labour in Gaza has risen. Also, although child labor is a large-scale problem in the occupied Palestine , little action is being taken by humanitarian groups to stop it.
The Palestinian Bureau of Statistics reports that 28.5 per cent of the children who don’t attend school are engaged in child labour. Furthermore, the number of children less than 18 years old in 2016, is about 2,207,535 children in Palestine. It said 2,900 of those children are below the legal employment age of 15. According to the Defense for Children, 4 .5% of the total number of children aged 10-17 years, were working with or without pay in 2015. That number is 2.8% in Gaza Strip.
The Israeli occupation with its continued siege, includes 3 devastating attacks against the Palestinian people in Gaza, which plays a significant role in the increasing numbers of working children.
Ali, is a 12-year-old child from Al Shajaia, whom I always see sitting behind the University gate. I was curious to know why he is not going to school like the other children at his age. At the beginning, he was hesitant to open but then he gradually started to answer me. He said that he is the oldest son to his parents and his father was injured in the last Zionist attack in 2014. His father was disabled and he no longer can work. Ali concluded that his family’s economic condition started to get worse and worse, especially after his mother gave birth to twins. His parents used to value education and encourage him to get high marks. However, this changed and the major aim of the family now is to survive from the ghost of poverty.
About his dreams, he said, “I want to have some time to play with the children in my age. I want to complete my education and be an engineer.”
Child labor is not only threatening child education, but also physical and mental health. Children may face serious heath illnesses while doing exhausting work for long hours, especially in the severe cold or hot weather.
Another child whose name is Mohammed, said that one day while he was selling chocolates and walking among the cars in the street, he suddenly found himself in front of a large car which hit him in an accident. He was about to lose his leg.
He said; ” I was frightened to death after that accident and asked my mother to let me stop working. After I thought of it a bit, I realized that my mother and my siblings depend a lot on my work. I couldn’t help it. I continued. “
Another child who is selling sage in the market said to me that many other vendors and people abuse him verbally but he continues to sell because he has no choice.
In brief, child labor is work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and interferes with their education. Moreover, one can clearly notice that the barbaric actions of the Zionist entity including imposing the siege for more than 11 years, closing the borders, and targeting the factories, farmers, and fishermen, lead to serious problems such as poverty and unemployment which in turn lead to child labor.
What can a Palestinian do when the international law itself is helpless?
Hanin Elholi is an OPTV contributor and writer from Gaza