Child Labour in the cotton fields in Uzbekistan
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The choice of this particular topic derives from my personal experience as I had a chance to be appointed as one of the students’ delegates for sessions of UN Human Rights Council and Committee on the Rights of the Child. During these two meetings I got familiar with the case. Initially, I found Uzbekistan as a post-soviet state, strongly willing to meet for international standards. A statement delivered by Uzbek Chairman of the National Human Rights Centre at High Level Segment of the 22nd Session of the UN HRC that I had a chance to hear, delineated the case and left me with intense feelings. Three months later I came back to Geneva to observe an examination of the Uzbek State Delegation by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. An enormity of questions considering child labour in the cotton fields from CRC side and resolute negations from the State persuaded me to conduct further research on this particular topic.
Regarding potentials, it is due to gain ratification of some of the ILO Conventions - it could be a sign of Uzbek intentions to comply with international standards. Although I am fully aware that my attitude might be perceived as idealistic, but personally I appreciate any action that could cause a decrease of suffering of any child. Simultaneously, I submit it to critical review. Firstly, it lacks mechanisms for effective enforcement of the plan of the State. Next to the assurances of the Uzbek authorities appear independent voices that the child labour is still a common practice. The Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, that is coordinating the plan, misses some points. Admittedly, children from big cities do not rather experience work in the cotton industry anymore, but disproportion between them and children from country-side still exists. It is not a great challenge to force a ban on child labour regarding big cities, it would be laborious to help children from areas where cotton industry is a daily practice. Secondly, in my opinion, the problem is not comprehensively solved. The ban on child labour in the cotton fields reiterated by Uzbekistan’s Prime Minister does not anticipate situation when teachers, who are assigned to work in the cotton fields, simply have not got a possibility to teach at schools. It entails lack of proper education conditions; class rooms are over-crowded, children on different levels of education need to stay in one class and one teacher could not pay enough attention to every pupil.
Speaking shortly, it is appreciated, that Uzbekistan gives a try to solve child labour problem. On the other hand, the steps that have been already taken are not sufficient and well-thought. There is a need for change in much more areas of the state than just a simple ban of child labour. The change requires much wider actions to create perfect conditions for the living and growing up in respect for a great but simple and universal message “the best interest of the child”.
Martyna Wanat, 22, Poland