Quito (Fides Agency) – The phenomenon of child labor in Ecuador has the face of a million working children, 18% of the economically active population. In a country where 54% of the population is in the grip of poverty, child labor to support the family takes on different connotations: 67% is in the agricultural sector, 15% in commerce, and the remaining 18%, in the tertiary sector, crafts, and domestic work.
An articulate response to this situation comes from the Latin American country projects initiated by the Salesians and the Jesuits, who have long cared for thousands of working children. These topics were discussed on March 25-2010, at the Salesian Polytechnic University in Quito, during the presentation of the study “On Children’s Rights: Different Views on Child Labor, Exploitation, and Citizenship Rights of Children and Adolescents in Ecuador, ” presented by Cristiano Morsolin, an expert from the Latin American Observatory SELVAS, which has been working since 2001 on international cooperation projects in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Brazil.
Among the examples cited by the study, he noted the initiative of the American Jesuit Fr. John Halligan, who 46 years ago founded the Young Worker’s Center, offering an opportunity for dignity to 25,000 people in only half a century. Each year, 1,200 underage workers are trained through professional courses in industrial mechanics, carpentry, bakery, and cosmetic laboratories, sewing and tailoring for girls, in addition to the daily accompaniment of some 800 parents who support the soup kitchen, and volunteer work on Sundays to help to build houses for the families who migrate from the Andes to the city.
The results are satisfactory, considering that 42% of children entering the center have not completed primary school, 85% finish elementary school or middle school once entered training, and 64% continue to study after finishing their training at the Center.
Along the same lines of fighting against exploitation and promoting rights, as well as enhancing the identity and subjectivity of the young worker, there is the Salesian project that has 30 years of history, accompanying the growth of some 8,000 children/adolescents each year. Situated in the rural context of Ambato, the Salesian project operates a large farm as a learning area, educating parents not to mistreat their children. In the industrial metropolis of Guayaquil, the project especially aims at street children, prevention and management of addiction, while in cities such as Esmeraldas, the predominant issue is that of youth of African descent. There is a strong commitment there from Bishop Eugenia Arellano, helping promote the integration of “pandillas,” gangs of youth, into the social fabric.
In large cities such as Cuenca, there are shelters established as an alternative to the street, as well as training workshops with the support of the Salesian University, outdoor theater performances and marches to raise awareness in society on the rights of youth to a work with dignity, as recognized by the new Constitution of Bolivia, which in Article 61 permits work for boys, girls, and adolescents in the family environment and in the country.
AMERICA/ECUADOR – Thousands of child and adolescent workers receive aid from Salesian and Jesuit initiatives
LINK; Salesians United Nations Office in New York: