More than 100 countries and 1,000 organizations joined together this past January to raise awareness of child labor abuse in a “Global March Against Child Labor.” The march began in the Philippines and has since traveled across Asia, Africa, Europe, and the United States. The march will end in Washington, D.C. today. Representatives from the march will then travel to Geneva, Switzerland, where they will ask the International Labor Organization to ban the cruel and exploitative use of children’s labor.
Two events will mark the end of the march, including a “Teach-In on Child Labor” forum that will feature panel discussions of labor officials, business officials, academics, and 100 D.C.-area school children. Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Assistant to the President Gene Sperling, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor John Shattuck, and ILO Assistant Director General Ali Taqi are scheduled to speak.
Participants will later meet at Memorial Tree Park to “send-off” those marchers who will continue to Geneva. Speakers will include U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, UNITE President Jay Mazur, Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, Kathie Lee Gifford, and former child laborers from Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Kennedy Cuomo, founder of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, said of the 250 million child laborers worldwide, “They harvest our food, serve us our daily bread, sew our clothes, and cobble our shoes. They are virtual slaves, often working 14 hours a day, seven days a week ….They are universally refused access to education ….This is unacceptable. We can do better and we must.”
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