The U.S. government has begun a competitive solicitation for a project on reducing child labor and improving labor rights and working conditions in Honduras , “particularly in the agricultural areas of southern Honduras and in the San Pedro Sula area.”
This is an extremely relevant project of $7 millions by the U.S. Department of Labor as child labor, and labor conditions in general, are particularly dire in Honduras.
Projects across Latin America
According to the Department of Labor (DoL), the project’s goal is to reduce child labor in part by “promoting education opportunities for children and improved livelihoods for their households.”
In addition, the project also aims to address exploitative working conditions and support freedom collective bargaining in the country. It is unclear whether applicants must plan to address both issues, or if they can solely focus on one.
The deadline to submit an application is this upcoming July 2nd, which should give interested parties, whether Honduran or international organizations, enough time to come up with viable projects that can improve labor conditions in this Central American country.
It should be noted that the DoL has a wide variety of aid projects to improve labor conditions in the Western Hemisphere. In other words, the DoL is not solely focused in the severely underdeveloped Honduras, but also in more prosperous regional states.
For example, the DoL is funding a project in Brazil and Peru which is being carried out by theInternational Labor Organization. The goal of this project, which runs from 2012 to 2016, is to strengthen efforts to combat forced labor in both countries.
As the DoL explains, in Brazil there are an estimated25,000 to 40,000 individualswho are victims of forced labor; and quite a lot of them are children. Meanwhile, in neighboring Peru, indigenous communities, especially those that live in the country’s Amazon region, are similarly vulnerable to forced labor.
In other words, whether it is the Latin American powerhouse Brazil, which will host the2014 FIFA World Cupthis June, or Peru, a rising star and member of thePacific Alliance, neither government has been successful in fully protecting its citizens, including children, from the perils of forced labor.
Child labor in Honduras
Throughout Latin America and the rest of the world, child labor continues to be an endemic problem of underdeveloped societies where government officials are unable, or sometimes unwilling, to combat this trend.
If Honduran governmental agencies are to be believed, the number of Honduran children that are forced to work is actually in decline. The Honduran media reported this past June 2013 that, according to data by the country’s National Institute of Statistics, child labor decreased from 377 thousand to 351 thousand. (It is unclear whether the 377 thousand estimates comes from 2012.)
Some children go to work in order to support their families and/or themselves, carrying out tasks such as domestic work or working menial jobs which includecleaning mausoleums. Some children are able to continue attending school during the day while working at night, though most are forced to leave their education permanently.
These children are not only crippling their own future, but Honduras in general as a new generation comes of age without proper education.
The positive side of the coin is that the suffering of Honduran children is not entirely ignored. In fact, there are several agencies that carry out effective work to aid and protect Honduran children.
For example,Casa Alianzais an organization that has offices in various Latin American countries and which works to protect children’s rights. The Honduras chapter of Casa Alianza provides shelter for homeless children and also helps those that are addicted to drugs.
Moreover, this entity has carried out important investigative reports, such as an insightful 2012 analysis of the status of Honduran children in the BajoAguan region.
As a corollary to this discussion, it should be noted that the Honduran government is planning to jumpstart its economy by creatingZones for Employment and Economic Development (ZEDE). Also known as “model cities,” these ZEDEs will be small cities with high degrees of autonomy, including their own judicial and economic systems. The first proposed ZEDE will beCholuteca, in Southern Honduras.
It is debatable to what extent these ZEDE-autonomous cities will help the Honduran economy in the short and medium term. Nevertheless the Honduran government is very confident about their success.
Ideally, Honduran children will not be invisible workers in ZEDEs, like they currently are across the country. Moreover, we can only hope that the lucky recipient of the DoL’s seven million grant will be successful, as thousands of Honduran children deserve a better life.