The People's Community Network says most children are working in garages, washing cars, and selling coconuts and roti parcels to earn a living.
Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Speaker: Ahmed Ali, People's Community Network, Fiji
ALI: Actually this was a pilot program with the ILO's tackle program and we were tasked with identifying 250 was our target. We've managed to identify a little over 200, so we believe from our internalised investigations and internal research that the problem is bigger in the western parts of Fiji, due to the recent cyclones and floods that area has faced.
COUTTS: So the poorer part of Fiji where the expectation would be that there would be a high number of children in child labour, is that what you're saying?
ALI: Yes, that's right.
COUTTS: All right. Now, why, and what will happen to these children now they've been identified?
ALI: Well, this has been a two year pilot program, we've identified them and tried to put them back into formal education or provide them with the training and skilled qualifications so that they can find gainful employment. And we're dealing with children 17 years and under, so we've actually put some of them back into school or provided them with training, so that they can find better paid jobs.
COUTTS: And were these children all in jobs, like we've identified, selling roti and car washing and things like that. They're not on the streets begging or in prostitution?
ALI: We did not have the capacity to deal with issues of prostitution, that was another part of the program that Save the Children Fiji dealt with and it was ILO, so SEASEC was not really under our how do you say, really under our ....?
COUTTS: Jurisdiction, yeah. You said that the children were 17 years and under. How young were some of the children that you discovered, found in this child labour sector?
ALI: We found children who were selling roti parcels on streets as young as six years-old, seven. They're also coming to communities selling fruits and vegetables, 8 year-old young boys and girls on the they're own. So it is quite a concern for us that there are quite a few young children doing this.
COUTTS: And these 200 children, was it full time or part time labour. Were some of them doing it after or before school?
ALI: Some of them they were doing it after school, but more the issue is that they're doing it maybe three or four times a week during school and missing out on school. So as much as it is after or before school, it's also during school hours when they need to earn an income for themselves to actually pay to go to school.
COUTTS: Putting these children back to school, identifying them and putting them back into school. How much of a deficit does that create for the family income?
ALI: It is a bit of a loss for the family income, so another aspect of the program was to try and identify skills programs for the parents, so they could learn new skills and earn an income as well. So we've done training such as weaving, and sewing skills, so that the mothers and fathers could replace the income that they're children were earning.
And we're also trying to work with the government in trying to provide a market for the products that they make.
COUTTS: If there is poverty to this extent, these 200 children are required to go out to work. Did you also look at their health? Are they malnourished, are they getting enough to eat and the hygiene standards, health standards?
ALI: In terms of malnourishment, the children on our scale are not malnourished. They're well fed as far being in poverty as good as you can eat. In terms of hygiene, there living in squatter settlements, so hygiene is a big issue for us as well. So we're trying to deal with those issues separately.
COUTTS: And what about the squatter settlements themselves. Has anything been done to improve them or to find more permanent housing?
ALI: Yes we have a separate housing scheme for squatter settlements and I think we're involved with the Ministry of Labour in terms of the children who are involved with child labour and the government also has a local housing unit that is looking at squatter settlement as well.
COUTTS: All right. And is there a Part 2 to this study, will there be a follow up?
ALI: It's a pilot program as I mentioned and yes we were mandated to continue the program after our funding has stopped. But at the moment, funding is an issue for any organisation like ours. And at the moment, we're working with government to try and provide scholarships for these children, but we're also looking for outside funding, which is a bit of an issue for us the moment.