MOVEMENTS OF ORGANISED WORKING CHILDREN
Who are the Movements
The Working Children Movements have been active in Latin America, Africa and Asia since the 1970s. These local organisations are a fundamental, and often the only, instrument for protection and promotion of their rights.
The Movements have been promoting projects on the following lines of action: rights education, public education, health, recreation, participation and organisation. The principles that guide this process are the protagonism of children and adolescents, respect for rights, and a critical evaluation of work.
Terminology used by organised Working Children to identify themselves
Different terminology is used to identify organised Working Children, and it is linked to the various continental and local languages. We are going to mention only the main ones, despite the innumerable forms and dialects to be found in many areas of Africa and Asia. NATs (Niños y Adolescentes Trabajadores) is a Latin American acronym which translates into English as «child and adolescent workers». In English-speaking countries we use Working Children and in francophone countries EJT (Enfants et Jeunes Travailleurs).
Methods of organisation and action of the Movements
When analysing the Working Children Movements, we must look at their organisational structure and the pedagogical methods they employ to guarantee an impact through their activities. They are helping children become aware of their own rights and are constantly working to guarantee that they be respected by identifying alternative solutions to exploitation, abuse, discrimination and injustice.
Through their organisational processes, working children and adolescents come out of individual isolation, and start a process of reciprocal recognition as a social group. Through this principle, which is the basis of their collective identity, they start to meet to discuss their problems, to propose initiatives and organise a response. During this process, they are able to create a subjective public and political presence, reaching increasingly complex levels. Therefore, group identity is transformed into a capacity for mobilization and protagonism, from the local, national to international levels.
The term “Movement”, used to define the local groups and associations of working children and adolescents, alludes to a fundamental characteristic of organisation and action of these new social actors.
A social movement is a form of collective action that calls for solidarity that shares a common goal. Its members recognize each other as equals, as active citizens with the same problems, because they come from a given social sector. On the other hand, a movement indicates the existence of social conflict.
Organised Working Children and Adolescents ask to be recognised as Social Movements that work within society to guarantee working children’s rights, and those of children in general. They work on the local and national levels, without forgetting the essential opportunities that are provided by their organisation on the intercontinental and world levels, which is strengthening with time.
“Participation” is fundamental in the Movements’ initiatives. Working Children have organised themselves in a social movement that is struggling to recover full democratic rights for children and adolescents. This means that children and adolescents participate fully in their «own» organisations, in order to recover the full status of citizenship. For example, the Movements have a democratic process for electing both their delegates and their accompanying adults. Even the management and representation of the Working Children’s organisations (whether in the day to day local initiatives or in the wide horizon of international ones), is the responsibility of these delegates who represent their peers.
Organised working children and adolescents have been promoting the importance of participation for the past 30 years, even tough the large international agencies are only just now recognising its significance. It is the main tool to bring about consciousness-raising regarding their situation. The more complete term, “protagonism”, includes everything from exchanges on the social level, to the educational process of perceiving ones own possibilities and rights, to finding common solutions to improve living and working conditions for working children and children in general.
The Continental Movements move towards a world-wide dimension
On the international level, the Working Children Movements began to coordinate their efforts of solidarity and collaboration in 1996, in Kundapur meeting, India. There, 34 delegates of the three continents participated in drafting the 10 points summarising their common struggles and claims (see document: Kundapur Declaration), the first and foremost of which was that their voice be heard and taken into consideration in decisions that affect them directly.
The World Movement had faced and overcome many obstacles when they were able to meet again in 2002 in Milan. There they expressed the need to have a world meeting. They accomplished this goal in 2004, when 33 delegates from Africa, Asia and Latin America met for the 2nd World Meeting of Working Children Movements, in Berlin (see document: Berlin Declaration).
This process continued in 2005, when a small delegation of working children from the three continents was able to meet in Kundapur (India). During this preparatory meeting they defined the agenda and the main issues to be discussed during the 3rd World Meeting of Working Children Movements that took place in Siena in October, 2006 (See document: Siena Declaration).