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Children leave work, return to school and gain access to safe spaces through ILO project in Jordan

Through the establishment of local committees and centres across Jordan, the ILO has been addressing child labour in the country’s agricultural sector. It supported communities and families to send hundreds of Jordanians and Syrian refugee children back to school, and provided them with access to support services.

Feature | 12 June 2023

MAFRAQ, JORDAN VALLEY, Jordan (ILO News) – An ILO project in Jordan has supported 450 children to leave work in the agricultural sector, return to school and access local centres where they attend art and self-defence classes, while also receiving psychosocial support and case management services along with their families.

Over the past year, the ILO, under the PROSPECTS programme with funding by the Kingdom of the Netherlands, has helped establish local committees in four geographical areas across the country to tackle child labour issues.

The task of the committees is to cooperate with families through awareness-raising campaigns. They also identify child labour cases and refer them to the management services providers.

The committees include members from the Education, and Local Development Ministries, local associations, farmers and agricultural workers.

“The fight against child labour is at the core of the ILO’s mandate and one of its fundamental principles,” said Shaza Al Jondi, ILO PROSPECTS Chief Technical Advisor for Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. “In Jordan, the ILO’s work to address child labour, including its case management services intervention, is part of the agency’s broader efforts to promote decent work in the agricultural sector.”

Jordan signed both ILO Conventions on child labour, namely Convention No.138 on Minimum Age and Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. These Conventions are considered “fundamental”. This means that, under the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work , all ILO member States have an obligation to respect, promote and realize the abolition of child labour.

Projects have been running in Al-Dhulail, Al Mafraq, and in the northern Jordan valley. Here, agriculture is among the largest economic activities for the Jordanians, Syrians and seasonal workers residing in these areas.

This project adopts a 360-degree approach, further referring the children’s family members to other ILO’s initiatives, including the agency’s employment and skills training services.

“We are working on the matter following an integrated approach,” said Al Jondi. “Financial problems are huge here, forcing families to send their children to work on the job market, as they are also unaware of how important education is. In collaboration with our partners and the work of the local committees, we’ve managed to send children working on farms back to school to attend their basic education.”

The ILO-led intervention is also addressing the issue from a legal perspective, focusing on laws and regulations aimed at reducing child labour in the agricultural sector.

At the same time, members of the committees are working on the ground to change the views of local families concerning the employment of their children in local farms.

“The role of the committee is extremely important,” said Fatima Al-Issa, local committee member and school mentor. “We keep working with those families who would probably prefer sending their children back to work if we stopped cooperating with them. If we weren’t doing awareness sessions, parents’ meetings, and conducting individual interviews, more conservative families would rather send their children to work in the agricultural sector than to school.”

Jordanian and Syrian children, as well as children of migrant workers, have so far benefitted from the project, which also includes the provision of transportation services to and from local schools, school kits, and entertainment and psychosocial support activities in local centres run by local partners.

A self-defence course has become one of the favourite activities among those offered. Self-defence classes empower children by teaching them techniques to protect themselves and providing them with a sense of confidence. They emphasise situational awareness, teaching children to recognise signs of potential danger and take proactive measures to avoid or mitigate risky situations. By being aware of their surroundings, children can reduce their vulnerability to harassment or assault.

Educational art classes are also available at local community centres. Such activities are set to help children better understand their feelings and behaviour through a positive and effective approach, enabling them to express themselves.

Noor Muhammad Al-Ali, 14, is a Syrian girl living in the outskirts of the Jordanian city of Mafraq. She used to work in the farm where she still resides with her parents and siblings. Her family fled to Jordan amid their country’s conflict. Once in Jordan, they started working in the agricultural sector to try to make ends meet and start a new life.

“What could I want more than going to school and learning? These are the best things in life,” she said. “. I used to work when I was twelve. When someone would see me in the fields and ask me what I was doing there, I would feel ashamed to answer that I worked there.”

Noor has now returned to school. She also learned how to paint with sand in the local centre she is currently attending.

“My favourite subjects are psychological support and self-defence classes,” she said.
“We live in a farm in a rural area, and I walk to school, and I might face safety risks. So, of course I need to know how to protect myself in case I face any danger.”

Today, her biggest dreams are to leave the farm, live in a proper house and become a successful pharmacist.

Jordanian Baraa Abu Baidar, 16, also used to work in a local farm in the Jordan Valley, picking grape leaf, but then stopped after joining the centre, and returned to school.

“I love going to school and I love Arabic and physics classes,” said Baraa. “Physics was hard, but then it became easy for me after joining the centre where I also learnt how to study.”

She has now a mission set clear in her future.

“I dream of becoming a teacher and educating children, so that they can learn
and not suffer like I did in my educational career. They shouldn’t work in a farm. They must learn instead,” she said.