The influx of over a million registered Syrian Refugees – half of whom are children – since 2011 has caused a huge increase in child labour in Lebanon, with many desperate refugee families sending their children to work to make ends meet.
Lebanon’s agricultural sector in particular is now rife with child labour, especially in the eastern Beqaa valley and northern Lebanon. Many of the children working in these regions are engaged in some of the worst, most hazardous forms of child labour. They are exposed to such hazards as toxic substances and dangerous machinery, while physical strain and repetitive movements can deform bones and injure ligaments and muscles, causing life-long disabilities. Agriculture is one of the three most dangerous sectors in terms of work-related fatalities, non-fatal accidents and occupational diseases, irrespective of the age of the worker.
In response to the increasing prevalence of child labour in Lebanon’s agriculture sector, the ILO initiated a meeting with representatives from UNICEF, FAO, Lebanon’s Ministry of Agriculture, chambers of commerce and agriculture, Lebanon’s National Committee against Child Labour, and other social partners and civil society groups.
The meeting resulted in a decision to develop capacity building programmes and activities in a number of agricultural regions in Lebanon. It was also decided that, within these programmes, the ILO will provide capacity building guidance on protecting older children working in agriculture, while UNICEF will facilitate direct protection for all the targeted working children, as well as guidance on providing families of the younger children with alternatives to child labour.
As a first step in implementing the capacity-building initiative, the ILO held a three-day “training of trainers” – or TOT – workshop for practitioners in Lebanon working to combat child labour in agriculture and to improve the working conditions of those children who are of legal minimum working age. The event was the first such TOT workshop in the region to incorporate especially-developed training materials in Arabic.
The three-day workshop took place at the American University of Beirut Agricultural School in Lebanon’s Beqaa valley, between 18 and 20 August, 2015. It was held under the patronage of Lebanon’s Minister of Labour, an active supporter of ILO action on child labour.
The workshop was also unique because it took place on agricultural land in the Beqaa valley, an area where some of the worst forms of child labour are found. During field trips to farms, workshop participants witnessed first-hand some of the occupational hazards to which children working in agriculture are exposed.
The training was based on materials developed by the ILO’s International Training Centre in Turin, Italy, which provide theoretical and practical instruction on strategies, policies and programmes to combat child labour in agriculture.