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'We, the working children of the Third World, propose...'

[image, unknown]

The Right to Respect by Kadiatou of Conakry, Guinea

Working children are starting to organize all over the world to protect themselves from exploitation ­ but also from international action which they fear might deprive them of their livelihood. The most exploited child labourers of all ­ those most in need of protection ­ will never be able to organize or find a voice in this way and must never be forgotten. But it is still important to listen to the perspective of this burgeoning activist movement, which last November held its first international conference, with child delegates from 33 countries, in Kundapur, India ­ and formulated the following ten demands. The illustrations and poems are all by working children from West Africa, one of the regions where they are most organized.

1 We want recognition of our problems, our initiatives, proposals and our process of organization.

2 We are against the boycott of products made by children.

3 We want respect and security for ourselves and the work that we do.

4 We want an education system whose methodology and content are adapted to our reality.

5 We want professional training adapted to our reality and capabilities.

6 We want access to good healthcare for working children.

7 We want to be consulted on all decisions concerning us, at local, national or international level.

8 We want the root causes of our situation, primarily poverty, to be addressed and tackled.

9 We want more activity in rural areas so that children do not have to migrate to the cities.

10 We are against exploitation at work but we are for work with dignity, with hours adapted so that we have time for education and leisure.

In any conference we want representation on an equal basis (if there are 20 ministers present, we want 20 working children also to be present). We will have discussions with our ministers but we do not want them to represent us.

A letter from the street

Suffering and success are two sides of the same coin. If you enjoy success without having suffered, it is because others have suffered before you; and if you suffer without success, it is because others will succeed after you... A better life for working children for a better world.

Issa Koné, in the editorial from the November 1996 issue of A letter from the street, produced by children in Dakar, Senegal

drawing by Toffa of Cotonou, Benin

by Francis Toffa of Cotonou, Benin.

The lonely one

Just as the recluse of Ogaden
I lived for me and me alone
Like the eucalyptus plants of the Sahel
Battered and swayed by the caprices of the wind Like the donkey of Fez
Overburdened with weight
The red cock primed for sacrifice
The striped carp
Desperately seeking a way out
Caught in the nets of Lake Débo
I was what I was
I lived for me and me alone
But now that I have found the union of working children
I thank you Ladiya!
Moulaye Konaté, who attends the Ladiya Centre in Mopti, Mali

'I am a fruit of nature - I must preserve and value it'

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by Idrissa Goudiaby of Ziguinchor, Senegal.

Young daughter of Mali (excerpt)

It is through working that we gain our dignity
It nourishes our survival, our future
What will become of us without work?
A generation of parasites!
Working children,
let us take action in our work
and generate the hopes of future working children.
Working children,
let us persevere in the work we do,
for the future of our country, our environment,
our family and the people we are.
Rise up, working children,
walk hand in hand
and together we will build our future and toil
for the development of all our countries.
Georges Traoré and the working
children of Kayes, Mali

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