By continuing to browse this site, you agree to our use of cookies. Read our privacy policy

Fighting Child Labour in Asia: Terre des Hommes Netherlands and the Power of Partnerships

Author photo

by Bushra Zulfiqar
in partnership with TDH - Terre des Hommes Netherlands

According to the International Labour Organization, 160 million children across the world are involved in child labour, 40% of them live in Asia and the Pacific (62 million in absolute terms). These statistics are extremely troubling. What is even more disheartening is the state of the children behind these numbers; they lose their rights, dignity and the joy of just being a child.

Across many Asian countries, poverty is the most common root cause of child labour, where children are forced to work to make ends meet. Agriculture, mining, bonded labour and domestic work are prevalent forms of child labour in the region. The working conditions are miserable, with children as young as four being subjected to hazards, mental trauma, injury, and in some cases, even death. These sectors are characterised by unregulated suppliers and informal supply chains. This makes it difficult to identify cases of child labour and ensure the protection of children. 

No child should face exploitation. Every child deserves the right to flourish. Though the problem of child labour is highly daunting, a solution is certainly possible.

Photo provided by Terre des Hommes Netherlands. The paintings focus on child-led solutions to fight child labour in Asia - drawings by a child vulnerable to child labour.

At Terre des Hommes Netherlands, we tackle the worst forms of child labour at its roots. Unidirectional interventions that address issues only at the surface are not viable at all. It is very important to keep in mind that solutions need to be sustainable to be truly impactful. Moreover, viewing children as ‘agents of change’ rather than ‘passive beneficiaries’ is extremely important in creating a substantial impact in their lives. Terre des Hommes also believes that exploitation mainly exists because of imbalances in systems where some lags and gaps need to be fixed.

In our interventions, both globally and across Asia, we have witnessed success in co-creating solutions with children and community members. When children are sensitised on their rights and given the platform to advocate, we have seen them take the lead in reporting and monitoring cases of child labour, enrolling children at risk in school, and leading forums for child protection, thereby setting an example to the rest of their community. By giving the ownership of the projects to the people, they are more motivated to take themselves out of their problems. Families have increased their income and improved their socio-economic status through community-led livelihood activities. This has reduced the number of children at work and more children are in school today.

At Terre des Hommes Netherlands, we practise nurturing strategic accountable partnerships with different stakeholders in the ecosystem of the problem in concern, such as other civil society organisations, the government, law enforcement agencies, the private sector, research organisations and the media. Each effort is like a drop and together these drops from different sources form an ocean of possibilities which erode the hardest stone! Through our partnerships, we have been able to strengthen existing child protection systems and build improved response mechanisms, gradually addressing the gaps and lags. We have also worked towards better implementation of laws and formulation of effective policies concerning child labour. 

Everyone has a role to play in the fight against child labour in Asia. As an individual one can begin with small steps such as sharing content on social media, speaking up in family discussions, volunteering for an organisation or even filing a petition. The possibilities are countless and we need every hand on board to build a Child-Labour-Free Asia!


Read more about the work of Terre des Hommes Netherlands in Asia


About the author: 

Ms Bushra Zulfiqar is the Regional Director of Terre des Hommes Netherlands in Asia, a global child protection organisation. She oversees all operations in the region.

She brings with her almost two decades long work experience in international development and human rights, both at the policy-making and implementation levels in Asia and around the world. Bushra has worked in various senior management and leadership roles with the United Nations, the World Bank, and the UK Government Department for International Development as well as International NGOs.

Related articles

Show more articles