In the news: A Human Rights Watch report has revealed that thousands of children in Indonesia work in dangerous conditions on tobacco plantations. The organization has called on the government to enforce the law more stringently.
Commentary by Riana Wulandari, Master’s student of Food Safety
‘Actually the problem of child labour on tobacco plantations and in large factories such Nike is getting better. The government is taking stricter and stricter measures and in some regions provides free education in national schools. But it is also partly thanks to NGOs which build schools and report companies that break the law that child labour is going down. The measures have ensured that about 63,000 children have stopped working and started going to school in the past eight years.
Many children work in order to support their parents financially. The government has funds and subsidies for those families so the children can go to school. Distance can still be a problem though. Although there are free schools, not everyone has physical access to them. Organizations try to send teachers out to remote areas.
So the Indonesian government is becoming stricter and stricter, but I don’t think international media realize that because the reporting on it isn’t in English.
A much bigger problem, if you ask Indonesians themselves, is the street children in the bity cities who are forced to beg or even resort to prostitution. They are under the control of a ‘begging coordinator”. It is easier to control large companies than street children. I come from Jakarta, where I see a lot of children on the streets. Poor people move to the city in the hope of better work, but they are often disappointed. I even came across children on the campus of the university where I did my degree. They were selling tissues, toilet paper and newspapers. The plus side was that we taught the children on the campus English and maths. That was a condition if they wanted us to buy their goods.’