context: the Vale dos Sinos region in the Federal State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, is one of the principal centres of shoe production in the country. As much as 80 per cent of the shoes produced in the region are for export. The shoe industry in Vale dos Sinos is well known for its high incidence of child labour. It is common for manufacturers to give sub-contracts to workshops, which - in turn - sub-contract to small home-based informal industries. Research conducted in collaboration with the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul about the working conditions of children and their attendance at schools revealed that children can work up to ten hours daily in the home-based workshops and that only a very small percentage of them attend or remain in schools.
the project: since 1996, IPEC (the ILO Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour) has supported a project implemented by ASBEM, an NGO, aimed at preventing and eliminating child labour and providing alternatives for working children in two municipalities of Vales dos Sinos known for shoe manufacturing: Novo Hamburgo and Dois Irmãos.
objectives: ASBEM Pilot Project is aimed at
step-by-step: a Permanent Forum for the Elimination of Child Labour was established in the early stages of implementation of the project. This Forum is composed of local organisations, the Regional Office of the Ministry of Labour, employers' and workers' organisations and the municipal governments. IPEC has been supporting the strengthening of the Forum, which has been able to negotiate commitments from the shoe industry and municipal governments to take action against child labour.
- increasing the capacity and impact of local ‘fora’ in Vale dos Sinos to promote labour inspection, the withdrawal of children from shoe production, and their (re)insertion into formal schools or education centres;
- negotiating with the shoe industry in the region concerning a commitment to eliminate child labour in their production chain;
- withdrawing at least 120 children from working in the shoe industry in the municipalities of Novo Hamburgo and Dois Irmãos as an initial measure, to be subsequently extended to other municipalities and regions;
- mainstreaming (ex)working children in schools or education centres.
Finally, seminars and informal meetings with parents, employers and local authorities were held with the aim of motivating reflections on the child labour issue, fostering measures and establishing partnerships to prevent and eliminate child labour in the shoe industry of Vale dos Sinos. These meetings helped to create a wide awareness about the problem of child labour, sensitise parents and employers to the problem and mobilise communities and local authorities to take action against child labour.
- the shoe industry of Rio Grande do Sul has adopted a ‘Terms of Commitment’ on the elimination of child labour in its production chain and talks are being held to adopt a industry-wide ‘Code of Conduct’. In the municipality of Dois Irmãos the local government has taken its own initiative against child labour in the shoe industry by establishing an education centre for 300 children with the support of local enterprises. Similar initiatives are being taken by the local government in the municipality of Novo Hamburgo.
- 149 child workers were withdrawn from work in the municipalities of Novo Hamburgo and Dois Irmãos and provided with rehabilitation. Many of these children have been mainstreamed into special education centres that provide extra-curricular activities and other support services.
follow-up: an evaluation of this project is being carried out. The successful approaches of the project will be incorporated in the development and implementation of projects on the elimination of child labour in the shoe industry in other regions of Rio Grande do Sul as well as in other shoe producing states of Brazil.