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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs Grants Funds to West Africa – But What About the Children in the U.S.?

Zulema Lopez, one of the three farmworker children featured in the film, The Harvest.Most recently, a grant of $12 million provided by U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs to West Africa. The purpose of this grant is to help reduce child labor in the cocoa industry of Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana. The grants are intended to fund projects that will ensure children in Côte d'Ivoire receive quality education, learn marketable skills, and employ at safe and age-appropriate jobs. Furthermore, a portion of the funds will aid efforts to empower local communities to take initiative in developing an action plan and bring awareness of child labor in cocoa growing areas. More information about this grant can be found on the U.S. Department of Labor website.

Although the idea sounds promising to this particular community, it is important to recognize that child labor is occurring in the United States. While the U.S. department of Labor acknowledges the issue of child labor in other countries, it also continues to neglect the thousands of children working U.S agricultural industries. According to the National Center for Farmworker Health, INC., it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of children under the age of 18 work in the farms picking the fruits and vegetables that support the multi-billion dollar agricultural industry in the United States. Shockingly enough, children are allowed to work in agricultural as early as age 7 for a few hours, and usually by age 12 they are out of school.

Can you imagine a 7 year old carrying buckets of sweet potatoes across the fields to simply be paid a few dollars a day? I ask myself how is it possible that while children in the U.S. continue to work in hazardous work conditions that my country is focused on funding projects that try to stop this in other countries? Friends please imagine a child you may know and picture them working in the fields, exposed to heat, pesticides, hazardous machinery, and most importantly, deprived of their childhood while our government allows it. 


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