Critical training to better protect, support, and heal vulnerable children


series: Protecting the Children by Wayne Bleier


There's two kinds of child labor: there's child labor and then there's worse forms of child labor, which is in the ILO convention--International Labor Organization. This is important because most countries have signed this convention.

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They forbid children working in hazardous environments such as being child soldiers, prostitution, lifting heavy loads, working in unsafe environments, working with chemicals, carrying drugs, doing construction at a young age, and carrying heavy things like you see in the camp.

I like to say that you have to find out why the child is working because they might be working to support their family. Maybe they have a grandmother that can't go out on her own. Maybe they have a disabled parents.

In that situation, you're not going to prevent that child from working, but you can reduce the risk to that child through using what we call "harm reduction"--by minimizing the risk. That might entail providing protective clothing, making sure the child can go to school and work, and talking with the employer to allow the child to go to school. It could also mean helping the child find a safer job. It could also mean providing psychosocial services at the place where the children are working.

We can minimize the risk to children. We can't say we can't stop child labor because sometimes children need to work to support their family. But, it's our role to make sure that their rights are met--that they have development rights, they're going to school, they're getting the psychosocial support they need, they're not doing dangerous work to risk their survival, and they're not being exploited.

Many times children are underpaid or not paid. So, that's the other thing we need to work at. We also need to ask their opinion. We can't tell them not to do it. We have to understand why they're doing it and how we can...what help they would like.


Wayne Bleier

Wayne is a trained child and family therapist with over 25 years of experience supervising and implementing CP programs overseas in Former -Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Rep of Congo, Indonesia, East Timor, Afghanistan, Liberia, Sri Lanka, South Sudan, Uganda, Lebanon, and Bangladesh. During this time he worked with Mike Wessells at Columbia University.

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He has worked for IRC, Save the Children UK, Child Fund International, War Child UK and UNICEF. Wayne holds an MSW degree from the University of Washington. Currently he holds the position of Child Protection Manger and Case Management Specialist for DRC's program working in the Rohingya emergency in Bangladesh.


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