Climate change has been a threat to rural families’ livelihood which depends entirely on rainfall to grow their crops. Drought and natural disasters are very often seen happen in Palai, a small village in Sekong province of Laos, where a 14-year-old Eurn Rajvong grows up and lives with her big family. There are ten members in Rajvong’s family. As one of the eldest daughters, Rajvong held a responsibility to support her parents earning more income at a young age. Through personal experience working as a child labourer, Rajvong now becomes a youth advocate raising awareness to eliminate child labour in her village.
Rajvong’s family owns a half hectare of land for growing coffee. Due to the drought, it was not fruitful at all for the last few years, and they could not afford to access to irrigations and buy fertilisers for their farm land. Her family suddenly faced a food shortage for five months.
“Since then, I had to work at other people’s rubber plantation or coffee farm everyday. Sometimes I was hired to clear the grass or harvest rice for them in the field. I had to make some money to buy rice to feed my family.” said the 14-year-old.
Her family was living in an old house with one latrine and they had to get access to the community water supply. Rajvong added that, “When there was heavy rain, I could not sleep and I was always late for school. I had no hope in continuing my education as other children in my village.”
Rajvong, like many other children in Palai village, ended her education as early as 3rd grade. The children started working at the plantation and rice field with their parents. The dramatic decrease in school enrollment and attendance became a concern for local authority, school principal and civic organizations that work in the area.
Terre des Hommes Netherlands’ local partner Vulnerable Youth Development Association (VYDA) identified Rajvong and having been supporting her through the Eliminating Worst Forms of Child Labour (WFCL) programme’s activities. She received training on child rights, child labour and technical skills in art mainly dancing, singing and moderating social event as master of ceremony. Most importantly, she was assisted to be re-enrolled in school.
I am very happy with my singing ability,” Rajvong proudly said, “My singing was even recorded, produced into an album and disseminated to raise awareness on the rights of children and the worst forms of child labour.
After receiving a series of trainings, Rajvong was selected to become a youth advocate in her village. By using child labour promotional materials (IEC), Rajvong led a team to organise a campaign at ten different schools in Thateng district to advocate other children to pay more attention to the causes and effects of selling labour at the rubber plantation and coffee farms.
She said, “There were thousands of students participated during the awareness raising event at these ten schools. It was the first big event that ever happened in my village.”
Helping children to raise their voice against child labour problem is a collaboration among key stakeholders to ensure a long-lasting impact. Therefore, parents, local authority and school principal have been informed by the children themselves and involved actively in the programmes’ activities eliminating child labour in their village.
I’m very pleased to see children are empowered to raise their voice against child labour problem in the village.I would like to congratulate Terre des Hommes Netherlands for the impact its programme making.
The obvious impact of the programme is the increase in school attendance, and the change in community people’s behavior toward child labour. Families and child protection committee prioritise children and protect them from any exploitation in the village. The children are now brave enough to express their opinion to their parents, teachers and their peers at school. I hope the project will scale up its activities to other villages.
I would like to extend my congratulation to Terre des Hommes Netherlands and VYDA for providing support and assistance to disadvantaged children. We hope the District Education and Sport Bureau in conjunction with Terre des Hommes Netherlands will scale up the project to the nearby villages in the future.
Crowd attended awareness raising event at school.
Eurn Rajvong at an awareness raising event.
Rajvong (left) worked as Master of Ceremony at one of awareness raising events.