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This Pre-Situational Analysis (PSA) report was conducted for the Reducing Incidence of Child labor andharmful conditions of work in Economic Strengthening initiatives (RICHES) project, funded in December 2017 by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor and Human Trafficking. The RICHES project aims to integrate the issues of child labor alleviation and acceptable conditions of work (ACW) into women’s economic empowerment (WEE) initiatives and make available a toolkit for policymakers, financial service providers, and others whose work supports women entrepreneurs.
The objective of the PSA was to better understand the intersection of child labor, working conditions for women, and WEE initiatives at a global level, as well as in the pilot countries of El Salvador and the Philippines, to inform the development of the toolkit, which will be pilot tested in the two countries, but whose intent is to be globally applicable. The PSA report summarizes the results of that analysis.
The PSA was carried out in two phases: 1) a desk review, and 2) in-country research, using a qualitative approach that was participatory in nature and that engaged different levels of actors at both the global and country levels including two pilot countries El Salvador and the Philippines.
The PSA was conducted by the RICHES project team that included staff and international and local consultants from ABA-ROLI and Grameen Foundation. The process was led by ABA-ROLI consultants, Chris Camillo and Deepa Ramesh (International Technical Experts), Vilma Guadalupe Portillo Cienfuegos (Local Technical Expert - El Salvador), and Vivian Escoton (Local Technical Expert - Philippines). Other members of the RICHES team that contributed to the PSA included: Amelia Kuklewicz, Project Director; Bobbi Gray, Research Director; Beverly Brul, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist; Nathalie Cornet, Project Manager; and other international and local staff.
During the course of the desk review, the RICHES project team reviewed approximately 400 research studies, papers, legislation, videos, and other documents. A series of targeted interviews were also conducted by phone and in-person with global and pilot-country stakeholders representing 36 organizations, including during the in-country research. In addition to the stakeholder interviews, the project conducted focus groups with women and men entrepreneurs (separated by gender) at various stages of business implementation, children (ages 11 to 17), and microfinance institution (MFI) field staff in El Salvador and the Philippines. The focus groups were conducted in both urban and rural communities, using a variety of tools designed to be participant-centered and reflective of best practices. The same focus group tools were used in both El Salvador and the Philippines to allow for comparisons both within and between the two countries.
After completion of the field visits, information from the desk review and in-country research was analyzed, compared, and contrasted to draw out similarities and differences between the global and country levels and between the two pilot countries.
This PSA report is the product of extensive research conducted over many months by the RICHES project, to inform the development of an adaptable and accessible toolkit for a wide range of actors that work in the areas of child labor, UACW, and women’s entrepreneurship (e.g., MFIs and NGOs through the provision of financial products and services) and where these issues intersect. As a result of our research, it is clear that significant long-term efforts are needed to address the problems that occur with this intersection, and that there are a number of different types of interventions that may prove helpful in this regard. First and foremost, it is evident that while there needs to be increased awareness of the intersection of child labor and UACW with WEE initiatives, for there to be meaningful change, stakeholders need to move beyond awareness to an acknowledgment and acceptance of the problem, and then commit the necessary time and resources to see returns and effect change. Furthermore, all stakeholders need to be willing to consider all perspectives and be inclusive when initiating and fostering dialogue and undertaking actions.
The previous section of this PSA report outlines a number of findings and recommendations that should be undertaken by WEE service providers, including MFIs, NGOs, and community organizations, as well as some recommendations for those who formulate and influence policy at local, national, and international levels. Drawing on these, the RICHES project team would like to highlight some key undertakings that should be prioritized.
As an initial step to address the intersection of child labor, UACW, and WEE, RICHES recommends capacity building to raise awareness and understanding of the intersection of child labor, UACW, and women’s entrepreneurship among WEE actors (including MFIs, as well as their certifiers, funders, international donors, national governments and local implementers) with the goal of inspiring them to take action. As a next step, we recommend taking measures to foster better communication and coordination among all actors involved in addressing this issue. This may require, for example, the modification of existing national coordination mechanisms addressing child labor and UACW to incorporate WEE stakeholders, or vice-versa, or the establishment of new coordination mechanisms so that this issue can be addressed efficiently and effectively.
WEE actors at the local level, including MFIs, should also: a) increase awareness of child labor and UACW among clients and their families; b) conduct risk assessments and monitor for child labor and UACW within client businesses; c) offer women-friendly financial products and services (e.g., flexible repayment schedules and loan terms, larger loans); and finally d) offers business development and support services to clients, such as personal and business financial management and planning, and crisis management and planning. This could include training and other resources (e.g., tools, equipment), networking, mentoring, etc. Additionally, we recommend WEE service providers explore ways to increase social protection for women entrepreneurs and their families and assist clients in determining how to address children’s educational and care needs as a part of business planning and the loan application process, as these services are critical for offering an alternative to women to engaging their children in work.
In addition to taking these steps, WEE service providers may also wish to consider other interventions that: a) foster intra-household and gender dialogue, including on issues of women’s rights so that families can communicate and work to address pressures they are facing together, and b) offer support services to families of WEE clients, such as access to savings groups for older children.
Particularly at this level, RICHES recommends that interventions address child labor and UACW in WEE initiatives are designed and implemented in a holistic and participatory manner to ensure that they are locally-owned and context-specific and of sufficient reach, depth, and breadth to be effective for a significant number of children and households within a community, to ensure a greater chance of longlasting change.
While RICHES has proposed many recommendations at the policy level, two should be implemented by policymakers as a priority. They include efforts to address poverty and barriers to education, the two most significant causes of child labor. To address these two issues, policymakers should: a) foster financial stability in households vulnerable to child Labor and UACW through the implementation of anti-poverty policies and programs; and b) improve access to quality education and training for children and youth at risk of or involved in child labor.
Other types of strategies that policymakers should implement to address factors that contribute to child labor and UACW in WEE include: supporting entrepreneurship and microfinance, particularly for women; improving the knowledge base on the intersection of child labor, UACW, and WEE, and fostering greater collaboration on this issue among policy level stakeholders; supporting labor and social protections for workers in the informal sector; improving the design and implementation of policies and programs to address child Labor and UACW; and strengthening policies, laws, and enforcement to better protect women and children from exploitation, discrimination, and violence.
Two pilot locations, El Salvador and the Philippines were visited during the PSA to complement information gathered during the desk review and to inform the development and future testing of the toolkit. For example, the visits confirmed the lack of awareness, understanding, and communication among key stakeholders at all levels about the intersection of child labor, UACW, and WEE. They also confirmed that the major causes and contributing factors to child labor and UACW in both countries are similar. However, field visits to El Salvador and the Philippines also found key differences in these countries’ institutional legal and policy frameworks for child labor, UACW, and WEE (for example, El Salvador has a legal minimum age for work of 14, while in the Philippines, the minimum age for work is 15); and other differences, such as cultural norms and gender roles (e.g. El Salvador as a patriarchal society vs. the Philippines as a matriarchal society) that affect how decisions are made in households, businesses, and communities. These similarities and differences are described in more detail in Section IV El Salvador: Child Labor, Education, Community Landscape and Women’s Entrepreneurship, and Section V The Philippines: Child Labor Education Community Landscape and Women’s Entrepreneurship of the PSA report, and in the case studies for both countries within Executive Summary and Section VI Findings and Recommendations. The similarities found during the desk review and in-country research suggest that there are elements of this problem that can be addressed effectively using a globally applicable toolkit, while the differences reinforce the idea that “context varies and so will solutions,” so the toolkit must be structured in a way that can be easily adapted to local circumstances and needs.
Implementation of the toolkit aims to spur a transformation in the delivery and development of WEE initiatives that will empower women entrepreneurs in developing nations to reach their full economic potential, while also ensuring the well-being of their families, workers, communities, and nations.
Furthermore, given the paucity of information regarding the intersection of child labor, UACW, and WEE, it is the hope of the RICHES team that this PSA report will help to inform and inspire actors to further study this confluence and to collaborate to bring about positive change. The PSA research and report tell us that the necessary interest, potential, and willingness for change exist at all levels to collaborate to bring about positive change.