[An article by Pirouz Hanachi, The Mayor of Tehran]
Designation of June 12 as the International Day for Elimination of Child Labor indicates the global willingness to support children and put an end to their exploitation and abuse. A society that remains indifferent towards the sufferings of its most vulnerable and sensitive member group will not practically experience solidarity, unity, participation and citizenship in other areas.
In Iran, many efforts have been made in recent years to put an end to child labor, but unfortunately there are still various forms of employment of children in various services, industrial and agricultural occupations across the country that need to be addressed.
Any effective measure to reduce and ultimately put an end to child labor must begin with intervention into the most difficult types of jobs. Among the various forms of child labor, the phenomenon of employing children in the process of searching into the waste and separating it is an example of child labor in hard and harmful jobs.
This criticism has always been directed over the years to urban management for not having provided adequate oversight to its contractors in this area, and thus has paved the way for child abuse. The final solution from the perspective of Tehran Municipality is to improve the pattern of waste collection in Tehran for which planning has been made and through its implementation, the phenomenon called “scavenging” will be radically eliminated. But until then, it is necessary to take serious measures to prevent misuse of children in the process of collecting and separating dry waste.
Based on a plan prepared by the office of deputy mayor for social and cultural affairs with the help of the office of deputy mayor for urban services, Waste Organization and Municipal Inspectorate Organization and participation of all stakeholders in the province and urban management, Tehran Municipality is ready to intensify its supervision over the performance of the recycling contractors and prevent using children in this sector and thus fulfill its legal responsibility in this regard.
In this plan, district mayors are responsible for dealing with contractors who use children in collecting dry waste. I also request my fellow citizens in Tehran to report any violations to the Hotline 137. In implementation of this plan, any violation against children is considered crossing the red line of Tehran Municipality, a phenomenon which should be ceased only through punishment of the violating contractors.
The work of children in the field of dry waste is not limited to mere scavenging but also working at other times of the day in garages and warehouses many of which are located outside the city of Tehran. Most of these children live in the same garages and pits, and their living conditions are very catastrophic and shocking.
The purpose of Tehran Municipality in getting involved in scavenging field and the prohibition of child labor is not merely to collect them from the city level and to ignore their conditions in garages and workshops. In fact, monitoring contractors and preventing child labor should also include garages and pits around Tehran, and success in enforcing this prohibition requires cooperation of other relevant institutions and bodies.
Another very important point is that mere enforcement of prohibition will not lead to an end to child labor or improving their living conditions. Since the main root of child labor lies in the poverty and livelihood of their families, providing supportive and social services to children will be a major part of this plan. Our main concern is that imposing restrictions in the area of waste will lead to more difficult jobs for children and actually worsen their condition. As a result, monitoring the situation of children and providing them with social services in cooperation with other government agencies, especially civil society organizations, should be done simultaneously with the implementation of the restriction. Tehran Municipality is ready to provide the necessary social and educational services to the best of its ability while taking into consideration the geographical areas under its responsibility.
Stepping on this path must be accompanied by careful consideration of all its possible consequences, especially for children and their families. In this regard, I call on all government agencies, civil society activists and child rights sympathizers to help us apply a new model of coping with child labor in the country; a model wherein instead of punishing the children, abusers are punished and, through offering welfare, educational and health services, the result of the intervention will be improvement of the standards of living of children and their families, regardless of citizenship and ethnicity.