Pilares: Building the Capacity of Civil Society to Combat Child Labor and Improve Working Conditions in Colombia

Project Duration
December 2017
October 2023
Funding and Year

The Pilares project is supporting civil society organizations in Colombia to more effectively detect and combat child labor and unacceptable working conditions in artisanal and small-scale mines. Pilares forms networks of civil society organizations and empowers local communities to build grassroots movements. Collectively, these movements or networks are improving working conditions and reducing the risk that children will be used in this harmful work.

The Problem

Most artisanal and small-scale gold mines in Colombia lack land titles and fail to comply with labor and mining regulations, such as occupational safety and health standards and the use of child labor. Children who do work in these mines face harsh working conditions that rob them of their childhoods. Some get injured breaking rocks, digging in the dirt with picks, or lifting heavy loads. Many get sick from exposure to the mercury used in processing gold, and few find opportunities to get an education or better their lives. While Colombia’s Integrated Registration and Information System for Child Labor reports 5,000 cases of children working in or near mines and quarries, there are no truly accurate data on the extent of child labor due to the informality of this sector.

Our Strategy

The project seeks to strengthen local civil society organizations so they can better combat child labor and improve working conditions in artisanal and small-scale gold mines. To achieve this, the project has helped to form networks of civil society organizations in four municipalities of the Departments of Antioquia and Bolívar. These networks have piloted tools to detect, document, and report cases of child labor and unacceptable working conditions, including in the gold mining supply chain. Through these networks, civil society organizations have increased their collective advocacy around these issues and stepped up their involvement in the implementation of policies to combat child labor and unacceptable working conditions in this sector. In addition, the project has worked with civil society organizations and others to help develop processes and solutions around these issues using Colombia’s roadmap to address child labor in mining communities, which was developed under ILAB’s Somos Tesoro project.

View the Joining the Pilares project’s network video.


(as of March 2021)

  • In partnership with 57 civil society organizations, the Pilares project formed three solidarity networks that include miners, women, afro-descendants, indigenous people and youth. Thanks to project trainings, more than 970 civil society actors and 250 government officials in the networks now have the skills to identify, document, raise awareness about and address child labor and other unacceptable working conditions in artisanal and small-scale mining.   
  • The Pilares project created two online child labor reporting mechanisms in the Sur de Bolivar and Bajo Cauca regions. They are key tools in the fight to monitor and combat child labor in Colombia’s mining sector, particularly in the gold mining supply chain. To date, six reports have been created and shared with eight government institutions that oversee mining or family and child services. The reports describe the child labor context in each municipality and offer recommendations on how to address the issues.
Implementing Partners:
Alliance for Responsible Mining
Contact Information:
GlobalKids@ILAB.dol.gov / Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking (OCFT)
Child Labor
Artisanal Gold Mining
Capacity Building
Supply Chains