WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor has announced a $5 million cooperative agreement to reduce child labor in rural Zambia among adolescent girls, ages 15-17, by increasing access to quality formal and non-formal education and training.
The agreement with Winrock International will provide direct educational assistance to 2,500 adolescent girls engaged in or at high risk of entering child labor. The four year EMPOWER project will also promote peer support, business and social networks for adolescent girls, with the goal of helping improve their prospects for securing decent work.
“Unleashing the potential of girls and young women around the world through education and access to opportunity is one of the greatest legacies we can leave for our children’s generation and the generations that follow,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “We must continue to break down barriers like education inequality in order to fully realize this potential and harness a future of shared global prosperity.”
Many rural households in Zambia are mired in poverty. Parents often have to choose which child to send to school, in many cases prioritizing their sons’ schooling over that of their daughters, leaving adolescent girls to work in the fields or as domestic servants. As a result, these girls have a lower social status in their communities, limited career opportunities and no way to end the cycle of illiteracy and poverty.
The department’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs announced the project on Oct. 11, 2016, to coincide with the International Day of the Girl, part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let Girls Learn” initiative. As the initiative’s newest partner, ILAB is directly supporting the goals of the initiative through three projects already funded in Ethiopia, Morocco and Paraguay; combined, these projects will provide over 12,000 adolescent girls between the ages 10-19, with educational and supportive services.
For more than 20 years, ILAB has been producing reports to raise awareness globally about child labor and forced labor. Since 1995, ILAB has also funded 290 projects in more than 90 countries to combat the worst forms of child labor and forced labor, in particular by building the capacity of governments to enact and enforce rights and protections for workers and by providing assistance to vulnerable children and their families.