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Mexico Rolls Out Programs to Tackle Child Labor in the Garment Supply Chain

Three nonprofits are launching programs to prevent and eradicate child labor in Mexico’s fashion supply chain.

World Vision Mexico, a Christian aid organization, and C&A Foundation, the philanthropic arm of European clothing chain C&A, will be rolling out the two-year initiative in six communities across Tehuacán in the state of Puebla, a region known as much for denim production as for its high degree of social inequality. More than 59 percent of Puebla’s population lives in poverty, according to the Mexican Secretariat of Social Welfare.

“Tehuacán is an area with a high rate of violence, and other situations where the human rights of children, adolescents and adults are being violated have also been identified, such as human trafficking and child labor,” Oscar Castillo, director of World Vision Mexico’s Campos de Esperanza (Fields of Hope) project, said in a statement. “We’ve been privy to information that child labor is prevalent among providers in the textile industries.”

The project will feature a “comprehensive approach” that includes training on how to conduct detection sessions, keep children and adolescents in school, create public awareness campaigns at the community level and ally with representatives from the National Chamber of the Clothing Industry, the State of Puebla Chamber of Commerce and members of civil society.

“Community leaders are essential for promoting community participation in these initiatives,” Ismael Solis, World Vision Mexico’s regional manager in the states of Puebla, Oaxaca and Veracruz, said. “That’s why we always reach consensus with them to figure out what the best way of tackling this problem is, according to its context and to their experience, interests and expectations.”

To that end, World Vision Mexico and C&A Foundation will also be working with representatives from the State of Puebla Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare; the National System for Integral Family Development; the Office of the State Attorney General for the Protection of Boys, Girls, and Adolescents; and the National Comprehensive Child Protection System to revise protocols on researching child labor in the region and craft more effective strategies for protecting children’s rights “in the state of Puebla and beyond.”

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Interventions through the program are expected to have a direct effect on 500 children and an indirect one on 2,000 more.

“From our previous experiences, [however,] we’ve noted that you can reach more communities by entering into alliances with other schools and with the senior leadership of nearby municipalities,” Solis said. “That’s why we’ve also entered into discussions with certain representatives from the local authorities.”

C&A Foundation is also backing efforts by the United Nations-affiliated International Organization for Migration (IOM) to tackle human trafficking and forced labor (including child labor) in Puebla.

IOM’s partners, which include many of the aforementioned organizations, along with the National Association against Human Trafficking in Society, the Business Coordinating Council and members of the Confederation of Mexican Employers in Puebla, will participate in three interagency work groups this year with the goal of drafting an annual work plan.

This document, according to IOM, will include specific actions to be taken by civil society and the public and private sectors in Puebla to prevent and detect human trafficking for the purposes of labor exploitation, to assist the victims of trafficking and to learn about best practices for mitigating the issue.

“In light of the problem of human trafficking in Mexico, IOM is facing this challenge by fostering linkages between the public and private sectors to establish coordination mechanisms aimed at creating action that will help provide assistance and social integration to the victims of human trafficking,” Christopher Gascon, chief of mission for IOM in Mexico, said in a statement.