Friend of the month – June 2015

Have your say in June… Katheryn Mejía from Colombia!

Katheryn giving crayons to a little girl

“Children are the future and we need to protect them against child labor. We all can be stewards

By: Juliana Díaz, MBA.

This week is the World Day against Child Labor. Florverde® Sustainable Flowers standards prevents farms using forced labor or from employing workers under the age of 18.

Our friend of the month is Katheryn Mejía, Director of Social Responsibility of the Association of Colombian Flower Exporters (Asocolflores). We talked with her about this celebration.

Florverde® Sustainable Flowers: On the 12th of june the world will celebrate the World Day against Child Labor. How important is this celebration? 

Katheryn Mejía: One of the major problems of the XXI century is child labor. The ILO (International Labor Organization) says that there are 168 million children working in conditions of illegality in the world. The problem is not minor for Colombia. According to the Colombian Ministry of Labor there were 1,039,000 children working in conditions of illegality in 2014. Even Colombian floriculture prohibits child labor, we all need to become aware of this huge problem.

FSF®: What are the main threats for children when they are forced to work?

Katheryn: One of the reasons why children end up working is due to the need to help out financially at home. These children belong to low socioeconomic strata where child labor is not seen as a problem and society accept it, often disguised as collaboration. However, although the aim is to increase family income, child labor is directly related to extreme poverty, it takes children away from the opportunity to be educated and could give rise to physical and emotional injuries that prevent them from living their childhood.

FSF®What is Colombian Floriculture doing against child labor in Colombia? 

Katheryn: Over the last 10 years the flower industry has been working on its eradication through social responsibility programs focused on high-impact education and recreation.

Since December 2014, Asocolflores together with 13 companies joined the initiative of the Network Against Child Labor Colombia, a public-private partnership that seeks to contribute to the prevention and eradication of child labor and its worst forms in Colombian companies and their supply chains.

To date, there was 15 Asocolflores member companies, which have joined the initiative. It shows the commitment from the flower industry to contribute through its expertise and knowledge to other production industries, by drawing inspiration from the best practices of the Colombian floriculture, to prevent or combat child labor as do our producers and give the children opportunities to continue studying and let them be… children!

FSF®: Do you think Child Labor is only a problem from governments?

Katheryn: This is not only a problem of governments, but all of us as a society. It’s destroying our social fabric. Children are the future and we need to protect them against child labor. We all can be stewards by not being tolerant and helping parents to understand the magnitude of the problem.

FSF®What will be your message for all of us regarding Child Labor?

Katheryn: I would like to invite all readers to turn our gaze towards children and become active actors to combat child labor, which jeopardizes the entire society.

Is there any other ways to prevent children from forced work? we’d love to read your experiences!