WHEN the FIFA World Cup qualifier between Jamaica and Panama kicks off at the National Stadium this evening, 250 volunteers will hoist symbolic red cards as part of a global campaign against child labour.
The initiative, labelled 'Give the Red Card to Child Labour', is seeking to end child labour in its worst forms by 2016.
It mobilises communities and sports associations in vulnerable neighbourhoods around the world to empower girls, boys and youth to participate in the fight against child labour and encourages local sports initiatives to give a red card to exploiters of children's rights.
According to a release issued by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) yesterday, child labour is defined as work that stands in the way of children achieving their potential.
"It includes work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children and which interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school, obliging them to leave school prematurely, or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work," it said.
The ILO's 2010 Global Report on Child Labour estimates that there are over 215 million child labourers around the world. In Jamaica, the 2002 Statistical Institute of Jamaica's Youth Activity Survey estimated that over 16,000 children were involved in labour during the census week.
Also in Jamaica, child labour exists in both urban and rural settings, where it is both hazardous and culturally ingrained. In rural parts of the country, child labourers are typically employed in the farming sector, where they suffer from heavy lifting and handling of dangerous chemical substances.
"The struggle to fight the exploitation of children is now more important than ever if the goal of eliminating its worst forms is to be reached by 2016... It is imperative for Jamaica to reach the development objectives of Vision 2030 and the elimination of child labour represents an important vector in achieving that goal," the ILO said.
'Give the Red Card to Child Labour' is sponsored by the ILO, the European Commission and African, Caribbean and Pacific States, and has been endorsed by Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, FIFA International, the Jamaica Football Federation, the players and other stakeholders.
Supporters of the campaign include soccer legend and former Brazilian Minister of Sports Pele, other international personalities including Zidane, Roger Milla, Ronaldo, Rai, Sepp Blatter and Gilberto Gil. International political figures supporting the Red Card campaign include presidents, prime ministers and ministers of Brazil, Cameroon, Costa Rica, East Timor, Egypt, Mali and Peru.