To have ‘agency’ means being able to take decisions or actions independently in order to influence a certain outcome. External factors, such as other people’s actions, peer pressure, or societal norms serve to limit an individual’s agency. Recognising children’s agency is to acknowledge that children have the capacity to take decisions for themselves and have a role to play in their own protection and well-being.
In the context of the worst forms of child labour, the children at greatest risk are those who are not supported to resist: those who are unaware of their right to be protected from exploitation, and who live in places where child labour is normalised.
This first element of PACE is focused on building awareness among children and young people of their rights regarding child labour, and particularly the difference between legitimate child work – for example, supporting parents with household tasks – versus exploitative child labour. This knowledge will help children to protect themselves, and to be confident to raise the alarm in instances where they are at risk.
Working with parents, caregivers and local communities, we will also seek to foster supportive environments where children are safe and protected. Raising awareness at community level of child labour laws, and why the worst forms of child labour are particularly hazardous for children, is a key first step. This will be reinforced by the project’s engagement with local media (see Justice Sector).
Finally, mechanisms to protect children from the worst forms of child labour, and to enable children to report and respond to violations, will be promoted and, where necessary, instigated by us to ensure families and communities are able to leverage the support of law enforcement in protecting children and bringing perpetrators to justice (also see Justice Sector).
Through these interventions we hope to influence a change in outlook among targeted communities towards the worst forms of child labour, thus fostering more protective environments for children. Children will have greater knowledge of their rights and be better equipped to resist exploitation themselves. By strengthening children’s agency and supporting safer communities, we hope to reduce the risk of children being drawn into exploitative child labour practices.