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Children’s Right to Play cannot co-exist with child labour

2011-06-22

10 June 2011, Elbasan: On the occasion of the International Day against Child Labour, MOVE animators in Albania facilitated several psychosocial games for 220 school children during a 2-hour event held at the AIEK sports centre, which also brought together parents, teachers, the local Child Protection Unit, representatives of local government institutions, the Regional Directorate of Education and many NGO partners working in the field of child protection. Aside from its fun and recreational aspect, this activity aimed to raise the awareness of those present, including influential local policy makers, on the negative impact that child labour brings on children’s lives, their future development into adulthood and many societal problems related to it.

“The exploitation of children for labour purposes is a sad and shameful reality that we, as a community, must all fight together wherever we encounter it. … the Municipality of Elbasan remains committed to supporting all joint efforts in this regard,” observed Mr. Serafin Papa, Deputy Mayor of Elbasan in his speech for the occasion. His strong message against child labour was echoed by Mrs. Florensa Stafa, a specialist at the Regional Directorate of Education, who outlined the importance of education and the school as an appropriate environment where children should normally be in order to learn, play and have fun. Addressing the participating children directly, she appealed to their sense of camaraderie by saying: “All of you have the power to change the reality of your friends and peers who, unlike you, are not able to enjoy the right to education and play. You can do this by encouraging and supporting them to come back to school.”
Without doubt, child labour impairs the dignity and healthy development of children and also denies them a number of vital rights, such as the right to health, education and protection. The right to play and have fun is also an important right which cannot be enjoyed if children are exploited and involved in labour and other similar hazardous activities. According to UNICEF, 12% of all Albanian children between 5-14 years old continue to be exploited for labour, including forced begging, collection of recyclable materials and hard labour in factories, agriculture and fishery. Child labour can endanger children’s lives and bring serious harm to their physical, mental and emotional health. All actors, at local and national levels must be pro-actively involved in upholding children’s rights and identifying those who are forced into labour in order to offer these children and their families the support they need by referring their cases to the Child Protection Units.
Indeed, the idea of organizing the aforementioned activity arose during a bi-monthly consultative meeting in Elbasan between all MOVE animators, in close cooperation with the Child Protection Unit. The aim was to capitalize on this advocacy opportunity for children’s rights by utilizing the Movement, Games and Sport (MGS) methodology as a means of highlighting the children’s right to play among others important rights, whilst children themselves participated actively in various psychosocial games, laughing, having fun, working together and feeling generally happy and included. All the children were able to participate in at least two full sessions of psychosocial activities that lasted about 45 minutes each and included a variety of warm-up exercises, introduction games, the main game and feedback and relaxation periods, as articulated in the MGS methodology />

These activities reflected a combination of the well-known MOVE psychosocial games such as the Fisherman’s Net, the Shark Island, the Blind Train, the Jungle, the Villagers and the Witches, as well as traditional Albanian games such as Hit the Tiles or Catch the Scarf which have been tailored with added psychosocial elements through a process of continuous learning and experimentation, as suggested by the MGS Methodology. The 18 animators who facilitated these activities had carefully selected games that were equally age-appropriate, challenging and fun so that all children could feel included and stimulated enough to play pro-actively. In general, the MOVE games encourage children to employ different mental and physical capacities by stimulating their hands, hearts and heads in order to develop their attention, strategic thinking, imaginations as well as important psychosocial skills of cooperation, honesty, the fostering of trust and respect for rules and others.
“I had sooooooooooo…. much fun,” said Mira, a 12 year-old girl, who was asked to comment on her experience at the end of the day’s activities. “When I was playing the jungle game, I had to hold hands with other children, help each other and work together to jump over the obstacles,… it felt really nice,” added another 10-year old child who participated in the activity. [EP & TL]