Cabarete Shoeshine Boys Dare to Dream Big

continued…

Both the boys do a very good job as ‘limpiabotas’, and seem to take pride in it based on the number of brushes and colored cleaning liquids in their homemade shoeshine boxes. No one even glances at them as they go about their day-to-day work. Local restaurants feed them for a symbolic figure, but it is often just scraps that others left behind.

For a Westerner, it is difficult to understand, what kind of a country would allow its children to have to work in such a degrading manner, without going to school, but after hearing the boys’ stories, I quickly realize that it’s a fact of life in this country. They need to work to make ends meet. In fact, Dominicans as a whole, especially the poorer ones, feel an absolute obligation to take care of their family members at any cost.

Not surprisingly, a recent study released in by the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) International Program found that 60 percent of Dominicans do not see child labour as a problem.

According to a report released by the Labor Ministry of DR and the PUCMM University, “Perceptions of Child Labor by Dominican Society” there are 436,000 child workers in the DR and 43% of the population say that they “tolerate and justify dignified child labor”. In fact, a national newspaper Hoy writes that only 5.8% of the population is against child labor. Part of the study also indicates that 60% of Dominicans feel that children can work as long as it is not interfering with their studies. Elias Dinzey, who presented the findings, says that this perception needed to change. In all 2,200 people were interviewed as part of the research and according to the findings, 15% believed that work teaches children good values.

However, this problem is not only isolated to the Dominican Republic, it’s global. There are 1.2 billion adolescents across the world, and nine out of ten of these young people live in developing countries. These youths face unprecedented challenges as our uncertain world experiences global economic recession, overpopulation, climate change, and rising unemployment.

Some will shine shoes, while the less fortunate will find refuge in drugs, crime, or prostitution as a means to survive. The risks and vulnerabilities to abuse and exploitation of this pivotal period in a child’s life cannot be overlooked and there has never been a more urgent time to offer assistance to our future generation, and allow their dreams and aspirations to come true.

The big question is… HOW DO WE MAKE THEIR DREAMS HAPPEN?

First and foremost, the responsibility of the welfare of Dominican children falls on the government of this country, and there have been a number of positive initiatives in the recent years.The Government of the Dominican Republic, especially the Ministry of Labor, has been supportive of efforts to combat child labor through political and financial commitments. The Dominican Republic became a member of the International Labor Organization’s International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (ILO-IPEC) in 1997.

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