Colombia’s Ministry of Family Welfare has launched a program called “I Protect You,” in which people, through a smart phone application, can report cases of child labour or sexual abuse or mistreatment of a minor.

The concerned person can take a picture of the child and log the location, and the app sends it to the Ministry of Family Welfare. Since the app launched in May 2012, there have been 22,000 reports of which 4,600 are under investigation.

In Colombia, about 1.7 million children work, and that’s 13 percent of the national employment. According to the Minister for Labor Rafael Pardo, 8.6% of child workers are between five and 14-years old, while 27.7% are between 15 and 17-years-old, with 16.6% males and 8.9% females in this sector.

When children turn 11 or 12  years old, they tend to leave school and start working. Often, the parents demand the children work because the family needs the money. Children are often expected to work in family businesses, such as informal trash collection or small manufacturing firms. In turn, the children again get caught in the cycle of poverty.

The problem is also largely cultural in which parents think that for children to work is to educate them, and they do not realize they are limiting their children’s childhood.

The areas of most concern are forced recruitment into harsh working conditions, sex trafficking, and mining. The Minister of Labor has signed an agreement with the mining sector to ban children working in mines.

Other areas of concern are agriculture and domestic work.

Between 2007 and 2011, there was an increase of 100,000 more child workers. The highest number of child labors are in the cities of Monteria (18.1 percent), Bucaramanga (15.6 percent), and Cucuta (15.3 percent).

From Talkingaboutcolombia.com