BEIRUT: Labor Minister Salim Jreissati announced a new initiative to help child workers Tuesday after meeting with underage laborers and rights advocates at his ministry.
Jreissati said his work was dedicated to children and he would work to get their voices heard by the government, the National News Agency reported.
He was speaking on Children’s Day to a gathering of child laborers and labor organization representatives to raise awareness about children’s issues.
Jreissati said Cabinet would hold a session for children’s issues before convening its regular session Wednesday and that he would add a new forum for children’s opinions in the government.
“This forum is a means for you to express your fears, questions and thoughts and it will pave the way for you to share your concerns with all the officials. It helps you to deliver your demands directly to them without any delay or mediation,” he said.
“You have every right to shout in the face of the officials to draw their attention to your tragedies, and to make them solve the problems that you face,” he added.
Lebanon is a signatory to the 1999 International Labor Organization convention banning the “worst forms” of child labor, which refers to slavery, prostitution, drug trafficking and anything likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.
The country is supposed to document and help stop such fields of work as part of their obligation to the convention. Rights groups have criticized the government for not doing more to stop the practice.
Child labor is widespread in the country, particularly in poor rural areas, and is growing as huge numbers of Syrian refugees enter Lebanon searching for ways to survive.
A cabinet of ministers consisting of children will meet with the government before Wednesday’s official Cabinet session, Jreissati said.
“Our meeting today reflects the responsibility we feel toward the future generations of Lebanon,” he said.
Zoulfiqar Kheireddine, a representative of child laborers at the event, called for children to be able to “live with dignity, security, access to their rights and away from [sectarian] slogans.”
Kheireddine urged officials to restore children’s lost rights and keep the nation free of the worst kinds of child labor.