YOUNGER children are being introduced to prostitution and stakeholders have revealed that withdrawing those already sexually exploited for commercial purposes has been a difficult process — for various reasons.
The revelation prompted discussion on the magnitude of the problem and saw participants at a Child Labour Forum in progress in Cuvu, Sigatoka, seek clarity on the role and responsibilities of agencies involved in the monitoring, policing and enforcement of laws covering child labour.
Save the Children Fiji, which was involved in a 2010 survey on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) had established in its interview of 109 children that some children started sex work as early as 10 years.
In its latest brief to the International Labour Organisation organised forum, the SCF said "withdrawal strategy was very challenging." Expanding on the issue, ILO national project co-ordinator Marie Fatiaki, said withdrawing children from CSEC was difficult "even though we have identified where they are".
"They are not removed. To date there has been no prosecution of those using children in commercial sex. There are hardly any safe houses, the one that we know is already full, so what are the alternatives for these children?"
Mrs Fatiaki also revealed she was engaged in a smaller research on children in traffic and information filtering in showed younger children were being targeted.
She said the European Union-funded Tackling Child Labour through Education project (TACKLE) was aimed at reducing poverty by providing equitable access to education and skills development to the most disadvantaged section of society.
Participants agreed the project, which started in 2008, enabled networking between agencies, the establishment of the first Child Labour Unit at the Ministry of Labour, improved knowledge of child labour and brought attention to the importance of prevention work and the importance of keeping children in school.
According to SCF, earlier case studies and research enabled participants to identify the risks and vulnerability factors — allowing the use of knowledge to identify children at risk of dropping out of school.
Through a preventative based approach Ms Fatiaki reported that 50 children were withdrawn from CSEC.
"Faced with many challenges, the implementing agency was able to identify children for preventative and withdrawal from CSEC and develop child-care plans which have included providing these children with ongoing counselling support, and participate in life-skills training," she said.
"In Suva, children targeted for prevention and withdrawal received literacy, numeracy and life skills training as part of a four-week bridging program.
"Children targeted for withdrawals were taken for STI clinic visits and counselling sessions with peer mentors co-ordinated."
She said under this initiative, 50 teachers and Ministry of Education staff were also trained on child protection and child labour issues and school-based child protection policies were developed.