Dancing Together against Child Labour

Human Wrongs Watch 

Bangkok, 3 November 2014 (ILO)* – Napatsara Ploysupaphol, a 13-year-old hip-hop dancer, has seen child labour on the streets of the Thai capital, Bangkok, since she was young. When she started dancing at the age of seven Napatsara would finish her practice in the evening and often see children, smaller than herself, selling flowers or cleaning car mirrors at traffic lights, working until the small hours of the morning to earn a little money.
source: ILO

Source: ILO

“It was late at night, and they still hadn’t gone home.” said Napatsara. “If I were them, I would feel like I was being tortured.”
Napatsara is now a member of an up-and-coming hip-hop dance group, The Zoo Thailand.
She heard about a new International Labour Organization (ILO) campaign, “All Together Against Child Labour”, (a part of the global ”Red Card to Child Labour” movement) which specifically tries to engage with the young city-dwellers who also form the core of The Zoo Thailand’s fan base.
Napatsara persuaded her fellow dancers to put their talents to good use and get involved.

Mixing fast hip-hop moves with contemporary dance, the troupe put together a special routine to highlight the plight of child labourers. The new routine was created to be the centerpiece of an awareness-raising event at CentralWorld, a popular Bangkok shopping mall and hangout for young Thais.

Source: ILO

In Thailand, there is no data available for the number child labourers, but they continue to be found in some of the so-called Worst Forms of child labour, including in agriculture, and shrimp and seafood processing.

Globally, the number of children in work has declined by one third since 2000, from 246 million to 168 million. But Asia and the Pacific still has the largest number, almost 78 million – equivalent to nearly one in 10 children in the region.

Pattanapong Suwanwong, 22, The Zoo Thailand’s choreographer, had the tricky task of creating dance moves that help the audience understand what it feels like to be a child labourer.

“I use the fast moves of hip-hop to depict children who have opportunities to have fun and be children,” he explains. “The slow moves of contemporary dance are uncomfortable to watch. It makes you hold your breath. It’s like the plight of child labour”.

 An up-and-coming hip-hop dance group, The Zoo Thailand, put their talent to good use and joined the ILO in its campaign to end child labour. | Source: ILO

An up-and-coming hip-hop dance group, The Zoo Thailand, put their talent to good use and joined the ILO in its campaign to end child labour | Source: ILO

The show’s message was clearly received by the audience. “Every child should get to have fun. Instead they have to work. That’s not right,” said Santitham Wattanasopon, who watched the CentralWorld performance. “How about their childhood time? They have lost it”.

Using street dance techniques to convey tough messages was a new experience for both the dancers and the team of experts from ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), but both sides were happy with the results, and the way it opened up a new channel of communication.

“Youth are the change agents. We are reaching out to young people who will become executives or leaders in their fields when they grow up,” Birgitte Krogh-Poulsen, IPEC’s Programme Manager, said.

“When I was younger, I thought I was helping those children by buying flowers and other things else they sold,” Pattanapong recalls. “When I grew up, I started to question my own actions. I wondered whether I was encouraging child labour instead”.

Pattanapong believes this dilemma is shared by many people. “I wonder if I see a child working, what would I do? How would I help? Would I tell the police? Then what? I myself don’t know what is the best way out”.

“So, this is a good chance for me to help, raising awareness of child labour. What I can do is to put on this show”.

The debut of the Zoo Thailand’s child labour piece came as the issue of child labour was pushed back up the international agency by the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to two child rights activists – Pakistani child education activist Malala Yousafzai and Indian child rights campaigner Kailash Satyarthi.

The award was described as a “landmark moment in the fight against child labour” by Guy Ryder, the ILO’s Director General. “I hope that this award will bring renewed vigor to our common cause of eliminating all forms of child labour and the promotion of quality education and decent work for all,” he said. (*Source: ILO feature).

 2014 Human Wrongs Watch


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