Omar’s Dream Project

Omar’s Dream Project

Omar, who is seven years old, works in a tannery in the Moroccan city of Fez. His skin and lungs are in permanent contact with the chemicals used to clean and conserve leather. There is no protective clothing or gear. Some of his older colleagues stand up to their waists in large bins full of toxic liquids. The floor is wet and it is difficult to get a good grip on the slippery skins. A stone’s throw away, in the centre of town, unsuspecting travellers buy bags and slippers from the leather Omar and his colleagues make.

According to the overseer, Omar should count himself lucky. His family desperately needs the money he earns. And this idea is not even all that strange: across the world countless parents, bosses and children think exactly the same way.

But not in some large areas in India, where there are approximately 600,000 children who can truly consider themselves lucky. They live, play and learn in aChild Labour Free Zone,wherechild labour has now been abolished. These zones generate a knock-on effect, but will probably not grow fast enough to reach Omar before he becomes an adult. For now, he can only dream of this.

The beginning of the end
Worldwide, 215 million children like Omar work on the land, in mines and factories or on the streets . Their parents are deceased or destitute and their bosses would prefer not to take leave of such cheap labour. Administrators have other priorities or see no solution.

Already, 1,500 villages in India are now completely free of child labour and 1,000 other villages are well on their way to become child labour free zones. Everyone is proud of the improvements – from child to employer – which proves that the success ofChild Labour Free Zones is contagious. Neighbouring areas are adopting this approach and several areas have now expanded to entire cities or provinces.

In recent years we have facilitated exchanges between organisations from Africa, Latin America and Asia to share experiences and best practices. In 2010, African organisations in Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Ethiopia and Morocco visited MV Foundation in India. It was an extraordinary learning experience for all parties. The African organisations were able to see in practice that the area-based approach against child labour works. They also saw similarities with the situation at home, which convinced them that – despite all the poverty – it is possible tocreateChild Labour Free Zonesin their own country and to bring about structural change. They believe in and dream of a country where all children can go to school.