Letter: Fighting child labour

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Your report on the Children's Rights Conference illustrated (by omission) how a major and remediable cause of child poverty and child labour continues to be neglected by the international community, governments and development NGOs.

Regrettably, even our own Department for International Development is a party to this neglect in spite of its record in supporting poverty reduction projects.

One reason why millions of children in many developing countries, especially in Africa and south Asia, are withdrawn from school and forced into exploitative work in unsafe conditions is their mothers' widowhood and resulting homelessness and pauperisation.

The rights guaranteed in the Children's Convention will remain "paper promises" unless widowed mothers are legally and practically able to inherit their husbands' estates (legislation has to work on the ground), and are adequately protected from the all too common "chasing-off" from their homes and robbery of their possessions, so that they are left in utter destitution.

The often horrific violation of the human rights of widows means that many of the world's children at an early age are forced to become the main breadwinners for their mothers and younger siblings. Why do none of the UN agencies or donor countries like Britain grasp this fact and act?

MARGARET OWEN

Director, Empowering Widows in Development

London W14

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