Child workers fly under official radar

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Thu, 10/30/2008 10:32 AM  |  Surfing Bali

Cenik is just one of many child laborers in Bali. Her life reflects the hardships these children must endure and survive.

Ni Putu Suartini, a member of the island’s Commission for the Protection of Children (KPAI), said the child tukang suun of Peken Badung had never received their basic rights — the right to proper education and the right to healthcare services.

The 2002 Law on the Protection of Children stipulates that children under the age of 18 have the rights to healthcare services, social security, education and play and recreational activities.

In reality, Suartini pointed out, many children do not have all those rights. In the cases of child tukang suun, not one of them has any of those rights.

“Moreover, they are very vulnerable to violence, physical and sexual, particularly since all child tukang suun are girls,” Suartini said.

But neither do the child tukang suun have access to their rights as professional workers.

“Children may work as long as the working period does not exceed three hours in a single day and the work does not involve anything that might pose a danger to the children. The work also should not prevent the children from getting their basic rights,” she said.

Access to those basic rights, however, is far too expensive for Satri and her family. Poverty forced Cenik into becoming one of the family’s providers.

“All the money I get from working I give to my mother,” Cenik said.

A large number of the child tukang suun also lost their right to an adult guardian and adult supervision because they live on their own in Denpasar.

One of these is Ni Nengah Ompong, a 10-year-old tukang suun. She lives in a rented room in Denpasar with her younger sister Ni Nyoman Santi. Their parents are still living in their village.

“We rent the room for Rp 150,000 per month. We have to feed ourselves on our own during our stay here in Denpasar,” she said.

Suartini blames the state for the plight of these children. Indonesia’s Constitution explicitly tasks the state with protecting and caring for the poor, including these children.

When contacted, a senior official at the island’s Social Agency openly admitted that the plight of the child tukang suun did not register on the agency’s radar.

“Our programs focus more on people with physical disabilities, street beggars, former convicts, transvestites, former drug users and people with HIV/AIDS,” head of the agency’s rehabilitation division I Nyoman Wenten said.

Moreover, the agency had yet to compile any official data on the number and distribution of child workers in the island, let alone on child tukang suun.

“Because we don’t have them here in Bali,” he said.

When even the official statistics do not recognize the existence of these child tukang suun, then it is very likely it will take a long time before the government carries out any concrete measures to ease their burdens.

For Cenik and her fellow child tukang suun, tomorrow looks much the same as today — just another long day of grueling labor and little money. They simply cannot afford to dream of a better day. — Anton Muhajir

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    October 31, 2008

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