Brazil: Anti-Child Labor Initiatives Paying off

    Iro Schuenke

    The tobacco industry in Brazil has made great strides in its battle against child labor, SindiTabaco announced on the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) World Day Against Child Labor on June 10.

    SindiTabaco launched its “The Future is Now” program in 1998—four years before the ILO debuted World Day Against Child Labor.

    Today, the tobacco sector is the only one to require proof of school enrollment of its farmers’ school-age children. Tobacco companies will renew production contracts with growers only if they can present a certificate of school attendance.

    According to SindiTabaco president Iro Schuenke, the first actions intended to create awareness of the importance of school attendance. “At that time, the companies got organized in contact with the municipalities in order to actively solve one-off questions related to school evasion, mainly caused by the lack of schools or deficient transport systems affecting farmers’ children,” he explains.

    As the years went by, these initiatives evolved and gave rise to the Growing Up Right Institute, which has already benefited 500 teenagers in rural areas. The institute pioneered professional learning programs for the young in the countryside, qualifying adolescents through rural management and entrepreneurship courses.

    “For most of the young, besides being an opportunity for developing their skills without having to leave their communities, it is also their first formal job, as the program complies with the learning law, and the young participants receive a salary proportional to 20 hours a week,” says Schuenke, who is also the director president of the Growing Up Right Institute. “It is a manner for them to spend their time in the course and at school, far away from tasks inappropriate for their age.”

    Tobacco Reporter profiled the Growing Up Right Institute in April.