As delegates from around the world gathered at the General Assembly on November 20th to mark the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), we too at the Center for Child Rights & Corporate Social Responsibility (CCR CSR) and ICTI Ethical Toy Program (IETP) reflected on the positive impact that our four year partnership has had on the lives of children.
The last few weeks have seen a global spotlight on child rights, CCR CSR and IETP joined thousands of delegates from business, government and civil society at this week’s UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva to discuss action to support child rights in supply chains amongst other issues.
Every child has the right to grow up loved and cared for by their parents. But what if they can’t? An estimated 15 million migrant workers in China – many of whom are factory workers – have left their children behind and only see them once a year. Many others have no choice but to leave their children in dorm rooms during the summer holidays while they work or take them to the factory floor.
In 2016, CCR CSR and IETP joined forces to pilot a program that creates safe spaces in factories for workers’ children to spend a safe, fun summer. The program is driven by the need to support parent workers with childcare solutions and creates the possibility for families separated through economic migration to unite over the summer holidays.
CCR CSR and IETP’s spaces have been helping 61 factories support their parent workers to date. The program was first piloted in two factories in Guangdong in 2016 but has seen remarkable growth in participation year after year. 2386 children and 2764 parent workers have participated in the program.
“Child-Friendly Spaces are not only a much-needed childcare solution for parents struggling to keep their children safe and looked after during school holidays, but also allow factory management to show they care for their workers and their families. The spaces have had a remarkable positive impact on the children, parent workers, and factories. In only 2 months, many children improved their social skills, parents reported reduced stressed and factory management saw significant improvements in their relationships with workers,” said Ines Kaempfer, Executive Director of CCR CSR.
“The benefits of the program have not gone unnoticed and we’re seeing more and more businesses ready to come on board. Thanks to our partnership with ICTI Ethical Toy Program much of that growth has been in the toy industry”, she added.
Mark Robertson, Senior Vice President at the ICTI Ethical Toy Program, said “During the past four years of operation, our Family Friendly Spaces have consistently delivered profound benefits for workers and their children, transforming parent-child relationships and supporting the developmental needs of children. The spaces are also hugely positive for participating factories, with all reporting increases in trust levels between management and workers, improved retention and easier attraction of workers, as well as a more stable and committed workforce. These positive impacts are even seen from workers who do not even have children but have increased belief that the management care about their well-being”.
This year’s program was the largest in scale yet, with 30 toy factories across five provinces opening the spaces.
The children got to take part in a broad selection of activities ranging from arts, music, and dance to parent-child activities to educational classes. Some factories even arranged tours of the parents’ workplace so that they could get a first-hand impression of their parents’ work lives.
Positive impact on children
The program received overwhelmingly positive feedback and had a clear, positive impact on the children. 73% of workers said they got closer to their children, 68% of children became more active and outspoken, 60% became better at expressing themselves, and 52% became more confident. All in all, 98% of parents said the space had a positive impact on their children.
“My children live with their grandparents in our hometown, and I can only go back twice a year. I usually call them every other day, but they don’t like chatting with me. This summer I sent both of my children to space, and my little son has become politer and is willing to help with chores. He wasn’t like this before. The great support of space has allowed me to spend more time with my children. And now they are willing to share their thoughts with me,” said a father from Hunan Province who works in one of this year’s participating factories.
What does the future hold?
2020 will be the fifth year of the program and if the current trajectory is any indication, it will be the biggest year yet in terms of participation.
“All 30 factories this year have committed to running the program again next summer and we plan to recruit at least 20 additional toy factories to join the program. We applaud all the factories, brands and partners who have worked with us to make this year’s program a success – and we look forward to partnering with CCR CSR to expand the program to reach even more factory workers in 2020 and beyond" added Mark.
“Our program will surely continue in the following years. Through this worker well-being program, children can be taken care of during the summer vacation, while workers do not have to reduce their working hours or even leave work to look after their children,” said a manager from one of this year’s participating factories.
As the most important convention on child rights celebrates its 30th year, CCR CSR and IETP look forward to continuing the momentum and positively impacting the lives of many more children in the years to come.
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