Rural poverty is the main cause of child labor on banana plantations in Ecuador. Ecuador is known for its booming banana production sector. Consumers would never suspect the banana industry to be built on unlawful child labor practices. Child labor is a serious issue and violates basic human rights yet remains prevalent. Children are subjected to poor working conditions where they are sexually violated, coerced to work overtime and in filthy conditions. Exposure to harmful chemicals such as pesticides on plantations can lead to contracting serious illnesses.
“That poison - sometimes it makes one sick. Of course, I keep working. I don’t cover myself. Once I got sick. I vomited [and] had a headache . . . after the fumigation. I was eleven years old. . . . I told my bosses. They gave me two days to recover.”- Twelve-year-old, Alvarez describes the poor working conditions on a banana plantation in Ecuador leading to his illness (Human Rights Watch, Ecuador: Widespread Labor Abuse on Banana Plantations, 2002).
Children working on banana plantations in Ecuador have to resort to extreme measures to protect themselves from inhaling hazardous pesticides by placing cartons over their heads and are forced to hide under banana leaves to escape the spray of fungicides released from planes flying overhead. Children suffer in silence for fear of being fired and losing wages that they rely on to support their families. Children’s meagre earnings are under $4 for a twelve-hour workday. Young girls are sexually harassed by their bosses while working on banana plantations; they describe being touched on duty while removing plastic coverings from bananas.
“There is a boss at the plant who’s very sick. . . . This man is rude. He goes around touching girls’ bottoms. . . . He is in charge there and is always there. He told me that he wants to make love to me. Once he touched me. I was taking off plastic banana coverings, and he touched my bottom. He keeps bothering me. He goes around throwing kisses at me. He calls me ‘my love.’”-Twelve-year-old Mendoza’s confession of being sexually harassed while working on a banana plantation in Ecuador (Human Rights Watch, Ecuador: Widespread Labor Abuse on Banana Plantations, 2002).
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child protects children from being exploited and this includes unfair labor practices. Every child has the right to be treated fairly and protected from harm. Children working on banana plantations in Ecuador are forced to drink unsanitary water, carry heavy loads and work with machetes to cut bananas from trees. Child labor is unlawful and the government has a responsibility to protect minors from such unlawful practices.
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- Tags: banana plantations, basic human rights, child labor, child labor abuse, children, Ecuador, Human Rights Watch, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child