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Release: Oct. 15, 2002

$300,000 federal grant raises UI Child Labor Research Initiative funding to $1.2 million

The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR) has won a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to expand the center's Child Labor Research Initiative. This brings total federal funding for the project to $1.2 million, including the initial $900,000 grant that got the program started last fall.

Burns Weston, UICHR director and emeritus professor of law, said the bulk of the new funding would be used to broaden and deepen the Child Labor Public Education Program, which is working to focus public attention, especially among trade unions, on various aspects of child labor abuses, including international trade, workers' rights, and children's health. This is a collaborative project of the UICHR and the UI Labor Center, led by Dan Holub, acting director of the Labor Center and a member of the UICHR Executive Council.

Another aspect of the Child Labor Research Initiative involves collecting, translating and establishing a database of national laws dealing with the worst forms of child labor. To date, the center's staff has been researching the laws of 20 countries—Brazil, Cambodia, China, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Czech Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, France, India, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Tanzania, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States. The additional funds will allow for expansion to include five additional countries, which the UICHR will select after consultation with the Labor Department and the International Labor Organization.

"We are enormously grateful to the U.S. Department of Labor for the funding support for this project," said Chivy Sok, UICHR deputy director. "I am confident that our excellent team of faculty, staff, and student researchers will make a significant contribution to the global effort to eliminate the most exploitative and abusive forms of child labor."

Funds from the grant will also enable the UICHR to support scholarly research on child labor abuses and to host a two-day workshop colloquium in Summer 2003, bringing together a group of child labor and human rights specialists to examine "Using the Human Rights Framework to Combat Abusive Child Labor."

Weston said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) was instrumental in securing this latest grant and praised Harkin's "unfailing commitment to the reduction and abolition of child labor worldwide."

According to the 2000 International Labor Organization estimate, approximately 352 million children, between the ages of 5 and 17 are engaged in economic activities. An estimated 246 million of those work in exploitative and abusive conditions. They are child prostitutes forced to serve clients against their will. They work in brick factories, mines, armed conflict situations, carpet weaving centers, domestic service, leather tanning shops and other hazardous places rather than going to school. The Child Labor Research Initiative at the UI aims to contribute to the worldwide effort to eradicate these abusive conditions through research, curricula development, and public education to raise awareness about this important global issue.

"The University of Iowa is fortunate to have Professor Weston, a scholar known around the world for his expertise in international law and his commitment to human rights," said Derek Willard, associate vice president for research and special assistant to the president for governmental relations. "He and his colleagues at the Center for Human Rights and the University of Iowa Labor Center have positioned the University to make powerful contributions to our knowledge of this field and to the education of the public."

For more information, contact the UI Center for Human Rights at (319) 335-3900.