Rather than go to school and hang out with friends like a “normal” 7-year-old, War War dropped out of school when she was in Grade 2 to work. She didn’t have much of a choice. With two ill parents unable to work and three younger siblings to feed and send to school, War War was the only one in the family capable of securing work to sustain the family. Their home was located in the Industrial Zone of Yangon, where temporary and informal jobs were plentiful.
When War War was 14 a neighbor tipped her off about a garment factory hiring temporary workers. She saw it as an opportunity to secure more stable income for her family and so applied for a position. She was hired, and so War War began her first job in a factory environment.
The Drawbacks of Being a Temporary Worker
Despite the temporary satisfaction of receiving cash in hand every Saturday, War War was all too aware of the drawbacks of having a ‘temporary worker’ status: she couldn’t avail of even the most basic services offered by the factory, including the factory shuttle bus. Nor was she eligible for a transportation allowance. Each night she had to find her own way home in the dark. Another downside of being a temporary worker was that she got no training whatsoever.
Violation of Myanmar’s Labor Laws
By the time War War was discovered by an auditor, she had been performing the same task, 10 hours a day, six days a week for half a year. Despite having a legal minimum working age of 14, it is forbidden for children aged 14 to work for more than four hours per day in Myanmar.
She complained that her fingers hurt from the repetitive work (removing paper tags from clothes) and long working hours. By then, it had been about six years since she last stepped foot in a classroom or received any type of formal education.
War War was discovered in the factory together with another 14-year-old girl in a very similar situation: Moe Moe. She too dropped out of school in Grade 2 to support her family of nine. Like War War, she worked excessive hours each day, six days a week.
Back to Education Through Remediation
CCR CSR, The Center for Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility, supported War War and Moe Moe after they stopped working upon being discovered during an audit. CCR CSR took the girls’ interests into consideration and enrolled them into a vocational school that met their needs. Since January 2018, the girls have been taking sewing classes in the morning and then attend non-formal education classes in the afternoon to catch up on the gap in their education.
“I sometimes get confused when studying math because I’m not very good at it, but I’ll keep trying my best!”, War War told CCR CSR.
Meanwhile Moe Moe beamed about improving her literacy skills since attending the FXB Vocational School: “I can learn a lot of things and gain knowledge on subjects I never knew before.”
When the girls complete their education at the school, not only will they be able to apply for more decent, better paying jobs, they can also be a greater asset to their employers by possessing a wider skill set.
Ellen works at the Beijing office of CCR CSR, where she has been in charge of the organization’s internal and external communications since 2015. She provides guidance and support to all of the organization’s regional bases (Mainland China, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Vietnam, Bangladesh) and is responsible for promotion, marketing, design and media relations, as well as maintaining the organization’s web presence.
Ellen has been living in China for almost nine years where she held positions in the media and charity sector before joining CCR CSR. Ellen holds a BA in Chinese and Politics from SOAS, University of London, and speaks fluent English, Mandarin and German.
In a world where big ideas about children’s rights are presented at high-level events, seminars and workshops, the voice of the children themselves is often conspicuously absent. Global Child Forum and CCR CSR have proudly collaborated on a short-film that seeks to give a voice to children, while at the same time inspiring businesses to invest in child rights. Click here to watch the film and listen to children from China, Malaysia, Vietnam and Bangladesh talk about the impacts of businesses on their lives. Read more about the video collaboration between Global Child Forum and CCR CSR here.