TAKE CHILD VENDORS OFF THE STREETS — Activists say kids are at risk while selling during Christmas

December 22, 2016
Jermaine Barnaby/Freelance Photographer A young boy tends to good at his stall on Beckford Street in Kingston on Monday.

Seasonal vendors are known to join the trade during Christmas, and children as young as seven years old are not exempt as schools are on break, and according to a youngster, he has to 'hustle' his holiday money.

The Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA), however, said the agency is monitoring child vending and will get involved if they have to.

"Well, at this point, it's monitoring. We get involved if the other players are not taking children off the streets. If they default in their duties, that's where we get involved," Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison told THE STAR yesterday.

When told about the numerous children partaking in vending, Gordon Harrison said she was aware of their involvement.

"Any amount of work shouldn't endanger the child. Whether it is being out late or on the roads, and with vehicular traffic, their safety is paramount. We would hope the other agencies are proactive in dealing with the issue."

During a recent visit to Beckford Street in downtown Kingston, THE STAR spoke with several children who were vending in the unauthorised zone.

A seven-year-old boy told THE STAR, "Mi a hustle for my holiday money. A Christmas time now, enuh."

child labour

That was all he said, while selling eyeglasses and other merchandise, with his much younger sidekick in tow.

There were no adults in proximity to where they were standing.

Meanwhile, Betty-Ann Blaine of Hear the Children's Cry denounced the act and said that child labour under the Child Care and Protection Act is illegal.

"The Act speaks to any kind of work that inhibits the child to be educated or limit their freedom. If we are a country of law, we should decide if we are going to obey the law," she said.

Though she understands that some parents are strapped for cash, she said other factors must be considered.

"These parents don't have anybody to supervise the children at home so they are there with them, where they can see them. It's better to have the child beside you than to leave them at home in an environment that is vulnerable. We don't support them selling by themselves," she said, adding that decent employment must be provided for parents so that the children don't have to take to the streets.

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