Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), Pakistan

Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), Pakistan

Child Labor Elimination Program (CLEP)

The problem:
The Sialkot Soccer Ball Industry came under tremendous pressure from western media alleging the use of child labor in the production of soccer balls in the mid nineties. At that time Pakistan was enjoying more than 70% of the world share in soccer balls and all the major brands of soccer balls were sourcing from Pakistan. As a result, a great furor against Pakistani-made balls began in the west and this industry was under threat.

The practice:
The Sialkot Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCI) developed a unique partnership with national and international agencies. All the partners developed their own project documents in order to fulfill the obligations of their delineated roles. The program adopted the following two-pronged strategy:

Monitoring and Prevention: To identify and phase out child laborers under the age of 14 in the production and assembly of soccer balls and incorporate them in a social protection program.

Social Protection and Rehabilitation: This program consists of prevention, rehabilitation and awareness creating among children, employers and communities. The program outlined a system of prevention and monitoring, which was divided into two major elements, namely, an internal monitoring system and an external monitoring system. The internal monitoring system was done by the participating manufacturers, using a specific format which enables computerization and comparison. The external monitoring was done by the ILO under management of an international expert. The monitoring system was supervised by the Project Coordination Committee (PCC).

Why and how the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry developed this practice:
In 1995, during the visit of the late Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to the USA to attract investment, a television documentary film on children stitching balls in Sialkot was telecast across America. Of the entire lot of soccer balls imported by USA, some 75% were supplied by Pakistan. If the situation was not changed immediately, the healthy soccer ball industry was feared to go the same way as the once thriving carpet industry in Pakistan.

The Sialkot Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCI) under the guidance and moral support of the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) developed a unique partnership and signed a tripartite agreement with ILO and UNICEF on February 14, 1997 popularly known as the Atlanta Agreement. Save the Children Fund-UK also joined the program in view of their pioneering work for protection of child rights in Pakistan.

Steps and tips for implementing the practice:
Phase I
Duration: 2 years
The first phase of the program to prevent and eliminate child labor in the soccer ball industry was implemented from August 1997 to October 1999, after signing of the Atlanta Agreement by the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), UNICEF and the ILO. This project had two main components: a workplace monitoring system, and a social protection component, which provided educational opportunities to children who were withdrawn from the soccer ball industry. Around 11,000 children in this sector were provided non-formal education, among which 5,838 were mainstreamed into formal schools. An external monitoring system was set up to ensure the elimination of child labor in the stitching centres of participating manufacturers.

Phase II
Duration: 4 years
The second phase of the project aimed to consolidate the achievements and addressed the gaps in program implementation during the first phase. A key outcome of this phase was the creation of an Independent Monitoring Association in 2003 to replace ILO as the external monitoring body, with the aim to sustain these interventions in the soccer ball industry. The project was planned to be implemented through three main committees, namely the Project Committee (PCC), Sialkot Implementation Team (SIT), and Sialkot Program Forum (SPF). PCC was to administer the implementation of the project and facilitate partners to communicate among them.

With the mutual consensus of the key stakeholders, i.e. the Sialkot Chamber, ILO, and UNICEF, two independent institutions, Independent Monitoring Association for Child Labor (IMAC) and Child and Social Development Organization (CSDO), were established to consolidate, sustain and carry forward the achievements made by the program. IMAC was established to carry forward the workplace monitoring system and use it as a tool to combat child labor. CSDO was set up to tackle pro-actively the issues of Child labor, Child Rights, and other social developments.

Results of the practice and applications:
The program met with unprecedented success and has had the following effects:
  • Around 11,000 children and their families benefited from the program at the very outset of the overall program.
  • The program successfully eliminated child labor from the Soccer Ball Industry in Sialkot and created a model for other industrial sectors to tackle similar issues. It earned worldwide recognition and is cited as a role model project. It is on record that the former President of United States, Mr. Bill Clinton, acknowledged the success and achievements of the program during his speech delivered at International Labor Conference held on June 16th, 1999 in Geneva, Switzerland.
    • President Clinton stated, “Let me cite just one example of the success being achieved—the work being done to eliminate child labor from soccer ball industry in Pakistan. Two years ago, thousands of children under the age of 14 worked for 50 companies stitching soccer balls full time. The industry, the ILO and UNICEF joined together to remove children from the production of soccer balls and give them a chance to go to school, and to monitor the results. Today the work has been taken up by women in 80 poor villages in Pakistan, given them new employment and their families new stabilities. Meanwhile, the children have started to go school, so that when come of age, they will be able to do better jobs raising the standard of living of their villages and their nation. I thank all who were involved in this endeavor and ask other to follow their lead”
  • Industry is better sensitized towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Social Compliances.
  • Export performance of soccer balls after a downfall was reasonably sustained.

Lessons from the experience:
Along the way it was felt that due to social and cultural reasons a majority of the female stitchers were unable to leave their homes for work at regular stitching centres. Since most of the centres were for male stitchers, it was decided, in consultation with SCCI and all the partners, to accept houses as a monitorable centre.

The impact of the project went beyond the soccer ball industry in bringing attitudinal change among the communities toward the importance of education and a significant change was noticed in terms of child labor involvement in sectors like agriculture, commerce and industries other than football stitching.

The stakeholders learnt the lessons: as to how the child labor problem can be successfully tackled, and in socially responsible business practice: Child labor used to be cited as a problem but no tangible solution was available prior to this program.

One of the most crucial aspects of a donor-driven plan remains the fate of the project once money stops flowing in from foreign sources, but that was not the case with the Sialkot Soccer Ball Program as the Soccer Ball Industry itself contributed a share of exports voluntarily to carry forward and sustain the program.


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