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University of Iowa News Release

May 3, 2004

Sok, Local Students Participate In World Congress On Child Labor

Three local individuals will bring their voices, visions and artwork to the World Congress on Child Labor May 10-13 in Florence, Italy.

Kendra Halter, an eighth-grade student at South East Junior High School in Iowa City, and Chivy Sok, deputy director of the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR), will participate in this international event, which will bring former child laborers and youth activists from around the world together to strengthen youth participation in decision- and policy-making on child labor advocacy.

A third Iowa City resident, Spencer Lundquist, a sixth grader at Lucas Elementary School in Iowa City, will not travel to the congress, but he will be represented through his artwork. Lundquist's design was selected for the U.S. delegation's T-shirt design. Spencer is one of the founding members of the youth organization, Children Helping Innocent Laborers Democratically (CHILD). This group was formed to focus Iowa City youth efforts to work on child labor issues.

The Children's World Congress is the first-ever global youth congress on child labor. Some 500 young people ages 10 to 17 will share their perspectives on child labor, engage in policy making and strengthen their leadership skills in directing the youth movement against child labor.

Representatives from international organizations, including the United Nations, the International Labor Organization, the World Bank, and others will attend the congress, but it will be the children who will participate in the formulation of policies and strategies, Sok said.

Sok, who also serves as the project director of the Child Labor Research Initiative, nominated Halter as one of the youth delegates from the U.S. to participate in this world event. Halter, who was first exposed to the issue of child labor when she was in fifth grade, is one of six young people nationwide to be selected for this program.

"Since then, she has quietly and consistently committed her life to raising awareness about the issue of child labor and she is contributing to the worldwide effort against human rights violations," Sok wrote in a nomination letter.

In preparation for her role as a youth delegate, Halter has consulted with other student activists from Lucas and Hoover elementary schools. In March, the UICHR organized a consultative meeting in preparation for the Congress to enable Iowa City youth to contribute to the formulation of ideas and policies.

"Kendra will play the important role of being their voices in this global event, which is a significant moment in human history," Sok said. "This Congress will be a wonderful opportunity for youth activists and former child laborers to share in the decision making process, and to play an important leadership role in solving one of the worst forms of human rights violations. I'm absolutely thrilled that our Center, our University, and our youths will be contributing to this global process."

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.

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

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Lois Gray, 319-335-2026, Program: Girija Mahajan, 319-335-1566,