Around 10,000 people representing a rainbow of nations from Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe gathered at 4pm at Mont Blanc in Geneva. The huge gathering was the culmination of six months of marching across five continents to raise awareness about the exploitation of millions of child labourers around the world.
The scouts and guides of Switzerland had made a number of floats depicting scenes of exploitative child labour from around the world. The floats highlighted children making rugs, working in brick kilns, working in mines and sewing sports shoes and soccer balls together - poignant messages to such an international crowd.
The March progressed to the beat of African drums and music and was lead by children from the Philippines, India and Brazil. The March ended at the International Forum - a huge building which was set up with tables and chairs and food, to feed all the children and the "core" marchers from across the globe. The march turned into a festive party - food, music, dance and entertainment from around the world. Outside the building a number of organisations had set up tents and stalls with information on their organisations and on the issue of child labour more broadly.
The Geneva Global March drew incredible media from across Europe. It was covered widely in all the major media outlets - TV, radio and print.
The following day (for probably the first time in the history of the International Labour Office) children were able to enter and take a platform in the General Assembly Hall during the opening Plenary of the International Labour Conference. Some 150 children from around the world made their way into the Hall to be greeted by Government, Employer and Worker delegates from a multitude of nations. The children then gave a speech about the aims of the Global March and about the significance of the proposed new Convention being debated at the International Labour Conference aimed at eliminating the worst forms of child labour.
The impact of the children and the Global March more broadly on those present at the International Conference was evident, many of the government, worker and employment delegates shedding tears as the child workers entered the Assembly Hall. Whilst the meeting in June represented only the first step in an ongoing international discussion, most governments openly supported the establishment of a new international Convention which would effectively outlaw the most exploitative forms of child labour. Further discussions planned for June 1999 will determine if governments around the world, including the Australian government are prepared to commit to the new Convention.
of World Vision, Australia.