A mother who uses her children to peddle goods in front of shops in Apia has defended her actions saying it is not “child labour”.
Vaefoa Va’alele of Vaitele Uta, who has eight children, was seen with three of her children outside a major shop yesterday trying to sell boxes of matches, cotton buds and fingernail cutters.
She told the Samoa Observer that members of the public gave her strange looks when they saw her and her children.
“We are not beggars, we are working and I have been given the stinky eye look from members of the public and in my view who are you to judge me? These are my children and in reality they are earning a living for themselves.
“It just so happens, many of you work in offices, warehouses, and drives cars, well this is my office. Have you been in my shoes, just because my children are street vendors does make you any better from us,” she said.
Vaefoa’s eldest child is 14-years-old and the youngest three. It was her 10-year-old, six-year-old and five-year-old who accompanied her yesterday as they tried to sell their items in town.
She said street vending is not a form of child labour and emphasised that her children attend school.
“My children attend school, they are not deprived of their childhood, the difference is they have to work in their childhood.”
Income from the sale of the items in front of Apia’s shops enables the family to put food on the table and pay for power and water bills according to Vaefoa.
“I am able to put my children to school, put food on the table, pay for cash power and pay water bills and supply for their needs – that is what a parent does.”
The mother of eight sees education as a pathway to a better future for her children and told this newspaper that she wanted her children to go to school.
“I did not have a good education and I don’t want them to grow up doing this, I want better future for them. Life is hard and this is my daily routine with my family.
“I take my children to school and after school we come to town and sell our goods, then we leave here around 7.00 to 8.00 pm. We get home, wash up, eat dinner and do homework,” she added.
Vaefoa’s husband is a farmer but opportunities to work are “seasonal”, which is why the family’s peddling of goods is essential to their survival.