How graduate student, Andrea Khan, is contributing to complex societal issues such as poverty and child labour.

Posted on Monday, November 6, 2017

How do our graduate students are contributing to complex society issues?

Each year, several students begin or continue their studies at the graduate level. Their research touches on complex issues in our society and is at the heart of our faculty. We invite you to discover our students every month, and their research, in relation to the United Nations theme days

Children working at a clothing factory
Tell me about your journey

I began my work in international development in India through a fellowship from the Aga Khan Foundation Canada. It was an eye-opening experience, which gave me the privilege to work in Gujarat, India with CHETNA – a pioneer in women and children’s empowerment. My university studies included a BA from the University of Lethbridge, and MA in journalism at Western University. Since 2008, I have been a child rights and protection specialist at Global Affairs Canada. I am proud to have contributed to help Canada show leadership on child protection, including child soldiers, as the sustainable development goals (SDGs) were formulated, and to have helped make Canada a leading donor in this emerging sector to #ENDviolence.

What motivated or inspired you to do research on this topic?

I have been a practitioner for over 20 years and I have supported the development of child and family policies and programs both in Canada and abroad. Yet over the years I have noticed that there seems to be public perception that safeguards to protect children from harm, including sexual exploitation and abuse are fully in place. The sad reality is that there are often loopholes in the law, regulations and codes that make it too easy for malicious individuals to take advantage of children below age 18 who are vulnerable to violence including sexual abuse and labour exploitation. My research will draw deeply on my work experiences to identify the weakest links in child protection systems.

Why is your research important in today’s society?

Huge volumes of goods produced by young people including children ages 5-17 regularly enter Canada, the US and other G7 countries. Canadians should know that the goods and products they are purchasing have been produced under decent work conditions. My research is designed to contribute to dialogue about how governments, manufacturers and businesses can increase collaboration and certify if a product has - or has not - been produced using child labour, including the worst forms of child labour. By conducting interdisciplinary research on business and human rights safeguard standards, my doctoral research will examine the links between poverty and child labour and the increasing trend to consider certain human rights violations that pose a threat to workers’ health and safety to be a “zero tolerance” issue. As global value chains become increasingly more complex and the rules for Canadian trade agreements are renegotiated, more studies in this area will be required.

What would you like to see or accomplish in the future?

 I have a strong commitment to contribute to evidence based public interest institutions (academic, governmental and non-governmental). My vision of child development and child protection is rooted in the belief that the arts, music, education and other cultural investments can do much to help restore a positive peace leading to transformation, with the benefit to stimulate innovation and community development. I would also like to continue supporting a new generation of students here at the University of Ottawa.


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