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Date: Thu, 10 Dec 1998 22:28:23 -0600 (CST)
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: RIGHTS-EAST AFRICA: Child Labour On The Rise
Article: 49685
Message-ID: <bulk.6746.19981211181604@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** ips.english: 526.0 **/
** Topic: RIGHTS-EAST AFRICA: Child Labour On The Rise **
** Written 3:17 PM Dec 9, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

Child Labour On The Rise

By Philip Ngunjiri, IPS, 6 December 1998

NAIROBI, Dec 6 (IPS) - Each morning nine-year old Beldine Nakaisa wakes up at 5 o'clock to prepare breakfast for her adopted family in a bustling Nairobi suburb.

After breakfast, she prepares the children, aged seven and four, and walks them to the bus-stop a few meters away to catch their transport, before returning home to continue with her house chores.

While going about her arduous and ever demanding chores, Nakaisa keeps the youngest child strapped to her back. "I have instructions to carry her on the back when it rains so that her shoes doesn't get dirty," she says.

Nakaisa is one of the three million Kenyan minors engaged in child labour, often working under hazardous conditions and paid little. The children are mainly employed in export industries like textiles, clothing, and footwear. They also work in the coffee and tea plantations.

"In addition, millions of others toil in private homes, the most widespread form of child exploitation, the rate at which it is growing is very alarming," said Mary Mbeo of the UN International Labour Organisation (ILO) office in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

ILO organised a workshop in Nairobi last week to seek ways to curb the growing cases of child labour in East Africa.

Mbeo, who is also the coordinator of the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour, said there has been disquieting evidence of widespread physical, mental and sexual abuse of young girls working in households.

"These children work for long hours in servitude; this causes emotional deprivation, regression, premature aging which leads to depression and low self-esteem in the victims," she said.

Efforts to curb the growing abuse in the domestic sector have been hampered because the children work in private homes where they are inaccessible to labour officers, Mbeo said.

ILO has blamed the growing incident of child labour in Africa on poverty. Child labour in Africa is expected to rise to more than 100 million by the year 2015 from the current 80 million because poverty continued to force children out of school, according to the body.

An ILO report made available to IPS this week said "poverty, rapid population growth, deteriorating living standards, and inability of African governments to cater for all its children in schools with decent education remain the root cause of child labour in the African continent."

According to the organisation, Africa has the highest incidence of child labour with about 41 percent of all its children aged 5-14 working. Asia is second with 21 percent followed by Latin America with 17 percent.

In Africa, Mali has the highest percentage of working children with 54.4 percent, Bukina Faso with 51.1 percent, Burundi 49 percent, Uganda 45.3 percent and Niger 45.2. Kenya ranks sixth with 41.3 percent.

About half of the three million Kenyan children engaged in child labour work in the fishing industry. In Kenya's central province, 60 percent of the workforce on coffee plantations are children.

"Preventive action for children exposed to hazardous work conditions is crucial given the levels of poverty, population growth and school enrollment which indicate that the potential of child workers in Kenya is projected to increase over the next 10 years," said Geir Myrstad, ILO Chief Technical Advisor. He cited agriculture, tourism and domestic service as the greatest abusers of children.

Lee Muthoga, who is the chairman of the Africa Network for Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN), said Kenya lacks appropriate legal infrastructure on child labour.

"The laws are obsolete and needs reviewing," he said, and he suggested that "partnerships and alliances should be promoted among legislators, the judiciary, members of the legal professional, the police, religious leaders and trade unions to come up with laws that protect the rights of the child."

Muthoga said school admission in Kenya was falling while the country's school drop-out rate was on the rise. "We either invest in education for children today or wait to invest in prison development and management, in cemetery construction, in riot control, crime detection, control in security and infrastructure repair. That is the grim choice that has to be made," he said.

The workshop was attended by participants from the East African nations of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, who called on their governments to combat child labour. They also made a number of proposals including compulsory education, community mobilisation and promotion of economic growth focusing on the most disadvantaged groups.

They also agreed on the removal of children from extreme forms of child labour and their rehabilitation, through mutual cooperation and assistance between member states, including sanctions to ensure compliance.

"The focus should be preventive measures, reduction of harmful effects of child labour as well as effective rehabilitation programmes for the children withdrawn from hazardous work," said Kathini Maloba-Cranes of the International Union for Food (IUF).

"Though most countries have ratified treaties to combat child labour, few have implemented them," added Maloba-Cranes, whose Nairobi-based institution co-organised the workshop.

[c] 1998, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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