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ILO Steps in to Help Tanzania Stamp Out Child Labour

Panafrican News Agency, 3 August 2000

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania - The International Labour Organisation is helping Tanzania confront an escalating child labour problem, involving over 25,000 kids.

The organisation's director of operations, Ng Gek Boo, recently concluded discussions in the country with senior government officials over logistics of the intended programme.

Tanzania has vast experiences in handling child labour problems, in particular, its commitment to address, as a matter of priority the most hazardous and exploitative child labour practices, he said.

The programme is to be executed under the ILO International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour or IPEC and will initially target children working in hazardous conditions.

In Tanzania, the conditions include mines and quarries, commercial farms and commercial sex. The programme will involve withdrawing the children from such labour and reuniting them with their families.

According to a study done in Tanzania by ILO in 1997, the number of children involved in the so-called worst forms of child labour could be bigger.

It was determined that girls from rural areas were brought into cities in large numbers to work as domestics and sex workers in their early teens.

It was also discovered that there was a correlation between high fertility, large households, single-parenthood, HIV/AIDS, low levels of formal education and child labour.

Poverty has been cited within the study as being a motivating factor of the child labour problem. Half of Tanzania's population of about 31 million lives in abject poverty.

This information, according to the ILO office in Tanzania, will be instrumental in understanding the incidences of the problem at hand.

Financial difficulties bedevilling their families are behind the big wave of young children employed in commercial farms in the north-eastern regions of Arusha and Kilimanjaro.

In Arusha, for instance, boys as young as 15 were engaged in weeding paddy fields and protecting crops on farms while girls of the same age were in prostitution.

It has been discovered that male bosses drive female domestics into prostitution by coercion.

The Association of Tanzania Employers, in co-operation with IPEC, is helping its members to combat the problem of child labour in tea, coffee and sisal plantations.

Child labourers on farms have to carry huge loads of inputs and crops. They are frequently in contact with toxic pesticides, which are harmful to human health.

Exposure to pesticides poses a considerable risk to children than adults and has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, neuropathy and immune system abnormalities, ILO warns.

Similar reversal measures are being effected by human rights organisations to save hundreds of young girls who are at risk of losing their childhood to HIV/AIDS through child labour.