child labour, kenya

Child labour remains one of the multi-faceted problems affecting children in the world.

The 2010 ILO Global report observes that there still are 215 million working children worldwide with about 115 million of them undertaking hazardous work. Acknowledging the modest global decline in the number of child labourers over a four year period (2004-2008), the ILO report notes it was only in Sub-Saharan Africa that the number of working children increased. These are children whose future is uncertain. By working they miss the opportunity to be in school and acquire the skills required for decent work in adult life. More importantly, they miss the opportunity to be children, to enjoy childhood and grow safe, healthy and secure. These are the facts that the study carried out by CESVI in Nairobi and Nyanza Provinces amply bring out.

Though Kenya has made significant progress in combating child labour, there remains much to be done to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, the Education for All goals as well as the ILO Member States target of eliminating all worst forms of child labour by 2016.

Child labour is a rather recent concept in the East Africa region, mostly derived from the international legal framework on children rights, ratified and adopted by Kenya through local legislation. However, it has existed in the country since the pre-independence days, when children were sent by their parents to work in farms and homes of white settlers to earn money to pay taxes for their household. House chores, as well as herding or agriculture work, were also part of children duties and responsibility in line with the traditional understanding of child developmental stages. Today, the problem is critically escalating due to disabling environments entrenched in high incidences of poverty, extreme vulnerability of family structures and values systems, cultural factors and inadequate awareness on children rights.

In Kenya, despite this alarming situation, in the last decade child labour has received inadequate attention from the scholars’ community in terms of research, in particular to enable an in-depth analysis of its worst forms. Hence, the objective of this study is to contribute to the child labour discussion by examining magnitude and characteristics of worst forms of child labour (WFCL) in Kenya, focusing on the urban context of Nairobi sprawling suburbs and on the Nyanza province rural setting.

Research such as this and experience has shown that child labour continues to be a barrier to universal education. This study further amplifies the health dimension in child labour. Conditions under which children work in the damp site are appalling. The consequences are inconceivable. Consequently, child labour continues to perpetuate the poverty cycle such that children in child labour today will most likely have their own children end up in child labour. To break this cycle, every child has to have to the right to enroll and remain in school.

Combating child labour in Kenya and other developing states is a challenge. The Road Map for achieving the Elimination of Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2016 unanimously agreed upon by stakeholders at the 2010 Hague conference emphasized the need for governments to play a lead role and take responsibility for enforcing the right to education for all children and the elimination of the worst forms of child labour, yet countries are faced with numerous challenges that must be addressed with limited resources. The recommendations made in the study by CESVI are timely, specifically the need for a policy framework that provides institutional arrangement for implementation of interventions to combat child labour. Without a policy framework, it becomes hard to know what national priorities are as well as rationalize resource allocation and undertake meaningful monitoring and evaluation.

The child labour dynamics in urban and rural areas are well documented in CESVI study. Understanding these dynamics is essential in intervention programming. The findings show a clear difference between urban and rural child labour experiences and earnings even though the push factors are rather similar. Targeted intervention is therefore required in programming to ensure immediate and long-term impact.It is encouraging to have additional data in a field where data are not easily available.

The study shows that children engagement in WFCL is extensive within the target areas, with an approximate estimation of about 7549 children absorbed into the worst job market sectors and dumped into an unending poverty cycle. The author investigates children working conditions and to what extent participation in child labour affects their basic developmental rights such as education and health. Their opinion is also explored providing an insight on their beliefs, needs, and capacity to access available community services.

The study was carried out in 9 locations selected from the three Nairobi Province districts of Embakasi (Kayole, Mukuru Kwa Njenga, Komarok locations) Kasarani (Ruaraka location), Njiru (Dandora location) and the three Nyanza Province districts of Mbita (Gembe West, Rusinga East locations), Siaya (West Uholo location) and Kisumu East (Kochieng West location).

Source: “Unearthing the invisible”, Worst Forms of Child Labour in Nairobi and Nyanza Provinces (Kenya)

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