Zambia, children as breadwinners

“I work everyday after I knock off from school, I do different types of piece works and digging pits is one of them. I get six thousand kwacha for each pit that I dig and sometimes I have to share it with other children who help me in carrying the sand out of the pit when I am tired…it makes me sad when other children and myself have to work like slaves in order for us to survive while other children have an opportunity to go to school without working for anything…”.

A 14 year old in Mansa sharing his experiences of child labour. Most young people in poverty stricken areas of the country are deprived of an opportunity to enjoy their childhood as some of them become bread winners of their families at a young age (largely due to poverty and the scourge of HIV). These children have to work tirelessly to quench the scourge of starvation. The chances are that most people reading this have implicitly exploited child labourers as they have driven through many of our roads. They would have bought food from the child and encouraged such practices to go on. The greater evil of course might be to let the child simply starve. I wont provide moral guidance in this post, but it strikes me that exploiting the poor is something we ought to avoid and where possible should seek to provide charitable acts.

The moment the issue of child labour is brought up people run quickly to definitions. The report cited previously on child labour in Zambia here should help. Chapter 4 deals with the extent to which children’s work in Zambia constitutes “child labour”, i.e., the extent to which work is injurious, negative or undesirable to children. As a general point work by children per se is not necessarily injurious to children or a violation of their rights. Indeed, in some circumstances, children’s work can be beneficial, not harmful, contributing to family survival and enabling children to acquire learning and life skills. Three main international conventions – the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), ILO Convention No. 182 (Worst Forms) and ILO Convention No. 138 (Minimum Age) – define child labour and provide a framework for efforts against it. The 14 year old boy example given above certainly qualifies under the definitions as child labour.

(The Zambia Economist)

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