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Iranian Streets Are Full of Children Working Illegally

Children in Iran are not allowed to work legally until the age of fifteen. But the streets are full of young children selling various items to earn money. The Iranian government says it has been trying to help these kids and their families. But child advocates say more needs to be done. Margaret Besheer narrates.

Ali walks the streets of Tehran daily. At 9-years-old he already has a job selling razors.

The three to four dollars he earns a day goes to help his parents. "I don't go to school. I work," says Ali.

Iranian law prevents children under the age of 15 from working. But the law excludes domestic work. Street children are often working for their parents and the law is unclear on how these cases should be treated.

Masha Taiyar is a children's rights advocate in Iran. She believes there needs to be stricter enforcement of child labor laws by the government. "For example, there must be special investigators -- despite the fact that that we know that child labor is prohibited -- whom we can send into homes, send other places, to see that that child works and that the employer gets interrogated."

The government says it is difficult to estimate the number of street children working illegally. But some non-governmental organizations believe there are 35,000 street children working in Tehran alone.

The House of Children is one non-governmental organization trying to help get children off the streets. The group provides education and healthcare for about 400 children.

Eshrat Gholipour works at the House of Children and says their work is vital. "In other words, if the participation of NGOs [non-governmental organizations] didn't exist, certainly the government in its social activities for working children would remain unsuccessful. Because just as I know, and all our friends know and you know, street children are not limited to Iran -- it's a worldwide phenomenon."

Government officials say they are supporting the non-governmental organizations. They are also offering financial assistance and jobs to families that ask for help. But children's rights advocates believe more needs to be done to get children off the street.