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Child Protection: Child Labor

Our feature series this week is on Africa’s vulnerable children, specifically their exposure to violence and exploitation, as well as the best way to protect their welfare. So far, we’ve discussed the issue of street children, kids in prison, and those forced into military service. Tonight, an organization designed to protect children’s rights -- especially in the work place – the International Labor Organization (ILO) and how it helps children in Africa.

Miriam Gachago is the ILO’s chief technical advisor for combating child labor in Malawi. She told English to Africa reporter Cole Mallard child labor is governed by two international conventions. She says the first deals with the minimum age for working children, which ranges from 14 to 18, depending on circumstances surrounding access to education. But she says regardless of age, “the work must not be harmful to the health or morals of the individual.”

Gachago says the other convention deals with eradicating illicit forms of child labor considered criminal: namely slavery, trafficking, debt bondage, prostitution, and pornography. She says time spent working and harvesting on the family farm is more difficult to define. The ILO official says the Malawi code of conduct on child labor says they can work no more than 4 hours a day. She says one mission is to create child abuse awareness among businesses, and offer support substitutes for using children, especially in the widely used farming and agriculture areas.

Concerning families that are very poor, Gachago says “We are providing income generating opportunities for them and some are doing quite well.” Gachago says the ILO provides the money, but local NGOs and other organizations disperse funds to meet children’s school needs regardless of whether they have to work or not.

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