African Press International (API)

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Kenya: How poverty drives minors into child labour

Posted by African Press International on May 10, 2013


Stella Barasa, 13, a resident of Webuye suburb Malaha estate,wakes up at 4am each day and trudges to a nearby river to fetch water for his bosses.Stella also helps prepare and serve the family with meals and sweeps the whole compound among other chores.

surprisingly, stella has no shoes but a half-heel chopped off red flappers which she uses to protect her cracked feet.

Stella narrates that she found herself in this horrible situation four years ago at a tender age of nine years after she lost both of her parents due to deadly HIV.

After her parents death,she was adopted by her aunts in Nakuru but her stay there was short-lived. Circumstances forced her to quit the place due to harassment from family members.

The poor girl while at her aunt’s place,she was forced to sleep on an empty 90 kg sack.  Narrating to this scribe,the young girl said was often beaten up on the slightest provocation of her aunt who forced her to feed on leftovers that dropped from the family table.

Now Stella,is a young domestic worker who does know her fate.The child labor ,which is now broadly defined as the employment of minors, is often a harsh and most exploitative condition among children.

But the vice has remained in practical both in developing and even industrial countries.The human cost of child labour leaves the victims gaunt, crippled, illiterate and sick.

International Labour Organisation(ILO) that was founded in 1919 has since transformed into special agency of the United Nations (UN)

The introduction of child labour conventions by ILO among members,including a minimum age of 16 years for admission to all kinds of work. While others including a higher minimum age for particular employment,medical examination and regulation of right work.

In early 21st Century,ILO was compelled to add the worst forms of child labour to its list including slavery,debt bondage(where children work to pay off loans owed by parents)prostitution and forced military services.

A growing concern now in Bungoma County has been the increase in prostitution among young girls in urban ares especially in drinking spree.Some of the children have been forced in the ugly practice due to abject poverty.

The 1997 Unicef report concerning child labour stated most employers try to hire workers who are easier or cheap to exploit.It was also estimated that over 3 million minors in Kenya engage in child labour, usually working under hazardous conditions.

The report also highlighted that the most vulnerable and weakest workers are children usually paid less than the adults and are often ignorant on their rights or how to protest against poor working environment.

“Poverty plays an enormous role in the phenomenon.Desperate for money,poor families around the world including Kenya are forced to push minors to increase overall income among the families. “The report read in part.

The poor families,the small contributions of child’s income or the assistance can make a huge difference between a bare sufficiency and hunger, the survey reveals.

In various towns of Bungoma county,a stroll in the streets at night leaves one gasping for breath over the ages of girls frequently visiting clubs at night for prostitution.

A study carried town in seven districts in Kenya in 1997 by child Welfare Society of Kenya indicated that child prostitution is widely practised in big towns. Some victims were as young as 11 years old. Malindi and Mombasa topped underage children selling sex.

In Nairobi,the number of street children has risen to 60,000 with the Government estimating their numbers to grow at 10 percent annually. The children are often involved in drug trafficking,assault, theft, trespass and property damaging.

A survey carried out in 1996 in a lower class estate in Nairobi found that 30% of households employed children.In 1997 the figured dropped by 12%.

In Kenya, a study of girls working as housemaids found out that 25 girls aged 9-16 years,18 were HIV positive. Most of the girls  had worked in homes had reported sexual abuse in all or most of them.

Statistics available in labour officer in larger Bungoma region indicates that more than 13,000 underage girls in the region have been lured or forced into commercial sex by wealth men.

According to Hariet Owulo, a child rights activists in Bungoma, says that apart from prostitution, a high percentage of underage children in the region are involved in stone crashing,charcoal kilns and bricking making as others are employed as housemaids.

On the other hand,a survey in six districts in Bungoma county reveals that most children drop out of school due to a rigid curriculum to an extent they prefer to look interesting jobs.




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