2000 ETH: Children Working on the Streets of Ethiopia
Author: Mapp, L.
Ethiopia is only one of seven countries to participate in the regional project, "The Most Intolerable Forms of Child Labour in Eastern and Southern Africa: A Proposal for Assessment, Analysis and Action." It is a collaborative effort reflecting ongoing discussions between the UNICEF Regional Office for Eastern and Southern Africa (ESARO) and the Western and Central Africa Regional Office (WCARO). In Ethiopia, the programme focuses on six towns, including Addis Ababa, Nazareth, Sheshamene, Awassa, Combulcha, Dessie, and Bahir Dar and highlights the multi-sector needs of children and women living on the streets. It addresses the provision of basic shelter, food and health services through the establishment of a network of family- and community-based organizations and linkages with the private sector local authorities, schools, public welfare associations and religious institutions.
Purpose / Objective
It was decided that a rapid assessment would strengthen these efforts and maximise ongoing partnerships with implementing partners in the process by updating the existing data in five towns previously assessed, and expand the research to an additional two towns. Discussions confirmed that although previous studies were carried out for the purpose of monitoring and evaluating the situation of street children that actually led to the development of the current street children programming, more current information is required to ensure appropriate programming in the future.
Quantitative data comes from secondary resources such as the census, statistical documents from Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, and some other studies carried out on street/working children.
Qualitative data was derived from interviews with: the working children themselves, families of working children, Labor and Social Affairs officers, NGO's working with children, key informants who have knowledge about the situation and prevalence of child labor, Education and Health local government offices and coordinators of UNICEF projects. Researchers visited Addis, Nazareth, Shashemene, and Awassa, Bahir Dar, Dessie and Kombolcha.
Accidental or accessibility sampling was utilized to select informants. The researchers went to all the places in the cities where working children were found in high concentration and interviewed the children who happened to be working or who finished working and were hanging around. The most inaccessible were those children who were engaged in prostitution. In Addis, some were asked for interviews and interviewed on the streets while waiting for customers late in the night. The drop-in center established by Hope Enterprises was also visited to find prostitutes who would volunteer for interviews.
Key Findings and Conclusions
The current assessment shows that in Ethiopia, quite a number of children are working on the streets, in garages, and as domestics. Many of these children are underfed and with no proper clothing. More than a quarter of them have dropped out of school. Almost all those who go to school are attending half-day schools. Many have difficulties paying school fees, buying school supplies and uniforms. A lot of them have health problems for which they do not get treatment. More than half of them work for more than 5 hours a day out on the streets in all kinds of weather. After long hours of, sometimes, tiring jobs they do not get proper food and sleep.
In Ethiopia, children working on the streets are not typically classified as the worst forms of child labour. Nonetheless, the problem of streetism is growing considerably in the country. Simultaneously, the extent of child labor is increasing due to poverty and social, economic, and political crises. Children between the age of 9 and 13 and even younger are engaged in different economic activities on the street. These children have health problems for which they did not get treatment. They are abused and threatened by older children. They are exploited and underpaid. They feel insecure and have worries about several things in their lives. And finally, school has become either a fantasy or an infrequent pastime when there is enough time and/or money. These circumstances indicate work that is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of the children. (ILO Convention 182 - Article 3).
There are several factors that pushed these children to work: poverty; cultures, for various reasons, that tolerate child labor; broken families; death of parents; large family size and as a result, inability to support the family; early marriage, especially in the cases of female domestics and prostitutes.
The children are working in various activities. There are some jobs which only male children are engaged and jobs which female children are exclusively engaged. For example, children working as shoe shiners are entirely boys, and petty traders are mostly females. The following are jobs children typically undertake: shoe shinning; street vending/peddling; selling bread and other snacks; washing and watching cars; mechanics; petty trading; cashier on taxi vans; providing changes to taxi drivers; housemaids or boys; porters; working in warehouses sorting export items; working as assistants to fishermen; cleaning fishes on lake shores; and prostitution.
The children have several problems. First, and most important, they compromise healthy growth environments including education. Too many children drop out of school because they have to support themselves and their families. For some, the peak time for their work overlaps with school time. Others can not afford paying school fees, and buying school supplies and uniforms.
Children working on the streets, such as peddlers and shoe shiners, complain about the rough weather. Mornings and the rainy season are extremely cold. The heat during the afternoons and dry season is equally troublesome. The children do not have sufficient and proper clothing to suit the weather. They are often abused by older children and street gangs, their money snatched, and goods stolen.
After staying out on the streets for the whole day the children's earning is very minimal. Their earning ranges between Birr 1 to Birr 10 a day, the equivalent of USD .12 to USD 1.22. Domestics are paid monthly and the minimum pay is within the range of Birr 10 and 20 or USD 1.22 to USD 2.43 per month.
The children do not get sufficient and well-balanced diets. There are many that do not get 3 meals a day. Some have to share a meal between two. Many complain about health problems such as headaches, kidney problems, malaria, and blood pressure for which they never get treatment.
Aside from physical problems the children have various worries and concerns. Some of the reasons for their worries are: the feeling of insecurity emanating from not making sufficient money; not being educated and the prospect of unemployment; bleak futures; the feeling they did not make enough money to feed themselves and their families; and a parent or parent's health.
In general the study clearly suggests that the rights of the child as stipulated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child are not protected and we find a significant number of children in harmful situations. In order to mitigate the problem, the society at large must be educated on the life of children working on the streets and accept it as one of the worst forms of child labour in Ethiopia.
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