|© UNICEF Botswana/2007|
|UNICEF Digital Diarist Tsholofelo Selufaro (standing) participated in training in Botswana to raise awareness on the dangers of child labour.|
GABORONE, Botswana, 15 April 2008 – Around the world, 158 million children aged 5 to 14 are engaged in some form of child labour – that's one child in every six. In sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion is even higher, at one in three. However, many countries are only just becoming aware of the extent of this problem.
Tsholofelo Selufaro, 19, one of the UNICEF Radio and Voices of Youth Digital Diarists, has been recording interviews about child labour and trafficking throughout Botswana, where she lives. Most of Botswana's population lives in rural areas and farms for a living.
As Tsholofelo travelled around the country with UNICEF staff, she found that many people knew of children who'd been forced to work instead of attending school.
"Poverty should not be used as an excuse for child labour. Getting a child to go to school is a way out of poverty," one government minister told Tsholofelo. "We want people to get out of the impression that there is no child labour in Botswana – we are part of the global village and therefore it can happen to us."
Children at risk of abuse
Child labour is particularly prevalent in the developing world, where poverty forces children to work to support their families rather than getting an education. In rural areas, child labour is often considered normal as children work on family farms or are kept home from school to perform chores around the house while their parents work in the fields.
And without an education, children are at a greater risk of being abused and exploited.
Other children are trafficked and sold to work in the homes of the wealthy or to toil long, arduous hours in the agriculture industry, which is frequently dangerous. Globally, 50 per cent of trafficking victims are children.
'The future is us'
In one village, Tsholofelo recorded a young boy's poem about the damage that child labour inflicts upon communities. The boy wrote:
It's so painful to know
That my brother is working barefooted
At the cattle post for no pay.
As for my sister,
The thought of it floods my eyes with water.
Those who are heartless take advantage of her
Because of her family background
Enslaving her for nothing.
The poem ends with the hopeful phrase, “Yet the future is us.”