Child Protection


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Child labour and commercial sexual exploitation

© UNICEF/NYHQ2008-1493/Nesbitt
During the cholera outbreak in 2008, two children sell mangoes for 10 million Zimbabwe dollars (about US $1) each, in a poor suburb of Harare, Zimbabwe.

The Eastern and Southern Africa region has the highest proportion of children involved in child labour in the world - 36 percent of all children between the ages of five and 14. This regional average, however, hides large differences between countries, ranging from 9 percent in Swaziland to 53 percent in Ethiopia.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines child labour as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity. It refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and interferes with their schooling. It is worth to note that not all work done by children should be classified as child labour and needs to be eliminated. Whether or not particular forms of “work” can be called “child labour” depends on the child’s age, the type and hours of work performed the conditions under which it is performed.

Domestic work is the leading employment for girls under the age of 16. It is a noted problem in several countries in the region, including Tanzania and Kenya. Girls who are isolated and invisible in households face high risks of abuse, and generally limited access to educational opportunities.

Commercial sexual exploitation, one of the most hazardous forms of child labour, is a particular threat to child protection in a number of countries in the region, including Kenya, South Africa and Madagascar. A UNICEF-supported 2006 survey on sex tourism along the Kenyan coast reported that between 2,000 and 3,000 girls worked year-round as commercial sex workers, and nearly half of them started as young as 12 or 13 years of age.

© UNICEF/TNZA2010-00026/Noorani
Young girls and women wait for customers in a bar that also functions as a brothel in Tanzania.

The agricultural sector is the largest employer of children worldwide, accounting for 70 percent of global child labour. In Africa, it is estimated that between 56 and 72 million children work in agriculture. This is a particularly dangerous activity for children because of the risks faced when working with pesticides, tools and machinery. In Eastern and Southern Africa it is an issue of particular concern in Uganda, Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, where many children work in the tea and tobacco industry.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 182 stresses the need to address and eliminate the worst forms of child labour by adopting new legal instruments, removing children from hazardous or compulsory work that threatens their health and safety, and providing free basic education as a deterrent against child labour.

Percentage of children aged 5-14 involved in child labour
 Country  Total  Male  Female
 Angola  24  22  25
 Botswana  9  11  7
 Burundi  19  19  19
 Comoros  27  26  28
 Eritrea  -  -  -
 Ethiopia  53  59  46
 Kenya  26  27  25
 Lesotho  23  25  21
 Madagascar  28  29  27
 Malawi  26  25  26
 Mozambique  22  21  24
 Namibia  13  15  12
 Rwanda  35  36  35
 Somalia  49  45  54
 South Africa  -  -  -
 South Sudan  -  -  -
 Swaziland  9  9  9
 Uganda  36  37  36
 Tanzania (United Republic of)  21  23  19
 Zambia  41  42  40
 Zimbabwe  13  12  14
Source: The state of the world's children 2012, UNICEF

UNICEF in action

UNICEF believes that a comprehensive approach to addressing child labour involves effective legislative and enforcement systems and improved protection and response capacity. The organisation collaborates with ILO and its International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) to raise awareness amongst parliamentarians and ensure that all children, including those vulnerable to exploitation, have access to education.

UNICEF has also been working closely with the World Bank and ILO in a project called ‘Understanding Children’s Work’. This inter-agency programme aims to address the crucial need for more and better data on child labour. It helps build capacity at country level to track and assess child labour, analyze policies and programmes relating to child labour, and support the elimination of the practice.

Results for children

In Uganda an increased number of children have been withdrawn from exploitative and hazardous labour by providing them with other alternatives, including support to return to their communities of origin.

UNICEF supported the development of a draft Child Labour Policy and National Plan of Action on Child Labour in Malawi and a national plan against the worst forms of child labour in Burundi.

In Comoros, UNICEF contributed to a study on the impact of poverty and migration on children and a study on child labour.

In Madagascar, an awareness-raising campaign, including communication material and videos produced in the local language, was designed to raise greater awareness of the problem of commercial sexual exploitation in communities.

Angola has developed a code of conduct under the coordination of the Ministry of Tourism, aimed at increasing protection against sexual exploitation and abuse, especially during the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament in January 2010.

Ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the Fair Trade and Tourism South Africa (FTTSA) launched The International Code against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism with UNICEF and partners. Together with Kenya and Lesotho, South Africa is the only country on the African continent that has become a signatory of the Code.





Related links

UNICEF defines child labour as work that exceeds a minimum number of hours, depending on the age of a child and on the type of work.

Ages 5-11: At least one hour of economic work or 28 hours of domestic work per week.

Ages 12-14: At least 14 hours of economic work or 28 hours of domestic work per week.

Ages 15-17: At least 43 hours of economic or domestic work per week.


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