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Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, getting children out of the gold mines

Girls as young as 10 work in Burkina Faso's gold mines. A UNICEF-supported project is helping to get them out.  Download this video


By Guy Hubbard

A global movement in response to child labour began to gain momentum in the mid-1990s. The number of children involved in child labour declined by about one third between 2000 and 2012, but progress in eliminating the practice has been slow.

Continuing the effort to end child labour is just one of the 25 achievements we are celebrating as we approach the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in November. Learn more about the progress we’ve made and what still needs to be done. 

In Burkina Faso, thousands of children labour in gold mines, seeking to support themselves and their families. A UNICEF-supported project is helping them to get out by teaching them new skills. 

© UNICEF Burkina Faso/2014/Nesbitt
Boureima Hawma Boukoum, 15, wears a torch strapped to his head when he works underground at the Gorol Kadje mine near Dori, Burkina Faso.

GOROL KADJE, Burkina Faso, 11 June 2014 – In the northern reaches of Burkina Faso, not far from Dori, 15-year-old Boureima Hawma Boukoum is lowered down a mine shaft the width of a manhole. Clinging to a rope cranked by hand, he descends more than 30 metres. An old torch, held to his head by strips of inner tube, provides the only light. At the bottom of the shaft, he crawls another 10 metres through narrow tunnels and starts to dig. He's looking for gold.

According to a 2010 study conducted by UNICEF and the government of Burkina Faso, almost 20,000 children were found to be working in artisanal gold sites like this one in Gorol Kadje, and more than 80 per cent of them had never been to school.

To tackle this issue, UNICEF has undertaken an extensive effort to get children out of the mines and into school, as well as to provide counselling and other forms of support.

“I’ve been working here for two years,” Boureima says. “Every morning when I wake up, I start working in the mine. During the day, I'm able to fill four to five sacks of stone for processing, and I then sell the sacks and am able to make some money.”

A never-ending search

In this poverty-stricken region, deep in the arid Sahel belt, the money earned from mining outshines the benefits of education.

© UNICEF Burkina Faso/2014/Nesbitt
Aissatou Amadou, 14 , crushes rocks at the Gorol Kadje mine.

“I started working here when I was 13 because we had no food at home,” Boureima says. “Everything I earn I take home to my parents.”

He has never been to school and can neither read nor write.

On the edge of the site, girls as young as 10 take the stones brought to them by miners like Boureima and pound them into a fine powder, which is then sifted and filtered in a never-ending search.

A way out

UNICEF, in partnership with NGO Terre des Hommes and the Government, has been working in five regions where child labour rates are highest to place children in career training centres and schools.

Here they are taught to become tailors, dressmakers, carpenters, welders or even mechanics

Korotimi Kinda, 17, used to haul sacks of rocks from the mineshafts to the groups of women and girls who crush them. She too, needed money and dropped out of school to earn it, but after two years of backbreaking work that left her constantly ill and in pain, she volunteered to join the centre.

© UNICEF Burkina Faso/2014/Nesbitt
Korotimi Kinda, 17, in a dressmaking class at the National Agency for Employment in Dori, Burkina Faso.

“I’m studying to become a dressmaker, and I'm in my third year now,” she says. “We are taught theory on the blackboard, and then we practice on the sewing machines. I'm really happy to be off the mines because the work here is not the same. On the mines, it was really hard and painful, and here it’s more beneficial and I get knowledge.”

Since the project started in 2009, more than 200 children have already been removed from the Gorol Kadje mine. While the vocational training they receive cannot replace their lost education, it is a way out of the mines.

“I hope to finish my training next year and to open my own shop,” Korotimi says “I'll make dresses, and I'll also teach young girls to do the same.”



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