Child Protection in YemenThe United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has released a statement on child protection in Yemen. It highlights child labor and early marriage as pervasive issues in the country. A study indicates that, out of Yemen’s 7.7 million children aged 5 to 17, 17% are subject to child labor, with the majority of them working without pay. As of 2019, 4 million child brides reside in Yemen, with families marrying off 1.4 million of them before they reach the age of 15.

The Government’s Unfulfilled Commitment

In 2021, Yemen achieved little progress in fighting child labor despite a training initiative by the International Labor Organization. The government struggled to enforce regulations, with state forces recruiting child soldiers and marginalized children facing increased vulnerability due to school discrimination.

The divided Yemeni government, with Northern Yemen resisting child protection and gender-based violence projects, poses challenges to combating gender-based violence in schools and fully realizing the Global Program’s objectives. In July 2014, the Yemeni government signed a charter at the London Girl Summit, committing to end child marriage by 2020. Despite this commitment, there is still no minimum age requirement for marriage in the country. And with the government’s focus on other humanitarian crises and the ongoing war, child marriage remains a pressing concern.

Impacts on Children

Poverty-stricken families struggle to survive in a country where necessities like food, water and health care are scarce. In the face of such adversity, many parents feel they have no choice but to send their children to work, often in dangerous and exploitative conditions. The Bureau of International Labor Affairs released a report indicating that approximately 13.6% of the working population are children from the ages 5 to 13.

Additionally, child marriage serves as a coping strategy for parents seeking relief from caregiving costs or better protection for their daughters. Amid the conflict, women and girls face worsening conditions, with broken social institutions and 1.83 million children, including 830,000 girls, losing school access. Lacking education and support, child brides suffer increased vulnerability.

UNICEF’s Initiatives to Address Child Labor and Early Marriage in Yemen

UNICEF strengthens child protection systems by supporting community-based committees and case management systems for addressing child protection in Yemen. It contributes to data collection and analysis to guide policy decisions and employs communication strategies to encourage positive social norms and behavior change regarding child marriage.

UNICEF regularly publishes monthly reports to track its humanitarian response in Yemen. The latest report, released on Dec. 31, 2022, shows that UNICEF’s Yemen Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC) aligned with the 2021 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan (YHRP). The organization reported that it requires $484.4 million to deliver aid in Yemen in 2023. Factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, economic instability, rising oil prices and global logistical costs have contributed to increased operational expenses in the country.

UNICEF persistently educates 5.5 million children and community members about the dangers of mines, unexploded ordnances and explosive remnants of war. Furthermore, it has provided psychosocial support to over 410,000 children and caregivers in conflict-affected regions and has helped 4.1 million children and women benefit from gender-based violence risk reduction, prevention or response measures. UNICEF and UNFPA jointly tackle child marriage in Yemen through the Global Program, focusing on key drivers and empowering girls with education and life skills.

The Global Program has provided education support to vulnerable girls in conflict-affected regions. Through the Global Partnership for Education, 1,220 vulnerable girls benefitted from enrollment or reintegration into formal education systems. UNICEF also advocates for legal frameworks and policies to protect children from early marriage.

Funding Challenges and International Support

According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), most international donations to Yemen are directed towards food security. In fact, the Financial Tracking Service report revealed that 43.7% of the $2.77 billion from other countries to Yemen was allocated for food security. However, child protection receives only $5.55 million and education gets $44.31 million, leaving issues like child labor and early marriage underfunded.

Nonetheless, UNICEF actively promotes support from other countries to aid Yemen. Kuwait, for example, recently signed a $2 million agreement with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to support internally displaced people in Yemen.

Additionally, 53 international organizations (IOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are working to help the country. Among these organizations are Save the ChildrenIslamic Relief and the Yemeni League for Development Foundation (YLDF).

Looking Ahead

In the face of immense challenges, UNICEF is actively working to address child labor and early marriage in Yemen. Its initiatives include strengthening child protection systems, providing education and psychosocial support to children and caregivers and advocating for legal frameworks to protect children. While funding for child protection remains a challenge, UNICEF continues to advocate for international support and collaboration with other organizations to improve the situation in Yemen. Despite the obstacles, ongoing efforts offer hope for a future that is free of child labor and early marriage in Yemen.

– Tanya Hamad
Photo: Flickr

Forced Child Begging in SenegalMaison de la Gare is a non-governmental organization that aims to tackle forced child begging in Senegal by reintegrating talibé children into Senegalese society. Talibés are young boys and girls who study the Quran at unregulated “daaras” (residential Quranic schools) supported by their teachers, known as marabouts. Most often, the conditions that these children live and study in are deplorable and teachers often subject students to acts of abuse. Within daaras in remote rural areas, children lack proper shelter, water, sanitation and even food. Some teachers, force children, sometimes as young as 5, into begging.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) considers forced child begging to be one of the “worst forms of child labor” as it is a violation of the basic human rights protections outlined in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Human Trafficking Search explains that forced child begging is “one of the most visible forms of human trafficking in existence: the exploited children are in plain sight, impossible to miss for any pedestrian walking by.”

A Closer Look at Forced Child Begging in Senegal

As the majority of daaras do not receive any support from the government and do not charge for food, education or accommodation, some Quranic teachers force their students to make up for it by begging for food or a few coins on the streets of Senegal. When failing to meet the specific quota for each day, these teachers subject talibés to severe abuse, Human Rights Watch reports.

The charity that children receive is passed on to their “teachers” and sometimes the leftovers they collect “may be the only food they have all day,” according to a 2021 piece by writer Fatoumata Ouedrago.

Estimates by Maison de la Gare place the number of forced child beggars in Senegal at around 15,000. “These boys are beaten into submission, punished for trying to run away and deprived of all basic human rights by their abusers.”

For families dealing with poverty, sometimes sending their children to daaras is a solution to some of their financial problems — it provides free education for their children but also makes sense logistically as often the selected school is close to their family home.

Hope for the Future

Organizations like Maison de la Gare are tackling forced child begging in Saint Louis, Senegal, by providing access to proper education in a nurturing environment and teaching skills that help children become well-equipped for their futures.

The organization started its work in 2007 and established a community center funded by international supporters. Its mission is challenging and arduous but not impossible. The main goal is to accommodate talibés into the “formal school system and prepare them to be productive members of Senegalese society.”

In order to achieve this, Maison de la Gare provides “literacy classes, hygiene instruction and nutritional support,” supplying vital medical care that talibés do not have access to and developing apprenticeship programs for older children.

Advocacy Efforts to End Child Begging in Senegal

Maison de la Gare lobbies for an end to the abuse and exploitation faced by talibés and “works to make this a central issue of political debate both within Senegal and internationally,” according to its website. To achieve these goals, Maison de la Gare strives to establish “collaborative relationships” with other NGOs, government authorities and, most importantly, “with the marabouts who are the key to realizing real change.”

As part of the “Hope for begging talibé children campaign,” the organization has managed to raise more than $190,000 to fund its efforts to support children through its welcome center, constructed in 2010.

According to its annual report, in 2021, Maison de la Gare accommodated 128 talibés, reintegrated 50 children and reunited 58 others with their families. Every month the organization provides medical treatment to 195 children and equips 102 daaras with hygiene kits.

Looking Ahead

Modern slavery occurs in almost every country in the world but is most prevalent in nations with high poverty rates. According to the World Bank’s estimates, 9.3% of Senegal’s population lived under the poverty line of $2.15 per person per day in 2018.

The most dominant form of slavery in Senegal takes the form of forced child begging and is a result of “government inaction, distorted traditions and desperate families,” Ouedrago highlights in her publication.

In addition to providing educational programs, Maison de la Gare believes that in order to significantly reduce the number of begging talibé children, the state should introduce modern regulated daaras and improve the enforcement of existing anti-forced begging legislation.

– Ralitsa Pashkuleva
Photo: Flickr

Organizations Working to End Child Labor
Around 160 million children around the world ages 5 to 17 are involved in child labor and more than 79 million of them are working in dangerous conditions that put their lives at major risk. Over the last four years, there has been an increase of 8.4 million children now engrossed in the act of child labor and that number is predicted to rise significantly even just for the year 2022. Despite this issue ascending, there is a multitude of organizations working to end child labor worldwide.

Child Labor and its Impact

Child labor is when someone exploits children into work that is dangerous and hazardous almost 50% of the time. This prevents them from having a normal childhood and leaves them unable to attend school. This issue is present in countries all over the world and sub-Saharan Africa has the most child laborers in the world with over 86.6 million, according to World Vision.

Poverty and poor schools are the two biggest causes of child labor in low-income countries. However, the problem is still prevalent in middle and high-income countries. “About 93.4 million children, 58.4% of child laborers, live in middle-income countries and 1.6 million child laborers live in high-income countries,” World Vision reported on its website.

Slavery, child trafficking, forced recruitment into armed conflict, prostitution and pornography, drug production and debt bondage are the worst forms of child labor, according to World Vision. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 22,000 children die each year at work due to unsafe environments. The most common form of child labor is agriculture work with more than 70% of laborers working in that field, World Vision reported.

One in three children in child labor is unable to receive an education due to how demanding their work schedule is, which is only going to continue the poverty and child labor cycle. According to UNICEF, there are 9 million additional children globally at risk of ending up in child labor by the end of 2022 as a result of the pandemic.” Luckily there are organizations working to end child labor, so hopefully, that number will not be as extreme.

The Global March Against Child Labour

The Global March Against Child Labour (Global March) is a global organization made-up of trade unions, teacher associations and civic organizations, with the purpose of ending child exploitation and trafficking, while focusing on providing quality education to all children. Global March began in 1998 when thousands of people, including world leaders came together to march against child labor in 103 countries to bring awareness to the problem.

The organization takes part in local, national, regional and global efforts in protecting and promoting the rights of children. Its goal is to change the system that compels children to have to work in the first place. Some of the issues it is addressing in order to improve children’s future: “the elimination of child labor, education for all and poverty alleviation.”

The organization has multiple programs in place as well as events aiding the end of child labor. It also has a current campaign called “Will you dance with us?,” which aims to show world leaders the importance of education and how many children in Africa (87 million) are working instead of going to school.


GoodWeave, an organization that began in 1994, “is the leading global institution with a mission to stop child labor in global supply chains through a market-based holistic and authentic system.” Since 1994, the organization has rescued over 6,700 children from child labor and provided educational opportunities to over 26,000 children. It reached more than 75,000 workers in supply chains in 2018. In partnership with more than 350 organizations worldwide, GoodWeave aims to heal and educate exploited children and address the root causes of child labor.

There is “The GoodWeave Label,” which is a label on products that means no child labor went into the creation of that product. The purchase of products with this label shows support for programs trying to educate children and ensure adequate work for adults. “GoodWeave makes regular, unannounced inspections of all production facilities that cover tier-one factories and all outsourced production, including homes, to verify compliance with this Standard,” the organization said on its website.


Rob Morris founded Love146, a global organization, in 2002 with the mission of ending child trafficking and exploitation. The values Love146 operates under are “defiant hope, steady perseverance, deliberate collaboration, relentless advocacy, intentional thoughtfulness and unfiltered joy.” Services provided to positively outcome children include preventative education and supportive programming for financial independence, skills and resources.

There is a current project in the Philippines to provide holistic care to children in Love146’s care. The staff there created innovative ways to provide “education, recreation, health care and other services could be provided to children on-site,” according to its annual report.

Love146 reached more than 3,500 children through survivor care. It also reached more than 16,000 professionals, community members and caregivers to support Love146’s vision. Prevention and community education reached more than 63,000 children, thanks to Love146. “The trafficking and exploitation of children are one of the most severe human rights abuses imaginable,” Morris said on the organization’s website.

There are millions of children forced into labor each year and that number could only go up. By the end of this year, UNICEF predicts that 9 million children could go into child labor. This means they are most likely going to lose access to their education and have a poverty-based future, continuing the cycle between poverty and child labor. Child exploitation is an ongoing issue around the world, but these are just a few of the many organizations working to end child labor permanently around the world.

– Dylan Olive
Photo: Unsplash

Trafficked Victims in Nepal
The organization Shakti Samuha believes that trafficked victims in Nepal are valuable members of society. It asserts that these victims deserve rights like everyone else. Moreover, it believes that victims should lead the fight against trafficking. Founded by 15 girls that the Indian government released in 1996, Shakti Samuha focuses on prevention, security and empowerment for survivors.

Shakti Samuha: Victims as Advocates

Shakti Samuha promotes enhancing advocacy efforts to improve and influence anti-trafficking legislation. Further, it strives to empower victims to seek cases against traffickers. Simultaneously, Shakti Samuha works to reintegrate victims into the economy. The organization runs an income-generation support program. It also provides psychosocial and legal counseling. Finally, Shakti Samuha helps provide survivors with housing. The organization has five shelters and provides education support to 1,514 children. In total, since 2009 Shakti Samuha has repatriated 145 human trafficked women and children from India.

Since 2005, about 18,261 people have actively participated in the awareness-raising, interaction and advocacy activities in Kathamndu valley and five trafficking-prone districts. Shakti Samuha won the 2013 Ramon Magsaysay Award, which is considered Asia’s Nobel prize.

Sunita Danuwar: Leading the Way

In 2018, the United States Department of State awarded its Trafficking In Person (TIP) Award to Sunita Danuwar. Danuwar is the co-founder and executive director of the Shakti Samuha. A survivor of trafficking herself, Danuwar personally travels to poor Nepali villages to raise awareness. From 2009 to 2011 she ran the Alliance Against Trafficking of Women and Children in Nepal, which is a group of non-government organizations working collectively to support trafficked victims in Nepal.

Nepalese Trafficking and Child Labor

“The main forms of trafficking are sexual exploitation, forced labor and removal of organs,” says Binija Dhital Goperma,  the United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Programme Coordinator in Nepal. She adds that cases of human trafficking occur in the entertainment and hospitality sectors. She also mentions garment industries and agricultural, domestic and brick kiln workplaces. However, striving to combat trafficking, Nepal ratified the U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons in 2018. The Protocol legally binds countries to criminalize trafficking by introducing national anti-trafficking laws. Unfortunately, due to the COVID pandemic, the government needed to reduce access to resources for trafficking survivors.

A weak economy with high unemployment sets the stage for a high rate of trafficking. In 2019, Nepal had an 11.4 % unemployment rate. It then follows that trafficked Nepalese are a key source of forced labor.  Laborers in Nepal may be working back-breaking construction jobs in the desert in scorching heat for 12 hours a day. Factories force some to work grueling hours seven days a week. Domestic workers become  “virtual slaves” in private homes.

Trafficking in Asia and the Pacific

Human trafficking is the second-largest criminal activity in the world, raising $32 billion. The International Labor Office (2017) reports that a majority (approximately 62%) of persons trafficked are victimized in Asia and the Pacific. The 2020 International Labor Organization (ILO) data shows that in 2020 Asia and the Pacific child labor included 48.7 million children. Moreover, of those children, 22.2 million worked in hazardous jobs.

Other Ways Human Trafficking Victims are Receiving Help in Nepal

Many coalitions throughout the world are striving to eliminate child labor and trafficking in Nepal, Asia, the Pacific and throughout the world. Organizations including the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the United Nations focus on the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 to end child labor and all its forms by 2025. They work with nations, including Nepal, to create laws and policies to accomplish this. They also create programs to work directly with trafficked victims.

A Bridge to Global Action on Forced Labor (Bridge Project) is an initiative launched by the International Labor Organization and funded by the U.S. Department of Labor that assists the migrant worker communities of Bajura and Kanchanpur by providing livelihood support. Specifically, the Bridge Project develops programming to help trafficked victims gain the skills necessary to avoid exploitative environments. For example, people in the program learn how to nurse diseased goats back to health and then how to become goat farmers.

Programs like Shakti Samuha and the Bridge Project remain focused on empowering trafficked victims in Nepal to sustain themselves. With that focus, they should eventually prevent poverty from being a mitigating factor in trafficking in the first place.

– Joy Maina
Photo: Flickr

Stop Child Labor
GoodWeave has a long history of empowering workers globally and stopping child labor by providing health care and education to children. The GoodWeave seal goes on rugs and textile products to indicate that no child labor occurred during production.

History of GoodWeave

GoodWeave started in 1994 when Kailash Satyarthi had a vision for a world free from the chains of child labor in the rug industries around the world. GoodWeave is an internationally recognized organization with a dedication to stopping child labor across the globe by telling the stories of those who have lived through child labor. Since its beginning, GoodWeave has expanded its mission to include industries like fashion, textiles, bricks and tea in addition to rug production.

Statistics of GoodWeave

With 8,950 children saved from child labor and more than 44,000 children provided with educational opportunities, GoodWeave is making strides to stop and prevent child labor in current businesses. End Slavery Now states that GoodWeave has made an impact in the carpet-making world since its inception. End Slavery Now remarks that since GoodWeave’s establishment, “more than 11 million certified carpets have been sold in Europe and North America and the number of children trapped in exploitative carpet-making work has dropped from [1 million] to 250,000.”

The GoodWeave Seal

The GoodWeave seal is the seal that GoodWeave created and is a significant symbol for one to see on top of a rug that one plans to purchase. It serves as a symbol that a company upholds workers’ rights and human rights. The seal proves that a company produced an item with fair and equal conditions for workers. This includes worker safety, stopping child labor, proper training for factory staff members and fair wages for makers.

The seal of approval is extremely important for workers as the symbol will not end up on products if employers do not achieve appropriate conditions for workers. In May 2021, GoodWeave had seven new companies on its roster for rug products that are free of child labor and worker exploitation, including its first Japanese company, Jensin Okunishi Studio. Similar companies take pride in their craft and want to make rugs with sentimental value while also stopping child labor. GoodWeave has 175 companies that continue to expand markets around Europe, Asia, Australia and the United States.

Why Stopping Child Labor is Important

The International Labor Organization (ILO) states that around 260 million children are under some sort of employment globally. Global child labor often occurs in low-income countries where households require more income through any means. Experts state that child labor hinders individual development through the obligation to work instead of receiving an education and experiencing childhood.

Many kids end up with no choice and must go to work in often unsafe conditions and are paid little for their services in the textile and other industries. Some employers enslave or abuse children in the workplace, which leads to trauma and separation of children from families. This strips away a child’s youth and deprives children of positive futures, especially if injury ensues during child labor. Stopping child labor is key for an equal and fair economy where people can make a proper living.

Kyle Swingle
Photo: Flickr

Child Soldiers in Syria
In June 2021, the United Nations released its yearly 2020 report on children in armed conflict, confirming the ongoing recruitment of children by various Syrian militant groups. These groups include the Syrian National Army, the Syrian Democratic Forces, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and other Syrian armed opposition groups. By June 2021, militant groups recruited almost 840 children to work as child soldiers in Syria, among other roles, meaning child soldier numbers will likely increase by the end of the year.

Child Soldiers in Syria

With conflict raging since 2011, these groups turn to child populations to manage their shortage of combatants. By exploiting children in impoverished communities, groups use adults and other child victims to coerce and manipulate children into joining the armed forces. The child soldiers in Syria become spies, combatants and checkpoint guards, among other roles, enduring sexual exploitation and harsh military punishments. By using children as combatants, these groups continue to violate international laws with few repercussions.

Syrian Democratic Forces

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has a long history as a critical perpetrator of recruiting child soldiers in Syria. In 2019, the SDF signed a United Nations Action Plan intending to prevent the use of child soldiers, making it appear as though the SDF was attempting to adhere to international law. Under this plan, anyone younger than the age of 18 would be unable to join the SDF.

However, the Syrian Justice and Accountability Center reported that the SDF continues to recruit young boys and girls, some as young as age 11. Additionally, a U.N. report in April 2021 explains that the SDF and its branches are responsible for about 35% of confirmed child recruitments in Northern Syria.

Due to the United Nations Action Plan and international pressure, the SDF is increasingly reuniting recruited children with their families, but only after those specific families put constant pressure on the SDF. Since the creation of the SDF’s Child Protection Office, families have complained about the issue of child soldier recruitment 150 times. However, as of March 2021, the SDF has only demobilized 50 children. In December 2020, the SDF held a press conference, reuniting 16-year-old S. Jam Harran and 15-year-old G. Muhyiddin with their families.

Law No. 21 – Child Rights Law

On Aug. 15, 2021, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad presented Law No. 21 to regulate child rights and welfare throughout the country. The law prohibits the practice of trafficking children, including the use of child soldiers in Syria. The government will take action in response to reports of such practices but does not mention specifics in this regard. While this legislation seems like a significant step in the right direction, many groups, such as the Syrian Accountability and Justice Center, are skeptical about the law’s true ability to end the militant groups’ use of child soldiers. This is due to the existence of a vast number of groups that recruit children, including the Syrian government.

Addressing the Issue of Child Soldiers

Despite the skeptics, the new Syrian legislation on child rights and welfare is a promising step for children throughout the country. Enforcing these new laws nationally will take time, but various groups are working to alleviate the current child soldier situation until then.

UNICEF is responsible for aiding more than 8,700 children following their release from armed forces globally through counseling, education, medical services and safe living arrangements. These rehabilitation and poverty-fighting efforts allow for proper healing from trauma, allowing these children to become functioning members of society. Additionally, UNICEF specifically aids Syrian children, thus impacting communities directly by assisting in medical care, education and improving living situations.

In reducing the number of child soldiers in Syria, the investment by wealthy nations through humanitarian aid may be the most powerful tool as those countries could positively influence local dynamics by helping to lift populations out of extreme poverty. Armed groups have a more difficult time recruiting educated children from stable environments. Nonprofits like Save the Children work to aid impoverished child populations. Save the Children establishes programs and services for families to develop economic stability, preventing child exploitation by increasing the standard of living.

Because children are one of the most at-risk populations, militant groups often use them to sustain extreme military operations through indoctrination and community approval. With emerging Syrian legislation and organizations tackling the issue of child soldiers in Syria, the future of Syrian child welfare could be moving in a positive direction. These efforts combined with international advocacy and education on the issue of child use by armed forces could significantly change the lives of children in Syria.

– Hannah Eliason
Photo: Unsplash

COVID-19 has Affected Child Labor in Ghana
The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns have hurt economies and workers worldwide, disproportionately affecting the world’s most impoverished citizens. Data has indicated that these rising levels of poverty link to increased levels of child labor in Ghana and across the world. Since 2000, the world has made notable and significant progress in reducing the number of children exposed to child labor: this number has reduced by 94 million, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). However, the pandemic is hindering, and perhaps even reversing, this child labor progress in impoverished countries like Ghana. Here is how COVID-19 has affected child labor in Ghana and other countries.

Poverty in Ghana

According to Opportunity International, of the 30.4 million people living in Ghana, 13.3% survive on less than $1.90 a day. In other words, there are more than 4 million Ghanaians living in extreme poverty. Despite these numbers, Ghana holds the title of a progressive West African country in terms of its significant economic advances. In fact, between 2010 and 2019, annual economic growth averaged 6.8%, according to the Brookings Institution, a public policy nonprofit organization. Unfortunately, many deem this progress unsustainable for both the planet and the people as mineral and crude oil production are responsible for this growth.

According to Opportunity International, even those who live at or above the poverty line are not far from falling below it as one small financial setback can draw many Ghanaian families back into poverty. When families lack money for basic necessities, children often end up in child labor to help provide for their families. Although there is no official data pinpointing the rise of child labor in Ghana, amid COVID-19, the International Labour Organization estimates that millions more children will be subject to child labor, “which could lead to the first rise in child labor after 20 years of progress.”

The Realities of Child Labor in Ghana

Although in 2018, 93% of children in Ghana completed their primary education, today, they still face the threat of child labor, especially with many schools closing in the wake of the pandemic. On top of this, due to pandemic-induced job losses and salary cuts, the rise of child labor in Ghana poses a serious threat to these children.

In a report on child labor during COVID-19 in Ghana, Nepal and Uganda, researchers conducted interviews with “81 working children.” The children reported working in dangerous and hazardous conditions, with some breathing in toxic fumes and others enduring cuts from sharp tools, among other hazards. In each of the three nations, more than 33% of children worked a minimum of 10 hours per day, sometimes “seven days a week.” Several Nepalese children report working “14 hours a day or more in carpet factories.” In return, these children earn little money, if anything. Exploitative employers sometimes even withhold pay.

Actions to Reduce How COVID-19 Has Affected Child Labor in Ghana

Before the onset of the pandemic, several nations addressed child labor by supplying “cash allowances to help families and reduce pressure on children to work.” In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Human Rights Watch emphasizes that “As millions of families struggle financially due to the pandemic, cash allowances are more important than ever to protect children’s rights.”

Ghana stands as “the first to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.” Today, Ghana’s second phase of the Nation plan of Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour in Ghana (NPA2) began in 2017 and runs until the close of 2021. NPA2 intends to “build on the gains made” by NPA1, “utilizing good practices and lessons learned to address [child labor] in a more effective and sustainable manner.”

In particular, NPA2 intends to “mobilize more resources, focus action in local communities and strengthen educational outcomes so that children are enrolled and retained in school.” With international support, the government can strengthen this plan further by providing cash allowances to struggling families so that children are not obligated to earn an income.

Though this situation is dire, it is far from unfixable. As long as the world continues to keep child rights at the center of legislation, advocacy and broader policies, child labor is a solvable problem. With continued international support to the countries that COVID-19 hit hardest, incidences of child labor can dramatically reduce.

– Cameryn Cass
Photo: Flickr

primary microcephalyCouples and women commonly come to pray for fertility at the shrine of Shah Daula in Gujarat, Pakistan. According to certain beliefs, women who conceive after praying at the shrine donate their firstborn child to the shrine to prevent disabilities from appearing in the rest of their children. These children, dubbed the “rat children of Shah Daula,” largely suffer from primary microcephaly, a medical condition where the head’s circumference is smaller than average and the brain is smaller on average as well.

Many of these children beg around the shrine and surrounding cities. Theories in the past as to how these individuals came to be range from artificially-done microcephaly to genetics. Regardless, history and current issues of exploitation of the children and adults in the shrine of Shah Daula remain. Furthermore, addressing the cycle of poverty for these individuals stands as a critical priority.

Artificial or Genetic

One of the main conversations surrounding the “rat children” consists of the nature of primary microcephaly. The belief of artificially inflicting individuals with primary microcephaly has its roots in certain religious traditions connected to the Shah Daula shrine. The process involves putting an iron ring around a child’s head to restrict the growth of the head and brain, shaping their features to resemble rats. This typically forces these children to have to beg for a living.

Genetics also cause the deformities. Medline states that in Northern Pakistan, which has one of the highest rates recorded, primary microcephaly affects one in 10,000 newborns.  The high prevalence correlates to higher rates of intrafamilial marriages, which results in higher rates of genetic disorders.

However, despite debates on the causes, individuals born with primary microcephaly suffer a neurodevelopmental disorder. They bear the medical symptoms for the rest of their lives. Individuals with primary microcephaly typically experience the following in varying degrees: delayed speech and language skills along with delayed motor skills. It is these qualities that make the children and adults suffering from this neurological disorder vulnerable to exploitation. Many of the children and adults of the shrine of Shah Daula do not have anyone to depend upon and are largely left to beg on the streets for money.

Struggling with Exploitation

Origins of the condition aside, many people with primary microcephaly remain in poverty due to exploitation. In an academic study from the Quaid-e-Azam University of Pakistan, one interviewee describes how villagers in certain areas took advantage of disabled individuals for financial gain. “Villagers take these kids from their parents by giving them money and make them bareheaded.” The money the children receive from begging would then go into the villagers’ hands.

Many aspects of the mistreatment surrounding microcephalic children and adults remain illegal under the Pakistan Penal Code. Section 328 in the Pakistan Penal Code relates to the “[e]xposure and abandonment of a child under 12 years by a parent or person having care of it.” This means that mothers, fathers or guardians cannot leave a child anywhere with the intention to abandon the child.

Sections 332 and 335 make disfigurement, whether temporary or permanent, punishable by law. Section 374 separately states, “Whoever unlawfully compels any person to labor against the will of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment [or fines or both].” Nearly every aspect surrounding the treatment of microcephalic individuals in Pakistan can be considered illegal.

Offering Solutions

While there has not been major change concerning the treatment of microcephalic children and adults in Pakistan, new laws supporting the exploited and abandoned are a step in the right direction. In 2016, the parliament of Pakistan passed the Unattended Orphans (Rehabilitation and Welfare) Act, with the aim of “protecting the rights of unattended orphan and abandoned children” as well as “ensuring provision of facilities to them, including housing, education and healthcare.”

The Act also necessitates that the government “take other measures as may be necessary for their rehabilitation and welfare.” Importantly, the Act declares that anyone “who forces any unattended orphan to beg and commit petty crime or pick rags or any act which is injurious to health and dignity of an orphan will be punished with imprisonment of not less than four years, which may be extended to seven years and a fine of up to Rs200,000.”

Medical care for these individuals and providing for their basic needs so that they are not left vulnerable could improve fundamental conditions. The Technology Times suggests an increase in genetic counseling to address the role that genetics and “consanguineous” marriages play in the high rates of primary microcephaly in Pakistan.

An increased focus on helping those afflicted would benefit many in Pakistan. To lead to a point of positive change, the Pakistani government can evaluate from joint medical and policy standpoints to better help some of those most in need.

Grace Ingles
Photo: Unsplash

Human Trafficking in Timor LesteHuman trafficking is the exploitation of a human being through the use of force or coercion in order to obtain labor or sexual acts. While human trafficking is a global issue with a large connection to poverty, it is important to recognize that trafficking may look different from country to country. Timor-Leste, also known as East Timor, is a Southeast nation occupying half of the island of Timor and has a significant problem with human trafficking that involves both foreign and domestic victims. According to a trafficking report by the U.S. Department of State, “poor economic conditions and limited educational opportunities create trafficking vulnerabilities for Timorese nationals.” Here are five facts to help explain human trafficking in Timor-Leste.

5 Facts About Human Trafficking in Timor-Leste

  1. Timor-Leste is listed under the Tier 2 Watch List. The tiers, mandated from the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, are based on the size of a country’s human trafficking problem along with government efforts to combat human trafficking. To grow in the rankings, a country has to increase anti-trafficking efforts and maintain acceptable progress. The Tier 2 Watch List is the third listed in the four overall tiers and is similar to Tier 2 except for the fact that the government has failed to show progress in combating forms of trafficking in comparison to previous years. Progress includes investigations, prosecution, and convictions into human trafficking cases. Timor-Leste only fell to the Tier 2 Watch List recently in 2020. From 2016-2019, Timor-Leste was listed under Tier 2 but did not report trafficking convictions; the only identification of a trafficking victim came from a non-governmental organization. It was in the fifth year when the government failed to increase their efforts to report trafficking convictions, that Timor-Leste fell to the Tier 2 Watch List.
  2. Timor-Leste is a destination country for human trafficking. A destination country is a country where there is a large demand for human trafficking. Most of these demands come from large cities. In Timor-Leste, many young men and women are lured to the capital through the promise of job prospects and educational opportunities, and end up in situations of forced labor and prostitution. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), “victims trafficked to Timor-Leste have originated from China, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, and the Philippines.”
  3. Timor-Leste is also an origin country. An origin country provides the supply of trafficked persons. The main outgoings of trafficking victims, according to the IOM, “is associated with labor migration out of East Nusa Tenggara Province in Indonesia.” Most of the victims sent to Indonesia are women and girls forced into domestic servitude.
  4. Children are among the victims of human trafficking. The children of Timor-Leste are among the many victims of human trafficking, often taken for sexual exploitation and dangerous agricultural tasks. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Labor, data coming from all 13 municipalities in Timor-Leste show that 55.5% of children in child labor engage in dangerous, hazardous work. It was found that families will place children in household and agricultural labor both in Timor-Leste and in other countries in order to pay off debts.
  5. The majority of victims are women and girls. Many women and girls are vulnerable due to the lack of legal protection, starting from the time they are in school. Research strongly shows that while there are no laws that prohibit pregnant girls from attending school, there are also no laws on providing education for pregnant girls. As a result, many principals will deny the girls access to the school. Obtaining transfer documentation becomes a problem too, as principles control access to documents. The lack of education and access to proper education facilities leaves many women and girls particularly vulnerable to human traffickers.

Looking Ahead

While Timor-Leste has not significantly progressed in its efforts to fight human trafficking, there is still hope for the future. The government of Timor-Leste has used an anti-trafficking curriculum created by a foreign government in order to better inform and train its judicial and legal sections. Organizations and persons that have received training include the national police, judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys. The government of Timor-Leste is also making efforts to criminalize human trafficking, though many of these plans still stay in a drafted status. One such plan comes from the Ministry of Justice, which drafted a national action plan in 2018 that has not yet been presented to the Council of Ministers. Another drafted policy comes from the Ministry of Education. This policy would encourage girls to return to school after giving birth, though it has remained in draft form for years. Through increased government intervention, through enforcing the policies already made and increasing protection for the vulnerable, the tide can turn in the fight against human trafficking in Timor-Leste.

Grace Ingles

Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Madagascar
Human trafficking, a form of unlawful exploitation of others for purpose of work and service, is a tremendous issue in Madagascar. With a Tier 2 ranking in the U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons report for 2021, human trafficking in Madagascar is significant.

The Issue

Though human trafficking is undoubtedly a human rights issue in every place in which it occurs, Madagascar’s economy is exacerbating the issue. With a GDP of $523 per capita (within the bottom 20 countries in the world) and an average poverty rate of about 97.5%, Madagascar is certainly in an extremely impoverished state. Poverty has a tendency to make individuals more susceptible to becoming trafficking victims as they seek work.

Another notable contributing factor is the lack of proper education in Madagascar, which plays a role in child labor. This turns into a vicious cycle; people without a reliable education often end up as trafficking victims.

Sex Trafficking

A significant human rights issue that the world is facing today is the increasing amount of sex trafficking, more specifically involving children. Since children are easier to manipulate, traffickers often see them as the best means of exploitation. In this situation, traffickers lure children, particularly girls, between the ages of 12 and 17, with promises of better employment.

The sex trafficking of children in Madagascar has been an issue for quite some time, but there has been a sudden rise in cases including foreigners. In Madagascar, it is a sign of prestige for a young woman to have sexual relations with a foreigner, thus creating another door into the sex trafficking industry. This has resulted in foreigners, visiting Madagascar for cheap sex trafficking of mostly young women. Though there are more than 700 child-protection networks in Madagascar that have the intention of preventing these cases, not all of them have the resources they need.

Children are not the only victims of this kind of work; there has also been a rise in the trafficking of older women. In this case, traffickers may traffick the women, then murder them for their organs. In other situations, traffickers steal women from their homes before forcing their husbands and children to pay (sometimes up to $3,000) to get them back. Unfortunately, this situation is not improving with time and requires addressing.

Labor Trafficking

Human trafficking in Madagascar is also prevalent in its agriculture industry, with children working in the production of vanilla and other plants. In the entire country of Madagascar, about 22.1% of children between the ages of 5 and 14 work in child labor. In addition to this, Madagascar is one of the most significant exporters of mica sheets, resulting in more than 10,000 children working in dire conditions for food and water.

Human Trafficking During COVID-19

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Madagascar’s economy. With the country implementing a stay-at-home order, a multitude of jobs in Madagascar underwent termination, thus leaving people looking for work. Along with Madagascar’s poverty, citizens became desperate for work in these drastic times, leading to an increase in human trafficking. In certain cases, parents even had to sell their children to traffickers in order to survive financially. In 2021, child-protection networks assisted 876 children, which is lower than the 1,666 in 2020. Child-protection services in Madagascar, such as UNICEF Madagascar, prevent child trafficking and violence by proposing and establishing legal frameworks which help with keeping children safe in their communities and away from potential traffickers.

Protection and Prevention

Though the results seem insignificant considering the large numbers of trafficked individuals in Madagascar, the authorities do not seem to take the issue as seriously as necessary. The current punishment for human trafficking for labor in Madagascar is a fine of $260 to $2,610 for offenses towards an adult victim, and between five and 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $520 to $5,230 for those towards a child victim. For comparison, the U.S. considers human trafficking slavery, thus resulting in between 20 years and life in prison. These numbers demonstrate the significance of human trafficking in Madagascar and the fact that the country should take it more seriously.

Though the situation of human trafficking in Madagascar is unpleasant, work is occurring to eliminate it. Through the efforts of child-protection networks in Madagascar, including UNICEF Madagascar, child victims of trafficking should continue to receive aid, while implementing legal frameworks to prevent child trafficking going forward.

– Andra Fofuca
Photo: Flickr