Child Labor in Saudi Arabia
Many know Saudi Arabia as one of the richest countries in the world. With the second largest natural oil reserve underground, Saudi Arabia is rapidly accumulating wealth and political power in international affairs. However, there is a dark side to the flashy urban lights of Saudi Arabia. The wealth gap that exists between the rich and the poor, coupled with the country’s patriarchal tradition and its recent conflict with the Houthi movement in Yemen, puts many Saudi and immigrant children in danger of child labor, violence and economic exploitation. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Saudi Arabia.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Saudi Arabia

  1. Poverty is the main cause of Saudi Arabia’s Child Labor. While Saudi Arabia is famous for its wealth, thanks in large part to the second-largest oil deposits in the world, there is a big economic disparity between the poor and the rich. According to a study that the Saudi Arabian government funded in 2015, 22 percent of families in Saudi Arabia depend on their children’s income.
  2. The minimum employment age is 13. In the royal decree of 1969, Saudi Arabia enacted a law that set the minimum employment age to 13 years old and banned children from working in hazardous conditions. This does not apply to works in the family business, domestic labor and agricultural work. Some employers of Saudi Arabia exploit a loophole in the law. For example, this law does not address the child brides of Saudi Arabia. If a child bride does any house chores or agricultural work for her husband’s family, it will not be a violation of the minimum employment age law.
  3. There are cases of child labor trafficking from neighboring countries. Stemming from Saudi Arabia’s recent conflict with Yemen, which left Yemen devastated, wartorn and practically lawless, some Yemeni parents are seeking illegal agents who will traffick their children to Saudi Arabia. While some Yemeni parents traffick their children to Saudi Arabia to save them from the desperate conditions in Yemen, other parents traffick their children in hopes of economic relief provided by their children’s labor in Saudi Arabia. While deportation is the main concern of many Yemeni parents for their trafficked children, many trafficked Yemeni children are in danger of violence, hunger and sexual abuse.
  4. Child workers usually have parents who have low professional and education level. The low education and professional level of child workers’ parents, coupled with economic disparity, make poverty in Saudi Arabia hereditary. Saudi Arabia is taking steps to ameliorate this issue. In early 2018, the Saudi government declared that it aims to eradicate adult illiteracy by 2024. Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education established adult education centers across the country and launched the Learning Neighborhood program in 2006 in pursuit of this goal.
  5. Children of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia do not have protection under a law that prohibits forced or compulsory labor. Saudi Arabia’s labor law does prohibit forced labor, however, these measures do not extend to over 12 million migrant workers in the country. Some employers exploit this loophole in the labor laws, which sometimes results in physical, mental and sexual abuse of migrant workers and their children.
  6. Saudi Arabia’s citizenship requirement puts Saudi children in danger of child labor and human trafficking. A Saudi child’s citizenship comes from his or her father. If a child has a citizen mother and a non-citizen father, or from a mother who is not legally married to a citizen father, there is a chance that the country will consider the child a stateless person. As a result of being stateless, Saudi Arabia can deny a child state education, and in certain cases, medical attention. According to the U.S. Department of State, about 5 percent of street begging children in Saudi Arabia are Saudi nationals of unknown parents.
  7. The Saudi government is working with the international community to combat child labor. In 2016, with technical advisory services support from the International Labour Organization (ILO), Saudi Arabia ratified its report for ILO’s Minimum Age Convention of 1973. According to the United Nations’ 2016 report on Saudi Arabia’s adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Saudi Arabia adopted and implemented regulations against child abuse and human trafficking. As part of the new labor reforms and regulations in 2015, for example, the Labor Ministry of Saudi Arabia can impose SR $20,000 ($5,333) on employers who employ children under 15-years old.
  8. In 2014, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Women’s World Summit Foundation (WWSF) launched a campaign against child labor in Saudi Arabia. For 19-days, WWSF campaigned to raise awareness for child labor, abuse and violence against children and youth. The National Family Safety Program of Saudi Arabia also launched its four-day program which raised awareness for economic exploitation and abuse of children in Saudi Arabia. Through these campaigns, both WWSF and the Saudi government aimed to reduce child labor in Saudi Arabia by highlighting that child labor contributes to the abuse of children by harming children’s health, physical development, psychological health and access to education.
  9. UNICEF and the Saudi Ministry of Social Affairs opened a reception center for trafficked Yemeni children. Many trafficked Yemeni children end up in the streets of Saudi Arabian cities as beggars or street vendors. In the worst cases, these trafficked children are under severe danger of exploitation and abuse. When the Saudi authorities detained them, these Yemeni children usually went to prison or open-air enclosures with adult deportees. The center provides shelter for these children.
  10. Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 aims to address the country’s poverty. Launched in April 2016, the Saudi government plans to address the country’s poverty by improving state education and empowering nonprofit organizations. These improvements can lead to making more opportunities available for the children and parents of poor economic background, potentially reducing child labor in Saudi Arabia. In this pursuit, the Saudi government granted $51 billion to the education sector. The Ministry of education established educational centers all around the country to improve adult literacy and theories determine that this improvement in adult literacy will also improve child literacy.

Child labor in Saudi Arabia is both a local and international issue. While the stateless and poor children of Saudi Arabia turn to street vending and begging to support their families, many trafficked Yemeni children in the country are under constant threat of violence and exploitation. These 10 facts about child labor in Saudi Arabia show that with the help of the international community and the Saudi government’s increasing awareness of its less fortunate populace, a better future awaits for the children of Saudi Arabia.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Rescued Child Soldiers
At the age of seven, Judith became an accomplice to a murder. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) raided her village and forced Judith to participate in the killing of her mother. The LRA then kidnapped Judith and her siblings and forced them to serve Joseph Kony. Thousands of children share Judith’s story. Today, the rescued child soldiers in Africa are finding healing and restoration through art.

The Rise of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army

The World Economic Forum found that poverty, social marginalization and political disenfranchisement were fertilizers for extremist groups to take root and grow. In the 1980s, poverty, social marginalization and political disenfranchisement hit Uganda hard. Estimates determined that one-third of the population lives below the poverty line.

Uganda government officials did little to improve the dire situation. As a result, rebel groups and organizations began to pop up throughout the country. The Holy Spirit Movement, a militaristic and spiritual rebel group, formed to fight against the oppression of the people in northern Uganda. Joseph Kony joined the movement in the mid-1980s. After the Holy Spirit Movement’s defeat in 1988, Kony kept the organization. He renamed the group the Lord’s Resistance Army. Kony used religion and traditional beliefs to continue the support of the people living in northern Uganda. His operation expanded to the nearby countries of South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. The tactics Kony and the LRA used became more violent over time.

Kony and the LRA caused the displacement of more than 1.9 million people. Authorities issued a number of arrest warrants for Kony and leaders of the LRA on counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The LRA raided villages, burned down homes and murdered or mutilated thousands of people.

Child Soldiers in Africa

Kony lacked support for his cause and army. As a result, he abducted children and forced them into his service. Estimates state that the LRA kidnapped between 30,000 and 60,000 children. The LRA trained males to be child soldiers and females to be sex slaves. Fear was a major driver for children to remain in the LRA. Many children, like Judith, had to kill their parents and other loved ones for survival.

Art Is Restoring Peace to Rescued Child Soldiers

The U.N. called the LRA crisis the “most forgotten, neglected humanitarian emergency in the world.” A 29-minute film became the most effective tool in mobilizing the world into taking action against Kony and the LRA.

Art and social media were the key components of the success of the film “KONY 2012.” The U.S. advocacy group, Invisible Children, launched a digital campaign with the release of the film. The campaign’s goal was to make the infamous warlord famous in order to mobilize world leaders to stop him. The film garnered over 100 million views in six days. Public outcry and celebrity support increased the pressure for global leaders to take action against Kony. Eventually, authorities sanctioned a universal manhunt to capture Kony and put an end to the LRA. People have rescued many of the child soldiers in Africa but Kony still remains at-large. Today, the LRA has reduced to a group of fewer than 300 members.

Art has also been an effective tool for healing and restoration for the child victims of the LRA crisis. For many of the rescued child soldiers in Africa, there were some elements in their story that were too painful to put into words. Art became an avenue for those children to confront the past and face the future. Exile International, a nonprofit organization, has been providing healing to war-affected children through art-focused trauma care since 2008.

Recently, Exile International partnered with award-winning photographer and artist Jeremy Cowart to share the faces and powerful stories of child survivors. The Poza Project utilized the children’s art and Cowart’s talent to create a healing opportunity for the children to tell their own story of survival. Unique photographs and mixed art media created by the children were available for purchase. All the proceeds helped provide art therapy and holistic rehabilitation to children survivors of war. The Poza Project showcased a dozen children including Judith.

Judith spent nearly two years in captivity before being rescued. Today, she is back in school and working to become a psychiatric doctor. With the help of The Poza Project, Judith is one step closer to her dream of helping the other victims of Kony and the LRA.

– Paola Nuñez
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Child Labor in Niger
Niger, a country in Western Africa, is one of the most impoverished nations in the entire world. While its economy is growing, many children enter harsh jobs to provide for their families. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Niger.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Niger

  1. Niger has the highest fertility rate in the world. On average, a woman from Niger will have around seven children. The high fertility rate has led to consistent population growth and large family sizes. It is quite common for large families in Niger to hire underage girls as housemaids where they receive poor treatment and make as little as $6 a month. According to UNICEF, “three out of five girls are working in an environment considered as prejudicial to their health and development.” The high fertility rate has led to consistent population growth and large family sizes which makes it difficult for families to sustain themselves solely off their own farming.
  2. The main form of agriculture in Niger is subsistence farming, however, only 11 percent of the land is arable. Even the arable land is extremely dependent on rainfall, with droughts leading to widespread food shortages. When food becomes scarce, Nigerien children, like 12-year-old Oumar Soumana, must drop out of school and look for work to support their families: “It is a painful job for me… I spend the whole day walking. I do not really rest because I have to sell and bring the money back.”
  3. Roughly 48 percent of Niger’s population is 14 or younger. Niger’s population is increasing so fast, its median age is an alarming 15 years old. Food production is not matching the increasing population of Niger. Lack of consistent rainfall makes it very difficult for rural families to avoid malnourishment. When it does rain, families use their children for labor to try and maximize their food production. This is back-breaking work includes hand planting seeds in rough soil during extreme heat.
  4. According to a report by UNESCO, 42.9 percent of Nigerien children between five and 14 are working instead of going to school. This, coupled with only 70 percent of children in Niger completing elementary school, greatly limits their educational opportunities. Article 23 of Niger’s constitution provides free public education, but experts claim that instituting compulsory education would help keep even more children in schools.
  5. The insurgent Islamist group Boko Haram has contributed to Niger’s child labor crisis with its kidnapping of Nigerien children. Boko Haram uses children mainly for menial labor like cooking and cleaning, but in the past, they have used children for suicide bombings. While Boko Haram agreed to stop using children in 2017, there are still thousands of children missing. Additionally, children who formerly worked as child soldiers receive discrimination at an alarming rate.
  6. Many of the children who do not attend school and enter the workforce experience harsh working environments. “Uneducated, these children grow up in very miserable conditions: long working hours, low wages, no food. Furthermore, they run the risk of becoming victims of prostitution, discrimination, abuse, etc.” Additionally, children whose parents did not register them at birth and “lack the appropriate official papers, are not recognized as members of society and cannot exercise their rights.” These children are severely unprotected from life-threatening situations because their rural families were not aware of Niger’s birth registration law.
  7. Part of the reason why child labor in Niger is so prevalent is that the government either lacks regulation prohibiting these practices or it fails to adequately enforce its laws. In 2017, Niger took a significant step forward in combatting its child labor crisis by increasing the minimum age for hazardous work to 18 and increasing the number of jobs under the hazardous label. People under 18 can no longer work at jobs like quarrying, mining, welding and construction.
  8. While article 14 in Niger’s constitution outlaws forced labor, ethnic minorities like the Touaregs have a history of enslavement. Certain Nigerien traditions effectively endorse child slave labor. Whether it be the purchasing of young girls to serve as fifth wives or Wahaya, or koranic teachers forcing their pupils to beg on the streets and surrender their earnings, slavery is still prevalent in Niger.
  9. Niger is not ignoring the unfortunate truth that slavery still exists. With the help of the group Anti-Slavery International, Niger has successfully prosecuted men engaging in the fifth wife practice. This group also joined forces with a local Nigerien organization called Timidria and opened six elementary schools for descendants of slaves.
  10. These 10 facts about child labor in Niger illuminate the issue of child labor that the country must solve. Social programs funded by the Nigerien Government and other nongovernmental organizations like UNICEF are attempting to combat the crisis. In 2017, both of these groups ran 34 centers tasked with providing “food, shelter, education, and vocational training to street children, many of whom are victims of child labor.”

While most of these 10 facts about child labor Niger are disheartening, there is evidence that the situation is improving. For instance, a 45-year-old Nigerien woman named Tatinatt was a slave for the majority of her life, but today she is free and her youngest children are the first ones in her family who are attending school instead of entering the workforce. Hopefully, exposure to this crisis will galvanize more groups into focusing their resources on ending child labor in Niger.

Myles McBride Roach
Photo: Flickr

Making of a Child SoldierAlthough using children as soldiers is horrifying and illegal, recruiters are employing children every day. In fact, as the war in the Middle East spreads, these recruiters are enlisting children more frequently than before. The extremist groups in Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia, to name a few, are breaking international war laws on a daily basis in using child soldiers. It is a constant battle for these children as they often have to choose between becoming a soldier and living or becoming another victim of the war.

The Making of a Child Soldier

In recent years, the number of children recruited to fight in the Middle East has doubled, which means more children are becoming being put in danger. Not only is there an emotional and physical battle for these children but also for the soldiers that are fighting against the extremist groups. With the war continuing in Iran, nearly 200 child soldiers have been killed in the last couple of years. In October 2018, there were still 19,000 children who were laying their lives on the line in South Sudan. Many of these children are in poverty and do not know where to turn next.

The making of a child soldier is complicated and influenced by the child’s circumstances. Since several African and Middle Eastern countries are in the middle of a war crisis, families are more likely to become displaced and slide deeper into poverty. Sudanese soldiers are offering families up to $10,000 to send their children to fight the war in Yemen although Saudi Arabia has denied their recruitment. That amount of money is huge to families that have been living on the streets. Several reports state that these Sudanese children fighters make 20 cents a day in the war.

Being poor, separated from their families and without access to education can all contribute to making a child soldier. Often, recruiters are more likely to employ children as soldiers due to the fact that they are more manageable, more obedient and easier manipulate than adults. Children who are forced to be soldiers are given jobs like spying, guarding low-security sites and detecting mines. People do not often see these children on the front line although they can be involved in attacks. In the first months of 2015, 21 children died in suicide attacks using explosive-packed vehicles.

The Syrian Democratic Forces and the Iran Government

Although these crimes are affecting the world’s most innocent and vulnerable population, several organizations are bringing hope to the children of the Middle East. Recently, the Syrian Democratic Forces have enforced a ban on using child soldiers in the war against the increasing extremist groups. The U.S. backed them on this movement. Additionally, the Treasury Department targeted ad networks of banks and businesses that have been supporting the funding of child soldiers.

Wars in the Middle East have raged for several years, and recruiters are taking advantage of the vulnerable population, but some are fighting back. Governments are undergoing initiatives and uniting together to help enforce protection for vulnerable children recruiters are most likely single out as child soldiers.

– Emme Chadwick
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Child Labor in Uganda

Uganda is a landlocked country in East Africa whose central location makes it an important destination for trade and tourism. However, large economic disparities and high unemployment levels have led to a rise in the crime of human trafficking. Inadequate funding of law enforcement units and high levels of poverty make the general population of Uganda vulnerable to human trafficking, including children. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Uganda.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Uganda

  1. Sex trafficking: According to the United States Bureau of International Labor Affairs, children in Uganda are subjected to the worst forms of child labor, including commercial sex trafficking. Minors from the Karamoja region are trafficked to Kampala and other large urban areas where demand for child labor and sex slavery is high. Children from neighboring countries such as South Sudan, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are also exploited in forced agricultural labor and sex trafficking in Uganda.
  2. Education: Limited access to education makes children particularly vulnerable to forced labor. The law provides free public education; however, the cost of school materials such as uniforms and writing utensils make access to education a challenge for many. In addition to the barriers to accessing education, children often experience physical and sexual abuse at school by teachers and peers.
  3. Rural areas: Children from rural areas are about three times more likely to be trafficked into child labor than city children. The child employment rate in rural areas is 34 percent while in urban areas it is 11 percent. In Kampala, only three percent of children are employed illegally, while 45 percent of children in the central region are employed.
  4. Sectors of child labor: In Uganda, child labor is broken up into four categories:
    • Industry sector: Children are forced to mine, work in quarries or make bricks.
    • Service sector: Children work in the streets selling products and collecting and selling scrap metal.
    • Agriculture sector: Children work in industries of tobacco, coffee and sugar cane.
    • Worst forms: Children are sold into commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking or forced to labor in agriculture. Sometimes minors are used for illegal activities such as smuggling and stealing as well.
  5. Lord’s Resistance Army: The “worst forms” category is mainly related to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group in northern Uganda, founded by Joseph Kony. The group has been active since 1987 and has been known to kidnap children and force girls into sex slavery. The group also trafficks boys as child soldiers and uses brainwashing techniques to ensure their loyalty. Eighty percent of the LRA members are children. From 1987 to 2009, approximately 38,000 children were kidnapped. Girls were employed as cooks and sex slaves for the LRA soldiers, while boys must learn to kill or be killed.
  6. Fighting child labor: In 2012, the government took the first steps in creating legislation to get rid of the worst forms of child labor. The Ugandan government started the National Action Plan (NAP) and created a Counter-Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) office and an inter-ministerial Task Force to organize anti-trafficking strategies.
  7. Legal work age: Ugandan law prohibits the labor of children under 12 years of age. National labor legislation forbids the involvement of children aged 12–13 in any form of employment except for light work that is supervised by an adult older than 18 years of age. “Light work” must not get in the way of the child’s education.
  8. Ensuring education: Right now children in Uganda are only required to attend school up until age 13, however, in 2016, the government passed the Children (Amendment) Act which establishes the age of 16 as the minimum age for work. The act also criminalizes the sex trafficking of children. The act is meant to encourage children to stay in school since they legally cannot work until 16 years of age.
  9. Humanium: The international non-governmental organization, Humanium, works in Uganda to combat the abuse of children’s rights. They have set out six policies that must be implemented to combat child labor. These include:
    • Education and second chance learning: These are essential for reintegrating adults into society who have been harmed through forced child labor.
    • Expand social protection: Serve to prevent vulnerable households from having to resort to child labor to support their families.
    • Promote greater public awareness: Providing information on child labor can increase public outrage and support for child protective legislation.
    • Promote social mobilization against child labor.
    • Strengthen child labor inspections and monitoring.
    • Advocacy of political commitment: This is essential to ensure that child labor reduction policies occur.
  10. The Human Trafficking Institute: The Human Trafficking Institute is working closely with the Ugandan government. So far they have approved the creation of a specialized Human Trafficking Department in the Ugandan police force. The department is supposed to have over 250 staff members as well as specialized human trafficking officers posted across the country. The department will support the rehabilitation of trafficking victims and a crackdown on other forms of child labor.

– Laura Phillips-Alvarez
Photo: Flickr

South Sudanese Children Released from Hostage Situation

On July 23, 2019, 32 South Sudanese children were released from a hostage situation. These children were released to their families and other community members in Leer County, in northern South Sudan. These children were abducted by political opposition groups, with some of the boys abducted as early as 2016. Since the abduction, these 32 children were forced to witness armed conflicts and even participate as child soldiers. Unfortunately, the abduction of these 32 boys is not an uncommon incident; it is a daunting aspect of the South Sudanese civil war.

South Sudan has been in unrest since December 2013, when a civil war was sparked by conflict between the nation’s president and vice president. Supporters for President Salva Kiir were pitted against opposition supporters for Vice President Riek Machar, creating a power struggle over which regime would control the country. This resulted in five years of violence against armed forces and unarmed civilians. The devastation from this civil war has resulted in an estimated 400,000 deaths and has caused nearly 2.5 million refugees to flee the country.

Of the many atrocities committed within this civil war, the recruitment of children into armed forces is one of them. Recruitment, in this case, means the abduction or sale of children. Child abduction across South Sudan has become more frequent due to the nation’s civil war. In 2018, the U.N. last reported that around 19,000 children have been forced into armed groups across South Sudan. Young boys are typically made into child soldiers, while the abducted young girls are made into child brides. It is not uncommon for young girls to be sold into marriage, as the nation’s civil war has economically damaged many communities.

Where these abducted children end up is a mixed bag; some of these children are taken by armed opposition groups, while some of the child soldiers wind up in South Sudanese government forces. For the children integrated into government armed forces, their placement there is not condoned by the nation’s army, South Sudan’s People Defense Force (SPLA). A spokesperson for SPLA, Lul Ruai Koang, publicly stated, “We don’t want child soldiers… We gave their names to UNICEF.” In other words, if there are child soldiers found within SPLA ranks, their information will be given to UNICEF. From there, UNICEF is in charge of what happens to these children.

As for the South Sudanese children released from their hostage situation on July 23, 2019, UNICEF has enrolled all 32 boys into a three-year integration program. This program will provide for the boys’ basic needs, along with additional educational and psychological programs. As of July 2019, UNICEF has assisted 3,143 children throughout South Sudan after they have been released from armed forces. UNICEF’s reintegration programs have become essential in helping these children cope past their traumas and become functioning members of society.

“These children are deprived of a childhood and have seen things children should never experience,” South Sudanese UNICEF representative Mohamed Ag Ayoya said about the July hostage release. “However, it is not too late to give them a future, and that future started today.”

– Suzette Shultz
Photo: Flickr

Child labor in somaliaBelow are 10 facts about child labor in Somalia. Decades of conflict after the civil war has brought unspeakable violence and devastation to Somalia. The war had displaced 1.4 million people and left 60 percent of the population below the poverty line. Most frightening of all are the effects the conflict has had on the children. The mortality rate of children under 5  is 85 percent, and countless children are forced to engage in child labor. These 10 facts about child labor in Somalia show the continued gravity of the situation.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Somalia

  1. Half of all children between ages 5 and 14 from central and southern Somalia are employed. Even in the more stable regions of Puntland and Somaliland, a quarter of the child population is employed. Many of these tasks include agricultural and household jobs, such as farming and cleaning. Although many children are employed by choice, the worst cases of child labor include the forced recruitment of child soldiers and other forms of forced labor.
  2. Unemployment in Somalia is one of the highest in the world. Nearly 54 percent between the ages of 15 and 64 are unemployed. Many children are sent to work by their families who cannot afford to support themselves after famine, drought, and war have ravished their rural communities. Because children are paid lower wages than adults, they are more likely to find work to help their families survive.
  3. In 2017, Somalia approved a National Development plan that would help to eliminate child labor. However, gaps in their legislation and difficulty enforcing laws under an unstable government have prevented these laws from properly addressing the child labor crisis in Somalia.
  4. Laws to protect children from exploitation largely focus on the military recruitment of children and ignore other aspects of child labor. Although children under 15 are only allowed to perform light work, the laws do not identify hazardous occupations or activities prohibited for children. Furthermore, they do not detail the amount of time that young people can work.
  5. Child trafficking for labor and sexual exploitation is not clearly prohibited or punished by law in Somalia. Procuring children for prostitution or pornography is not criminally prohibited. Children are often trafficked, especially the young girls who are very likely to drop out of school at the legal age of 14. Children in refugee camps are often kidnapped and taken to Kenya or Saudi Arabia where they are used for labor, sexual exploitation or to beg on the streets.
  6. Because many schools have been destroyed by the war, only a quarter of Somali children attend school. Legally, children are obligated to attend school until age 14. However, the legal working age is 15. This gap year between ending school and beginning work creates a critical situation for many Somali children and puts them in danger of exploitation of various kinds.
  7. Perhaps the most shocking fact among these 10 facts about child labor in Somalia is the continued use of child soldiers. Although laws were passed to prohibit the recruitment of child soldiers in Somalia, the Somali National Army continues to use children as young as 8 in armed conflict. It is estimated that nearly 20 percent of their soldiers are children. Additionally, Al-Shabab still holds power in areas where the government has little practical control, particularly rural areas. Here, they can continue to forcibly recruit child soldiers to their cause.
  8. Under the support of UNICEF, community-based initiatives, such as the Tadamun Social Society, are working to offer children and parents a place to turn to for support among the upheaval in Somalia. These organizations work to find cases of abuse or child endangerment and educate people on how to better protect their children. They hold public meetings, often in refugee camps, to discuss the dangers of female genital mutilation and how to safely report concerns to town authorities and doctors.
  9. The Child Protection Committee also arranges public meetings with potential employers. Many people, both young and old, are exploited by their employers and cannot count on reliable or timely payment. These meetings help people find work with employers that offer a fair contract and the threat of legal action if the terms are breached. As workers’ rights are protected and more people at the legal working age find fair work, it is the hope that child labor will be diminished.
  10. Although delivering aid to Somalia poses certain threats to workers, organizations such as UNICEF and Save the Children continue to help Somalians in need of food, water, medicine, and education. By helping Somalians fend off starvation and sickness, they help protect the children from exploitation and lessen the need for child labor. Save the Children has helped more than 1.6 million children in crisis. This year, UNICEF plans to bring safe water and drinking services to 950,000 people in Somalia. They also estimate helping 165,000 children or youth access education services.

These 10 facts about child labor in Somalia highlight the continued need for more governmental protection and humanitarian aid. Although the crisis continues, Somalia is more openly addressing the issue. As local organizations work to help keep children in school and educate people about the reality of this threat, as highlighted in these 10 facts about child labor in Somalia, there is an increasing awareness about the gravity of the situation. This awareness is the first step towards lasting change.

– Christina Laucello
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about child labor in chad

In Chad, 87 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. This contributes to the high prevalence of child labor, something for which Chad is infamous. Child labor is a controversial and multi-faceted issue, and these 10 facts about child labor in Chad show that the issue is complex and in need of a solution.

10 Facts about Child Labor in Chad

  1. A majority of all children are working. 48.8 percent of children ages 5-14 work full time. This percentage is among the highest in African countries. When added to the percentage of children who attend both school and work, the percentage goes up to 77.2.
  2. Nearly half of Chad’s population is ages 0-14. One reason why child labor in Chad is so prominent is that there are significantly more children than adults. With children under 15 years old making up 48.12 percent of the population, there is pressure to work in order to support one’s family.
  3. Child labor occurs in multiple sectors. Child labor occurs in the agricultural, urban and service industries. Children as young as 6-years-old typically work as herders for livestock, and as they get older, begin to perform other duties like chopping wood, fishing and harvesting crops. In the urban and service industries, children work in carpentry, mining and street vending. The Ministry of Labor permits light work in agriculture for children at least 12 years old, but this law can be exploited due to its lack of specificity.
  4. Education is not accessible. Another reason there are so many instances of child labor in Chad is because quality education is inaccessible. Despite the fact that the government mandates free and compulsory education up until the age of 14, only 37.9 percent of students complete primary school. Many schools require an additional payment for school-related fees, and some families cannot afford them. Additionally, there have been teacher strikes, decreasing the number of open schools in Chad altogether. The United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) has been attempting to improve the access and quality of education in Chad since 2017, and future data will show how the program is going to affect school-age working children in Chad.
  5. Children are forced to be soldiers. Chadian children who live in Internally Displaced Persons sites are the most popular army recruits. Sometimes, they are kidnapped by army recruiters, but other times, they join willingly to escape horrible conditions and lack of education within the IDP site. In 2007, up to 10,000 children may have been used as soldiers in the conflict between Chad and its opposition groups. The government of Chad admits that it has no policy when it comes to the recruitment of children for the army, and a UNICEF program to remove children from military groups failed due to underfunding.
  6. Human trafficking worsens child labor. As a result of trafficking, children are sold and forced to work away from their families, sometimes even begging in the streets for money. One of the worst instances of child labor and trafficking occurs when boys called mahadjirine travel to Koranic schools to get an education, but they are forced to work and return all of their profits to their fraudulent teachers. The Chadian government criminalizes labor trafficking and began a procedure to identify and prosecute offenders, but its success only lasted briefly. The number of arrests and convictions for labor traffickers decreased and then remained stagnant only two years after the initial implementation.
  7. Chad’s respect for children’s rights is ranked as worst in the world. The Realization of Children’s Rights Index grades each individual country on a scale of 1-10 on how much the country respects children’s rights based on statistics of child mortality, child labor, poverty, education and other issues that affect children’s lives. Chad is the lowest on the list of 196 countries with a score of 0.05 out of 10. The highest country, Liechtenstein, scores a 9.42 out of 10. This means that every other country in the world has more policies in place to protect the rights of children.
  8. Nearly half of children ages 15-17 work in hazardous conditions. Despite the fact that Chad’s minimum working age is 14 years old, boys and girls ages 15-17 are counted in child labor statistics because of dangerous working conditions. 42 percent of working 15-17-year-olds deal with circumstances that can be physically and mentally harmful such as extensive work hours, working underground, working with heavy machinery and abuse.
  9. Child labor correlates with the prevalence of malnutrition. As instances of child labor increase, malnutrition becomes more likely. In a study of multiple developing countries that experience child labor, it was found that in countries with only 10 percent of children working, malnutrition affected up to 50 percent. For Chad, a country where more than half of children work, malnutrition could affect up to 70 percent of children.
  10. International groups are working to prevent child labor. The International Initiative to End Child Labor is an organization that is committed to ending child labor in countries like Chad. The group educates communities on what kinds of child work are considered acceptable or unacceptable, what the worst forms of child labor are and what working conditions are appropriate for young workers. The IIECL has been working towards the goal of eliminating the worst forms of child labor since 1998.

These 10 facts about child labor in Chad demonstrate the consequences of child labor and the need for action. If child labor is eradicated in Chad, the rest of Africa and the world could take notice and begin to address other countries with child labor issues as well.

– Katherine Desrosiers
Photo: Flickr

Child Labor in Myanmar

Child labor in Myanmar continues to be a concern for one of the poorest nations in Asia. It is estimated that 1.13 million children, ages 5 through 17 work as laborers in Myanmar. This amounts to 9.3 percent of the child population. Said conditions are a violation of human rights and deprivation of well being.

Impact of Poverty

The prime factor of involvement of children in the workforce is poverty. With more than 32 percent of the nation living below the national poverty line, children work to supplement low household incomes.

However, employers exploit children and pay extremely low rates. In some cases, children as young as 14, working in garment-producing factories, make as little as 17  cents per hour; Yet, the nation’s minimum wage is $3.60.

Government Involvement in Child Trafficking

In August 2017, it was estimated 690,000 people fled from Myanmar due to acts of violence caused by the Myanmar government. Of those, nearly 400,000 were children.

In Myanmar, there is an abundance of trafficking, with little to no intervention. Frequently, the displacement of young girls to China is due to trafficking, for work, or marriage to Chinese men as child brides.

Additionally, Myanmar also has the highest number of child soldiers globally. In these cases, young boys against their will have to comply with captor commands. These commands are in sync with militarization goals and tactics.

Impact of Child Labor

One prominent consequence of child labor in Myanmar is the lack of education among children. One in five children drops out of school in order to work. In Myanmar culture, it is socially acceptable and common to see children working, rather than in school. Also, children who are in the workforce usually have little awareness, nor education about their safety and health rights in the workplace, leading to a high risk of fatal injuries.

The agricultural industry employs 60.5 percent of children in the workforce. Construction and fellow small-scale industries also have a significant role in employing child laborers. Just over half of these children perform potentially hazardous work that is likely to harm their physical or psychological health. Children as young as 15 to 17 make up 74.6 percent of the child workforce exposed to hazardous jobs.

The Intervention of Child Trafficking in Myanmar

Although child labor in Myanmar is widespread, the government of Myanmar is addressing this issue with the support of the International Labor Organization (ILO). The Myanmar Program on the Elimination of Child Labor Project was a four-year program (2013-2017) funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, overseen by the ILO. The goals of this project were to increase awareness of children in the workforce while improving the legal and institutional laws concerning child labor.

The Myanmar government ratified the ILO Convention No.182 which prohibits the worst forms of childhood labor and is in the process of finalizing the country’s first National Action Plan. This proposal outlines ways to reduce child labor in Myanmar while improving the lives of the children all together.

Child labor in Myanmar is a prominent issue as it affects millions of lives. There is, however, a reason to be optimistic, as the Myanmar government and fellow organizations have begun prevention protocols, ensuring a better future for the children of Myanmar.

– Marissa Pekular

 

Photo: Flickr

2018’s Worst Countries for Child Soldiers
Every year, the U.S. Department of State issues its Trafficking in Persons Report. This report gives an overview of each country’s progress against trafficking and what the United States is doing to eliminate human trafficking across the globe. One form of human trafficking is the use of child soldiers. Child soldiers are individuals under the age of 18 used for any military purpose, whether that be for acts of violence and killing, or even as cooks, messengers, spies or porters. Since 2016, over 18 different military conflicts around the world involved child soldiers.

The 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report includes a list of governments implicit in the use of child soldiers, and under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (CSPA), the United States restricts military support for countries listed. This article will provide an overview of child recruitment and use in each country on the Child Soldiers Prevention Act List.

10 Countries That Use Child Soldiers

  1. Myanmar – Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, has a long history of using child soldiers in warfare. The highest rate of child recruitment took place from 1990 to 2005. However, in 2012, the country signed an Action Plan with the U.N. to end the use of child soldiers. Since then, 849 children and young adults have been released. Though Myanmar has a long way to go to completely eradicate child soldiers in the country, the government is working to align tribal groups and the Tatmadaw with the U.N.’s Action Plan.

  2. The Democratic Republic of the Congo – The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) also signed an Action Plan with the U.N. in 2012 and the government has since stopped recruiting child soldiers into its military. Before 2012, children ages 8 to 16-years-old made up about 60 percent of the military. Now, the main problem with child recruitment in the DRC is girls who are used as “wives” and “escorts” for the soldiers. At least one-third of all child soldiers in the DRC are girls, though only 7 percent have been released since the signing of the Action Plan. In 2019, Child Soldiers International helped 245 of these girls go back to school, including Neema, who said, “if we could go to school, the community would be nicer to us, we would get some consideration, that would help a lot.” Organizations, such as the National Action Group, conduct outreach work to help child soldiers in the DRC appropriate back into their communities. With their support, child soldiers and military “wives” can avoid the stigmatization and persecution that comes with being a child soldier.

  3. Iran – Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, spoke out against the use of child soldiers in Iran, saying, “The use of child soldiers is a moral outrage that every civilized nation rejects while Iran celebrates it. Iran’s economy is increasingly devoted to funding Iranian repression at home and aggression abroad. Iranian big business and finance are funding the war crime of using child soldiers.” Her comments came in the midst of the United States’ political maneuvering against Iran’s use of child soldiers. The Iranian military, especially the Basij Resistance Force, has had a long history of using child soldiers. During the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, the Basij used child soldiers to clear minefields ahead of the military. With the U.S. hard on their heels, Iranian rights activists hope that this will be a wake-up call and end the use of child soldiers in Iran.

  4. Iraq – In 2017, there were 109 confirmed cases of child soldier recruitment in Iraq, 59 of which were attributed to ISIL or ISIS. Children were used as suicide bombers, combatants, bomb manufactures and “wives” for soldiers. Many different military organizations in Iraq use “volunteer” child soldiers, but under international law, non-state armed groups cannot recruit children under 18 under any circumstances. Children’s Rights Director at Human Rights Watch, Zama Coursen-Neff, said, “The PKK [the Kurdistan Workers’ Party] should categorically denounce the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and commanders in affiliated armed groups should know that the recruitment and use of children under age 15 constitute war crimes. Boys and girls should be with their families and going to school, not used as means to military ends.” The U.N. is ready to provide support to the Iraqi government as they develop and implement reintegration services for children formally used as child soldiers.

  5. Mali – Stephane Dujarric, a U.N. spokesperson, proclaimed good news for a few child soldiers in Mali, saying, “Nine child combatants were handed over to the U.N. mission in Kidal this morning. The mission is… making arrangements for their care by child protection officials pending reunification with their family.” There were 159 documented cases of child soldier recruitment in 2017, but Mali is taking steps in the right direction. After signing an Action Plan with the U.N. in March of 2017, the military began screening their troops to identify children. However, the country failed to implement other aspects of the Action Plan. On Feb 1, 2018, Mali’s government endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, which protects the use of educational facilities in military training or conflict.

  6. Nigeria – Boko Haram is also a problem for child soldiers in Nigeria, accounting for 1,092 cases of child recruitment. However, this number has decreased by almost 50 percent in the past two years, due to the loss of territory by Boko Haram. In 2018, more than 900 children were freed from Boko Haram, some as young as 7-years-old. UNICEF spokesman, Christophe Boulierac, said, “This is a significant milestone in ending the recruitment and use of children, but many more children remain in the ranks of other armed groups in either combat or support roles. We call on all parties to stop recruiting children and let children be children.” Nigeria signed an Action Plan with the U.N. in September of 2017, and since then, more than 8,700 children have been rehabilitated back into their communities.

  7. Somalia – Warlord Al Shabaab is the biggest threat to child soldiers in Somalia, enlisting 70 percent of the 2,217 children recruited throughout the country. More than 50 percent of Al Shabaab’s army are children under the age of 18. Col. Bonny Bamwiseki, commander of Battle Group XXII of the Uganda contingent of the African Union Mission in Somalia, explained another problem of child soldiers: “Some of these boys are children of this struggle and so they become part of it.” With clan warfare and the threat of Al Shabaab all around them, many children “volunteer” to protect their families and their homes.

  8. South Sudan – South Sudan became the 168th country to sign a U.N. treaty to end the use of child soldiers.  On Sept 27, 2018, ambassadors from South Sudan met with U.N. officials to sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC). In the past five years, more than 19,000 children have been recruited by armed groups in South Sudan, but now the government is working to demobilize all child soldiers throughout the country and offer support for their recovery. Progress will be slow and difficult, but the U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba noted, “Today, the Government of South Sudan is making an important promise to its children that they will take all possible measures to protect them from recruitment and use by both its armed forces and armed groups active in the country.”

  9. Syria – The number of child soldiers has been increasing yearly in Syria, now reaching 851 verified cases of recruitment and use of children in the military. While Syria has not worked with the U.N. to implement an Action Plan or OPAC, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeast Syria, issued a military order banning the recruitment of children under 18. This military order requires SDF officers to transfer children to educational facilities, end salary payments to children, hear and receive complaints of child recruitment, and take measures against soldiers who fail to obey these orders. Though the number of cases of child soldiers in Syria has increased, these measures will help prevent fight the use of child soldiers in 2019.

  10. Yemen – According to the U.N., the Yemen civil war is one of the worst humanitarian crisis, killing more than 85,000 children. The war left families destitute, and many send their children off to fight in exchange for money. Children make up between 20 and 40 percent of Yemen military units, and since 2015, there have been 2,369 verified cases of child recruitment. There are currently more than 6,000 suspected child soldiers across the country, and more than 20,000 children who are in need of rehabilitation after the war. While many Yemeni officials deny the use of child soldiers or call the reports “exaggerated,” the U.N. is working to give people knowledge of this “child’s war” and reduce the number of child soldiers in Yemen.

The 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report hopes to raise awareness of the use of child soldiers around the world, and encourage people to respond and make a change. The information is overwhelmingly negative, but there have been many positives since 2017. For example is that Sudan has been removed from the Child Soldiers Prevention Act List, as the U.S. Department of State believes that they have improved in regulating the use of child soldiers.

– Natalie Dell
Photo: Flickr