Poverty forces children to work and sacrifice their chance at an education. Today, sadly, child labor in Afghanistan is a common occurrence. Estimates are difficult to come by but through various sources it can be stated that between 21 and 25 percent of Afghan children are part of the labor force. Children as young as 6 are often involved.
Cause and Effect: Child Labor in Afghanistan
Child labor is hard to overcome in Afghanistan because although it is illegal by law for anyone under the age of 14 to work, many families are so desperate that they need one of their children to work in order to survive. Employers are desperate for cheap labor as well. The government seems to be doing little to enforce this law.
A common job for Afghan children in Kabul is working in brick factories. They can work up to 12 hours for around $1.40 a day. Other potential jobs for these children are working in bakeries, weaving, selling toilet paper and shopping bags, mining, washing cars or farming. Some children even begin to beg.
It is important to look at the physiological affects of child labor. Childhood is a time when people are supposed to be able to play and avoid the stresses of life. This crucial time period allows them to develop into healthy adults. Research shows that, “75 percent of brain development occurs after birth. Play helps with that development by stimulating the brain through the formation of connections between nerve cells.” It is essential for children to play with their parents and with other children.
If Afghan children are working, they are missing out on this crucial developmental step. It is possible that a work environment would replace play and stimulate a child’s brain but it is not certain if they are gaining the right type of knowledge that a child would otherwise gain from play. The stress children endure when having to work will also cause other stunted developmental issues.
The main reason children are sent off to work is so that they can feed their families. This is due to a loss of a parent or both parents. A child might have to go to work because their father dies and their mother is unable to find work because of her gender. Poverty and gender bias seems to be two of the causes of child labor in Afghanistan.
Poverty in Afghanistan is caused by many factors, one being the fact that it has been in a state of almost perpetual war since 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded, followed by Taliban rule and the post 9/11 American invasion coupled with Taliban guerrilla warfare. But regardless of the reasons as to why poverty exists in Afghanistan, it is essential to raise people out of poverty so that child labor will cease.
The task of raising the Afghan people out of poverty is certainly not an easy one. There are a range of problems arising from misallocation of USAID funds by the Afghan government, the inability of U.S. officials to better Afghan government institutions and just general distrust and confusion between the two countries.
A possible solution to this would be for the U.S. to give money to more grassroots NGOs and intergovernmental organizations who are currently working in Afghanistan. This would get the aid directly to the most vulnerable people in Afghanistan, specifically children. Organizations like the World Food Programme have operations already in place. Activities like school meals, food for training, Food-for-Work, nutrition programs and flour fortification are being carried out in Afghanistan today. They also support programs that try to close the gender gap.
Imagine if the U.S. gave more money to these programs instead of fighting with the Afghan government over misallocated funds? These programs are already helping thousands of Afghan people, why not help even more? Child labor in Afghanistan is increasing, and with poverty as its main cause, the U.S. government should put more of its aid money toward proven, successful poverty alleviation programs.
– Eleni Marino