Child Labor: Children’s Rights

Definition of Terms

Child: A child is legally defined as a person aged below the age of 18.

Child Labor: Child labor refers to a situation in which a child works as a laborer to earn income. It involves any of the following circumstances:

  • A child works as an assistant or someone else, and the other person is paid on behalf of the child, e.g. when a parent uses their child to work on their behalf for payment.
  • An individual or institution uses a child for gain whether the child gets paid or not.
  • A contract in which the child is hired to provide services or labor in exchange for payment.

Child Work: any work that is not harmful to a child’s health or work that promotes the child’s health.

Differences between child labor and child work

Child labor is a form of work that is harmful to a child while child work refers to acceptable form of work that is not harmful to the child. Child labor is defined by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) as a form of work that is hazardous or one that interferes with their education, or harmful to their health and moral/social development.

Differences between child labor and child work

Examples of child labor is when a child works in a factory where he or she is exposed to harmful and toxic substances. On the other hand, child work may include helping around the house in a safe manner e.g. through cooking, washing utensils, etc.

Child Labor Child Work
Harms the child’s health and development Promotes the child’s development
Amounts to child slavery Contributes to children’s welfare
May involve sexual exploitation Provides children with skills & experience
No opportunity to go to school Does not interfere with child’s education
Involves child trafficking sometimes Helping parents around the house
Involving hazardous work Does not involve hazardous work
Mentally and morally dangerous Promotes moral development

Forms of Child Labor

Child labor occurs when:

  • Work takes up too much of the child’s time
  • Makes the child too tired to attend school
  • Prevents the child from playing or participating in social/family activities
  • Makes the child feel emotionally anxious, unsafe, or threatened.
  • The child feels hurt during the work or exhausted after doing the work
  • The work involves the use of harmful chemicals, heavy machinery and sharp tools
  • The work is illegal.

Some forms of child labor in Kenya include:

  • Hawking,
  • Transporting operators
  • Working in factories
  • Hawking
  • Selling illegal drugs
  • Herding livestock during school days

Worst forms of child labor may include slavery, child trafficking, debt bondage, children in armed conflicts, forced labor, and sexual work.

Factors Contributing to Child Labor

Child labor is a complex and sensitive issue that affects quite a good number of people in the world. There is no single cause of child labor, but a collection of issues may compel a child to engage in it. Some of the common factors that lead to child labor include:

  • Poverty: families that have no jobs and live in slums or rural areas may force their children to work for money so that they can supplement the family’s income.
  • Parental negligence: this occurs when parents fail to perform their responsibilities of providing for their children. This forces the child to work for pay so that they can eat and buy personal effects such as clothes.
  • Ignorance of children’s rights: a good number of parents have not heard or don’t care about the rights of children such as right to education and good health.
  • Being orphaned: children whose parents have died may not have someone to help them. Thus, they resort to paid work in order to pay for food and other basic needs.
  • Social conflicts: families and societies may have conflicts that compel children to run away from home, and wherever they go they start working to survive.
  • Lack of Quality Education: Without quality education, children may participate in the labor market to make money.

Community Level of Awareness on Child Labor

There are still so many people in Kenya who are not aware of child labor. The government suggests that there are over four million children out of school, most of whom are child workers.

The child labor crises in Kenya may be associated with various factors such as political, cultural, and social factors. They require narrow, family-based and micro levels of interventions. There can also be broad, multi-sectoral, and macro-level interventions and programs to end child labor.

A key part of ending child labor should start with creating awareness about child labor and educating families about the issue. All stakeholders in the society should be involved in the process of developing practical measures to address the issue of child labor.

Interventions to End Child Labor

Some of the interventions that can be implemented to stop child labor in Kenya include:

  • Enforcing laws on child rights
  • Parents, children, teachers, employers, and communities coming together to address the problem.
  • Including the topic of child labor in school curriculum to educate children about the issue
  • Empowering communities and their leaders.
  • Planning for lobby groups within communities.
  • Developing reporting centers within communities for people to report incidences of wanton child labor.

Life skills needed to eliminate child labor

Addressing child labor is a complex issue that requires individuals and leaders to develop certain life skills. Some of the skills needed for people to address child labor effectively may include:

  • Negotiation
  • Assertiveness
  • Effective communication
  • Decision making
  • Empathy

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