20/04/2012 – With most of the population living in poverty and HIV affecting about one-in-seven (leaving behind thousands of AIDS orphans), it is unsurprising that child labour is a challenge. But, one group in Zimbabwe has a mind to give child labourers a better life.
he Coalition Against Child Labor in Zimbabwe (CACLZ) is working to stem the rising child labour trend in the country. The group’s most recent pilot project took 350 child labourers out of the agricultural sector and put them in school.
The project to create “child labour-free zones” gives working kids psychosocial care as well as screening tests at a temporary home before they head out to academic training.
According to the Voice of America, the CACLZ identified Masvingo as the province with the highest levels of child labour. To respond to this, the group set up its pilot project in Chiredzi. Within the next three years, the group hopes that at least 1,000 children will leave the labour market and get back into the education system.
The pilot project is based on a model used in India, which African experts learned of through a South-South exchange of learning where Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Morocco and Ghana visited their South Asian peer. The Indian project was able to educate one million children rescued from child labour.
When it comes to the agricultural sector of Zimbabwe, children are most commonly found working tobacco farms, tea plantations and sugar plantations.
In line with international children’s rights laws and global work standards, Zimbabwe’s Labour Act and Children’s Act together provide the legislative framework for eliminating the exploitation of children and ensuring that no child under age 18 is involved in dangerous work.
But, data from two years ago reveal that 13 per cent of Zimbabwean children were engaged in work. Deciphering the reason why child labour is on the rise is not too hard. About 72 per cent of the population lives below the national poverty line. The average per capital income is a mere sliver of what it is here in Canada at about $460 dollars per year—surpassing the international dire poverty rate of $1.25 per day by about a cent. And, with a 14.3 per cent adult HIV prevalence, about 1.2 million Zimbabweans are living with HIV or AIDS, some of whom are likely too sick to work.
It’s also estimated that 100,000 of the country’s 1.4 million orphans live in child-headed households.
Labor expert, Davies Ndumiso Sibanda, told the Voice of America that, “There are orphans who are also used for domestic work because the parents are not available to look after them, also in rural areas where the communities are struggling to make a life.”
The overall mission of the CACLZ is “to fight for the elimination of child labour and to increase access to education for all the children in Zimbabwe.”
In doing so, it lobbies for policy changes aimed at ending child labour and improving the livelihoods of children. It also works to build its own capacity to deal with these issues on a long-term scale, while raising the profile of children’s rights among the population.