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Calls for action to end child labour,trafficking

The International Labour Organisation [ILO] has called on national and county governments to scale up and strengthen legal and policy interventions to reverse and curb the increase in cases of child labour and trafficking in the country.

International Labour Organisation (ILO) Programme Manager Grace Banya addresses the press in Naivasha on the sidelines of a stakeholder’s meeting where she called for the strengthening of legal and policy interventions to curb child labour and trafficking in the country, which she said continues to be recorded mostly at border counties and cities in the country. Photo by Erastus Gichohi.

The ILO noted that even though the country has enacted laws that prohibit child labour and human trafficking, it continues to record these cases that have mostly affected urban areas, major highways, coastal areas, and border counties.

According to ILO Programme Manager Grace Banya, governments should deploy swift policy interventions to address gaps that continue to be exploited by perpetrators of human trafficking and enforce laws that would reduce these cases of child labour and exploitation.

Banya said ILO has been involved in capacity building and sensitization exercises targeting border counties of Bungoma, Kajiado, Kwale, and Nairobi due to their high caseload, which she noted has been attributed to increased poverty levels and retrogressive cultural practices.

Speaking in Naivasha during a stakeholder’s exercise, Banya said Kajiado has a high prevalence of cases of children dropping out of school to undertake livestock herding, cases of child marriages, teenage pregnancies, and domestic child labour.

On the other hand, Bungoma County has recorded increased cases of children who have been trafficked from Uganda and neighbouring countries for commercial sex exploitation and domestic work, while Nairobi has recorded more cases of trafficked street kids, and more cases of sex tourism have been reported in coastal counties.

Banya regretted that since the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of children have yet to resume their studies and have been involved in child labour to support their families due to increased poverty levels and harsh economic shocks across the country.

Banya said the ILO continues to train and equip various government agencies, including the police, judicial officers, prosecutors, labour, and employment officers, to ensure perpetrators of child labour and trafficking face the full force of the law.

The officer added that ILO continues to work with local NGOs involved in rescue missions of trafficked children to ensure they get social counselling as well as support to resume their studies and chart a better future.

She regretted that children involved in the labour force continued to be exploited and abused, with most of them doing work with little or no pay as they were unable to negotiate their employment contract terms.

However, Banya said the country has made great strides and progress in addressing these glaring concerns, with a section of counties moving to enact laws that prohibit and restrict child labour and trafficking within their borders.

She noted that Mombasa County has already formulated a child protection policy which once enforced, would rein in perpetrators of the child trafficking menace, eradicate the vice, and create a safe haven for children.

Banya called on relevant government agencies to ensure the provision of education for all children and accelerate social protection programmes to help vulnerable families in order to arrest child labour, which has been attributed to increased poverty levels.

Mikindani MCA in Mombasa County Jacktone Madiaro said the child protection policy under the County Assembly would ensure the county eradicates various forms of child labour and offers a lifeline for school-going children.

Madiaro said Mombasa has recorded an increased number of street children involved in hawking, child sexual exploitation, and children working in mines with drug menaces, making the situation worse.

According to Kajiado Children Officer Cosmas Karera, the county has recorded more cases of children involved in sand harvesting, cattle herding, child marriages, and female genital mutilation [FGM], which has seen school dropout cases rise.

Karera noted that Kajiado County is already formulating a child protection policy that would see strict enforcement, sensitise communities on child labour, and ensure perpetrators of the vice face justice.

The Head of Prevention at Awareness Against Human Trafficking, Miriam Mang’oka, said that more cases have been recorded of trafficked children destined for the Gulf States and South Asian countries for labour and sex exploitation.

Ms. Mang’oka said urban areas and border counties were the most affected, with perpetrators reverting to the use of social media to lure and recruit victims, adding that over 40 million cases of child labour and trafficking were reported globally last year.

According to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics [KNBS], 8.5 per cent of children, or 1.3 million, are engaged in child labour, with Arid and Semi-Arid areas being the most affected.

According to the already enacted National Child Act, every child shall be protected from all forms of economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral, and social development.

By Erastus Gichohi

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