Increasing poverty forces children to work for livelihood

Agriculture industry dominated by child labourers forced to harvest crops for meagre payments

In Summary

• Children are forced to look for money-making ventures to fend for themselves or even their families by poverty. 

• Most Kenyan streets are filled by child beggars who will hook themselves onto someone until they get something. 

Children on their way from a farm in Kisumu.
CHILD LABOUR: Children on their way from a farm in Kisumu.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as a human being below the age of 18 years. In Kenya, when a person attains 18, he/she is considered to be an adult who can make their own decisions within the confines of the law.

According to the International Labour Organization, child labour refers to work that deprives children (any person under 18) of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to their physical and/or mental development. It refers to work that is mentally, or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and/or interferes with their schooling.

In Kenya, many children are subjected to child labour due to their poor financial backgrounds. They are forced to go out of their way to fend for themselves and at times for their families.

Some of the industries that are dominated by child labourers include the agricultural sector, where children are forced to go into farms and plant or harvest crops like tea, coffee and khat to be paid meagre amounts that can slightly support them to see the next day. 

Some children are also forced into being domestic workers where they are taken in to do housework or even tend to their employers’ kids.

They are to wake up in the wee hours of the morning, prepare bathing water and breakfast for their bosses, ensure their clothes are well pressed and their shoes are shiny before they leave for their jobs. If they underperform they mostly get punished verbally and at times physically.

Most of our streets are dominated by child beggars who are a common nuisance. They will hook themselves to you until they part with something small from your pockets, be it in terms of money or even food. They are also at times intoxicating themselves by inhaling cobbler's glue. 

Other kids scavenge dumpsites for scrap materials and food remains. These scraps are later taken to be weighed and the children get to be paid per kilogramme. 

Despite government interventions like ensuring the 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary, a lot needs to be done in terms of ensuring young children are not subjected to torturous jobs in search of food or money to pay for school fees.

It is our duty as loyal and honest citizens to ensure we do not engage in practices that harm or endanger our children since they are the pillar of this nation. 


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