2 January 2016

Rwanda: In This Day and Age in Rwanda, Child Labour Is Unacceptable - Let's End It


In 2014, Rwanda made a moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour.

The government secured funding to continue the Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission Child Rehabilitation Programme, provided funding for districts to implement child protection programmes, created District Steering Committees on Child Labour in all 30 districts and adopted a national anti-trafficking plan of action.

It also participates in and implements several additional programmes to combat the worst forms of child labour, including child trafficking.

However, children in Rwanda are still engaged in child labour, including in agriculture, and in the worst forms of the vice, including in domestic service. Gaps exist in the government's enforcement of laws on child labour and social programmes lack adequate safeguards to protect children engaged in domestic service.

Diane Muragijimana, 13, is a domestic worker in Kigali who is paid a monthly salary of Rwf5,000. But for a person of her age, the work is very hard as she works from dawn to late in the night.

This is a blatant example of child labour, prohibited by Rwandan law which sets the minimum labour age at 16 years. But that is not to say all work children do should be considered as child labour, because, in African tradition, children are supposed to assist their families. As long as this is light work in their homes that contributes to the wellbeing of the family, it is entirely appropriate.

But when the work prevents a child from attending school or involves hazardous conditions and excessive working hours, work that jeopardises the physical, emotional and cognitive development of the child, it becomes child labour. This kind of labour ultimately erodes the quality of human capital in Rwanda.

Worse, the Rwandan law is not completely consistent with international standards regarding child labour. Children working in non-contractual employment do not have the same protections under child labour laws and regulations as children working in contractual employment.

In 2014, the government stepped up efforts to curb child labour by putting in place 30 labour inspectors (one for every district) who work with the Rwandan National Police under the supervision of district authorities. But the inspectors are not enough to conduct all of the necessary inspections.

It is clear that this situation leads to a vicious circle of poverty and underdevelopment. Given their lack of education, the children engaged in exploitative labour today are unlikely to find skilled employment as adults. Therefore, they are likely to remain impoverished and may push their own children into exploitative labour at an early age.


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