Let’s be more vigilant to deal with trafficking in child labour at home

Child labour

Youth take part in a procession during a past World Day Against Child Labour celebrations at Maua Stadium, Igembe Central Sub-county in Meru County.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Most of these vulnerable girls fall prey to sexual predators within and without those homes.
  • Human and labour trafficking are serious crimes which the government has endeavoured to tackle.

Last Friday, the Daily Nation carried quite a disturbing story of a nine-year-old girl rescued from a family who had subjected her to work as a domestic servant. The couple are teachers.

By the time the minor was saved by officers from the local Department Children Services from the cruelty of labour exploitation, the she had worked in the home, in Homa Bay County, for at least seven months, said the report. Most upsetting and disconcerting is that the ‘employers’ should know better. 

Teachers — the man is a head teacher — are ordinarily expected to play an all-round role of nurturing, mentoring and providing moral development to children under their care, in addition to imparting academic knowledge to them.

That is why teachers are a highly respected lot not just in our African society but the world over. It is appalling and scandalous, then, that it is reportedly at the home of teachers that the minor has been languishing as a domestic worker for months.

It is ironical, as the county children’s officer rightly pointed out, that the couple charged with the responsibility of safeguarding children and ensuring that they go to school, would leave one such behind, to labour for them, while making sure that others, including those at their home, dutifully go to school to secure their future.

It was hawk-eyed neighbours who reported the matter to the authorities. 

As the initial investigations indicated, the suspects had misled the child’s parents that they would have the minor, who should have been in Grade Two, admitted to the school that the man heads, only to reportedly turn around and subject her to labour as a househelp. But it is encouraging that the couple is likely to face the law for the unkind treatment of a minor, courtesy of a mindful neighbourhood.

Regrettably, the story of families subjecting children to such illegal labour practices as domestic workers, particularly girls as househelps, is familiar. Most of the culprits, mostly in urban centres, take advantage of the economic hardships and poverty that ravage the families of their victims, including close relatives, to traffic children from rural areas under the guise of helping them to get an education. Eventually, the minors, including orphans, end up as labourers and drop out of school, courtesy of their “benefactors”.

Slave-like conditions

In addition to being subjected to slave-like conditions and compromised wellbeing, the children’s safety and security are also endangered. Most of these vulnerable girls fall prey to sexual predators within and without those homes. In many cases, the defiled minors end up getting pregnant, prone to all manner of infections, including HIV/Aids, and gender-based violence (GBV), which leave them devastated and deeply traumatised. 

Rescue centres for abused minors and young women are rife with such stories and scary experiences. And in almost all of these cases, justice is elusive. Some of the shelters opt to focus on addressing the general wellbeing and repairing the broken lives of the violated minors and giving them an education as the wheels of justice grind at a snail’s pace.

Human and labour trafficking are serious crimes which the government has endeavoured to tackle through laws such as the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act, which, among others, criminalises labour trafficking and related crimes.

But illegal procurement of children from rural areas and urban informal settlements by the more economically endowed to work as their domestic servants in the pretext of helping them is prevalent and flourishing. When instigated and perpetrated by relatives, it makes it difficult for the community, and authorities, to detect it.

However, through vigilance, commitment by the authority, awareness and responsiveness of a community, such exploitation of children, especially girls, can be undertaken. Critical, too, is for the government to address the needs of officers in the Department of Children Services and provide them with the necessary tools of trade to work effectively. 

Ms Rugene, a consultant editor, is the founder of The Woman’s Newsroom Foundation. [email protected] @nrugene

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