Child Labour


Margret Wangui recites her recital on Child Labour
Margret Wangui recites her recital on Child Labour

Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstone of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development. Most children in our society are denied this right due to poverty and are forced to look for work at a tender age.

Those who employ them take advantage of them and since they are poor and lack the relevant information and knowledge, they work in oppression. Child labour comes in many forms but the most prevalent in Kiambu and the neighbouring counties is child (domestic) house help work which according to a study carried out by Action for Children in Conflict (AfCiC) and Save the Children accounted for close to 50% of children work long hours fetching water, firewood, cleaning and taking care of children their age.

AfCiC empowers the working children with proper information about their rights as working children. AfCiC hold fora with the working children informing them on child rights such as right to education, right to quality health care and protection from abuse and harm. During these fora the participants are also enlightened on conflict resolution and where to report abuses from their employers.

Margaret Wambui is a 12 year girl at St. Patrick’s primary school. She is the chairperson of the School Advocacy Club introduced by AfCiC. The Advocacy Clubs were introduced for the purpose of promulgating child rights to the other children both in school and at community level.

Margaret has taken the mantle of becoming a child right champion and during the August holiday she wrote and presented the following recital to address the plight of domestic workers in Thika.

Child Labour

Poverty, domestic violence, who gave birth to you, I wish I can know her, because of you I was forced to drop out of school and be employed as a house girl at the age of 13yrs.

I was taken to Mama John at Thika, which is far from my Kibwebwe rural home, to work as a house girl. My daily activities involved washing their car, ironing their clothes, preparing children for school and even preparing Baba and Mama John’s birth water. Waking up early and sleeping late became my daily routine

The salary was Ksh.2000 and from this Ksh.1500 used to be sent to my mother, Ksh.300 used to be deducted from my salary to cater for wastages and breakages and I was only given Ksh.200 per month.

All was not gloomy though, I could bath once, twice or even thrice because water was ever available not like in our village where one has to walk for over 1 km to get 20 litres of water

I even ate food cooked with aromat and as you know with aromat everything is unbelievable. My appearance changed to a good looking girl and Baba John was attracted to me. He used to pretend he has gone to work then come back for ‘My sweetie, sweetie number one’ Sang. What followed… (Shakes her head). Baba John disfigured me because I could not negotiate for condom use or family planning.

When mama John realised what had happened, she asked me who was responsible and my reply was he bought me chocolate, the second day roses blah blah blah blah blah and from this mu ubikra (virginity) was taken away and that’s why am like this.

(Screaming) “No no no you have to get rid of that pregnancy” Mama John lamented. I was taken to a quack doctor for abortion and while he was attending to me he ruptured my uterus which led to the removal of my uterus and to add insult to injury, Baba John infected me with HIV.

I wish Baba and Mama John could have took me in as their daughter and helped me continue with my education. I am now barren and HIV positive at the age of 15

Community members, government do something and eliminate child labour. 

Bridging the Gap: Josiah’s Journey Towards his Dream

Just like the water lilies blossom every morning, every child needs a chance to blossom every single day. Josiah Waitende is a 10 year old boy under the care of Action for Children in Conflict (AfCiC) at the Interim Care Centre.

Josiah’s mother, Ann Njeri, is a single mother who was imprisoned at the Thika Women’s Prison for selling illicit brew. She was selling illicit brew to provide for her family of 4. Josiah seeing the financial constrain his mother was going through, decided to go to the street to look for manual work with the intention of helping her provide for the family.

AfCiC began working with Josiah in May 2014 when he came into contact with our street workers and has since, been a resident at our Interim Care Centre. Josiah has been in the streets for more than 2 year. He has been denied basic rights as defined in the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child especially the right to education and health.

AfCiC helps him claim those rights – to make them his, and to help him understand the situation he has been in and to look to the future, to fulfil his dream.

At the centre Josiah has access to informal education, including dancing, acrobatics, percussion, counselling, with the programme building up to a near full academic curriculum of Maths, English and Science, preparing him for reintegration back into school.

AfCiC caters for the children whose parents are imprisoned at Thika Women’s Prison. A visit to the Thika Women’s prison is conducted every Thursday.

During the visit, AfCiC conducts a roll call of the number of women and children at the prison. In cases where a woman was arrested and was not able to pick up her infant child, AfCiC in partnership with the welfare office at the prison traces the child and either places the child with the mother in the prison or with other willing relatives.

AfCiC ensures that the children who are too old (5yrs and above) to stay at the prison have a place to live and continue to attend school.

AfCiC’s holistic approach, combining both curative and preventative measures, and targeting not simply the street child in isolation but the entire family, has proved to be an efficient, effective, sustainable and successful model in reuniting children with their families and the community, and enabling them to succeed in mainstream schools, performing well against their peers.

The Disabled also have rights

Nelson Kuria* is a single blind 60 year old man living in Gatanga village, Muranga County. Kuria was living in Narok when his dad passed on in 2003. Although his dad was poor, he managed to leave him a piece of land.

Kuria was elated by the news, gathered his belongings and went back home. He followed all the due process with the courts and the land ownership was transferred to his name. Being a blind and destitute person, Kuria’s neighbours decided to take advantage of him. They breached all legal proceeding and went to the land dispute tribunal and revoked Kuria’s land ownership.

Kuria was mystified because during the gazettement notice no one challenged the ownership of the land. He did not know where to plead his case and sought out advice from his friends.

“I was about to give up when a friend told me Action for Children in Conflict (AfCiC) and the work they do in helping the vulnerable in the community,” says Kuria.

AfCiC through Kenyan Children’s Legal Aid Work (KCLAW) programme provides free legal services at the grassroots levels to the vulnerable children and families in the community ensuring that poverty and disability cannot be an excuse for inaction on gross human right abuses to people like Kuria.

Through this, AfCiC enables the most impoverished and vulnerable people in the community access justice and legal redress where their human rights have been infringed through the provision of free direct legal advice, tailored advocacy and campaigning and ongoing community education.

For Kuria’s case, KCLAW is in the process of revoking the transfer of Kuria’s land to the neighbour who is trying to take advantage of his situation. Kuria is grateful for the efforts done by the KCLAW programme.

“Because of the KCLAW programme I am hopeful that this land dispute will come to pass and I will be able to live on the land my late father left me. I will forever remain thankful to AfCiC for the support that they have given and continue to give”

*NB names used in this article are not real names.

Governance and Mentorship Forum

Action for Children in Conflict (AfCiC) through its Child Lead the Way programme (CLTW) conducted governance and mentorship forum for its high school sponsored students on 15 August 2014 at the main hall.

The forum organised by the CLTW team, brought together 136 students and ten facilitators. The forum addressed five informative sessions that are relevant to take the students through their academic life as well as the puberty stage and help them transform diligently into adulthood. The sessions included:

i.            Healthy relationships in schools and the community

ii.            Setting goals and making informed career choices

iii.            Academic and social challenges facing students in schools and possible solutions

iv.            Self esteem

v.            Resisting peer pressure

It was quite remarkable to see to the students cooperate their young energy and thirst for knowledge in their participation during the interactive sessions.

The students were informed on healthy relationships in schools and in the communities and how they can use them to better their lives. They were also made to understand that it is normal to undergo both physical and emotional changes in their age and were encouraged to appreciate and support each other. The facilitators discussed different types of friendships and clearly cited that it is possible to have intimate relationships that do not necessarily involve sex. The students were educated on sexuality and the responsibility that come with it.

They were also guided on setting goals and making informed career choices based on area of interest matched with ones strengths in abilities and best performed areas in academics.  They were told that goals should be specific, practical and have a deadline. Students were directed on how to come up with a SMART goal i.e. a Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time based goal.

The students were advised to think about where and what they would like to study. What kind of work would they like? What kind of lifestyle would they want? They were told that the process of answering these questions could help them make informed career choice. They were told that choosing a career involves 4 stages namely self awareness, opportunity awareness, decision making and taking action. It was highly recommended that in the process of setting goal and making career choice the key element is discipline because without discipline no goals can be accomplished.

The forum struck a balance between high self esteem and arrogant character and encouraged self control to tame cases of low self esteem.

Negative peer pressure has led to relationship breakdown between the children and their parents and guardians, leads to school strikes, and also causes trouble with the law. The students were encouraged to know their limits and avoid negative peer pressure that would lead to indulgence in drugs and experimenting in sex. They were advised to deal with peer pressure by gaining self confidence, learning to say ‘NO’ to negative influence and choosing their friends wisely. They were encouraged to surround themselves with positive peer influence, which will enable them overcome fear, provide good advice, avoid breaking the law, and also provide them with motivation and confidence. The participants were enthused by the efforts the AfCiC community is putting towards their well being.

“I am grateful for this forum. I had a goal but my goal was not SMART. When I go back home I am going to set a SMART goal and I am confidence my grades will definitely improve,” says David Mwangi

“As a school captain, my biggest challenge is how to do my work without being hated and criticised. This forum has helped me learn how to relate with my fellow student and carry out my responsibility as a captain effectively and efficiently,” says Margaret Wanjiku

“I have learned to make proper decision concerning peer influence. And I am also grateful for the self esteem session because I believe it will help me work on my confidence,” says David Karani

Children Lead the Way: Education is a Human Right

Action for Children in Conflict (AfCiC) in partnership with Save the Children International has sponsored 180 students (106 boys, 84 girls) in various secondary schools around the country through Children Lead the Way (CLTW) project.

Children Lead the Way project focuses on direct support of children in Gatanga, Kamwangi, Thika town and Juja. Children in secondary school are provided with subsidised school fees and the project also provides vocational skills training to working children through apprenticeship. The implementation of the project was guided by the standards and principals set out in the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

Apart from the sponsorship given to these students, AfCiC is keen in monitoring their progress through evaluation of their performance both in curriculum and co-curriculum activities at the end of every term. During the evaluation, the students discuss the challenges they faced and how they tackled them with the project officers. They also discuss how they will improve their performance and their needs for next term.

During school holidays AfCiC carryout 3 mentorship fora where they educate the students on life skills, HIV/AIDS and career choices. Since most of the students come from vulnerable backgrounds, the AfCiC staff also conduct a guiding and counselling session to boost their self-esteem and confidence.

During these fora, AfCiC also organises for sporting activities since all work and no play makes Jack a sad boy. Through this AfCiC is tackling structural and social barriers to education such as poverty and negative attitudes, acknowledging that education is a human right in itself and also an important means in realising other human rights.

To promote child rights, AfCiC through CLTW introduced 16 School Advocacy Clubs in its area of operation. The clubs are mandated with informing and empowering other pupils on child rights. The clubs hold inter-school debates on child rights and issues affecting them as children  These clubs empowers the pupils to be their own advocates and it also builds on their confidence and self-esteem.

Canadian High Commissioner Pays a Courtesy Visit to St Patrick’s Primary School

Ag Canadian High Commissioner to Kenya, Darren Schemmer, visited St Patrick’s Primary School and Thika Working Children Centre in Thika, Kiambu County on July 30, 2014 where he got a taste of Action for Children in Conflict (AfCiC) education empowerment, economic empowerment and school feeding programme.

AfCiC recognises that education is a human right with immense power to reform and in 2005; they introduced the school feeding programme at St Patrick’s Primary School to ensure that pupils stay in school at all times. They also introduced a Child Health Club in the school for the purpose of educating and empowering the pupils on child rights.

In the club, the pupils hold weekly fora discussing issues affecting them in their community and come up with ways of dealing and tackling the issues. They also educate the other pupils in the school by informing them about their rights during parade time. This has helped the pupils build their knowledge, skills and means to transform their lives in both the school and community level.

During the visit, the commissioner engaged the club members in a discussion about their rights and was impressed with the level of confidence and awareness the pupil had concerning their rights as children and encouraged them to inform the other children in the community about child rights.

“It’s pleasant to see how much the pupils know about their rights in the community. This is an excellent opportunity and platform for children to discuss and learn about their rights and know how to tackle the issues affecting them and the society as a whole”

The discussion echoed Mahatma Gandhi’s words: “Be the change you wish to see in the world”

Apart from empowerment and capacity building, the club introduced the Go Green Project where pupils grow vegetables to supplement the school diet hence improving their nutrition.

The commissioner also visited the Thika Working Children Centre which serves as an information hub for all working children in the Thika Sub-County. In addition to simple arithmetic, reading, writing and speaking skills the centre also trains these children on various topics such as self awareness, HIV/AIDS, group dynamics, entrepreneurship skills and reproductive health.

He encouraged the AfCiC staff to keep up the good work with the promise of visiting the programme sites in the near future.