A New Beginning for Working Children in Thika

It is acknowledged amongst practionerss in the field that data on working children is extremely scarce and largely unavailable. The reason for this has been attributed to the absence of an appropriate survey methodology for probing into the work of children which, for the most part, is a “hidden” phenomenon.

According to new estimates (International Labour Organisation), there are some 250 million children, aged between 5 and 14 years old, who are toiling in economic activity in developing countries. For close to one-half of them (or 120 million), this work is carried out on a full time basis, while for the remaining 50%, it is combined with schooling or other non-economic activities. Among school going children, up to one-third of the boys (33%) and more than two-fifths (42%) of the girls are also engaged in economic activities on a part-time basis. These 250 million children represent approximatel 15-20% of the total child population in the same age cohort.

Is is worth noting, however, that the overall estimates of 250 million working children are exclusive of children who are engaged in regular non-economic activities, including those who provide services of domestic nature on a full-time basis in their own parents’ or guardians’ households.

In Thika, a small industrial town forty kilometers north of Nairobi, the capital City of Kenya, the situation is not any different. The findings of a baseline study carried out by Action for Children in Conflict (AfCiC) with support from Save the Children in Kenya show that 96.9% of all children who were interviewed engage in domestic work irrespective of whether they are school going or out of school commercial working children. It further shows that 41.7% of children are currently engaged in some kind of paid work, 25.6% of them being boys.

To deal with this situation, AfCIC has partnered with government through the Ministry of Labor, as well as with Kenya Alliance for the Advancement of Children’s Rights (KAACR) to establish the District Child Labor Committee (DCLC) in Thika District. The role of the committee is to spearhead the process of making Thika a Child Labor free zone through various interventions and partnerships with stakeholders and NGO’s to ensure that Children are protected from exploitation.

Thika is one of the few districts in Kenya that have been selected to pilot the child labor free zones, and we hope that by leading this change, similar processes can be replicated across Kenya in a hope that other counties and districts will become Child Labour free. The year 2013 marks a new beginning for  children in this region who are engaged in any form of work, because through the DCLC, we are on the right track towards achieving a child labor free zone in Thika District and eventually Kiambu County.

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