Results of Economically Reintegrating Children Associated with Armed Conflict

As the “Prevention of Child Recruitment and Reintegration of Children Associated with Armed Forces and Groups in south central Somalia” project, euphemistically known as CAAFAG, comes to a close, its contributions are profound.

Article | 10 June 2014
The project has made telling contributions towards the prevention, release and reintegration of children associated with armed conflict, both socially and economically, and can clearly be seen on the ground.

The European Union funded project is implemented jointly by, International Labour Organisation and UNICEF, in partnership with Elman Peace and Human Rights (EPHR) targeting 200 children in Mogadishu of which, 56 were girls.

ILO provided expertise in the field of vocational training and employment support for the children; this is part of the ‘Journey to Work’ and for the care givers, the mothers and guardians of children, linked with to International Programme on Elimination of Child Labour an important facet of the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda. With initial extensive participatory market mapping opportunity in Mogadishu, providing a sound knowledge about available employment and income generation opportunities, ILO successfully facilitated, with a preliminary vocational orientation and counselling process. A minimum of 7 month intensive social and economic empowerment training package encompassing a wide variety gender-responsive vocational skills training combined with cooperative and entrepreneurship training, non formal education, job placements for the children. ILO and EPHR developed the skills trainings taking in to account the vocational skills needs, priorities and expectation of both genders thus enhancing active participation of the girl child in the vocational skills training.

The training interventions were concluded in March with a colourful graduation ceremony that later followed with a quick shift of attention from training to insertion; meaning finding a use for the skills as the graduates required to make skills translate to jobs and generate their own income.

Subsequently, a post-training support for micro-enterprise development and wage employment was initiated, successfully facilitating 40 graduates, out of targeted 100, who had reached the minimum age for employment to access waged employment.

Concurrently, support to business start-ups for another 100 graduates (organized in 6 cooperatives) are currently in process. It is worth to mention, the valuable technical guidance and support the Modern Management Company International- MMC (local expert in entrepreneurship training and business plan development with pool of ILO trained Business Counsellors) are offering to the project beneficiaries in their endeavour of starting cooperate enterprises. The support from MMC International remains instrumental as a technical support service provider in undertaking extended follow-up and coaching during installation and consolidation.

Finally, through a post placement follow-up commissioned by the ILO Mogadishu office, the successful project beneficiaries and respectful host employers (business community) expressed optimism and attested to the societal and economic benefit of the economic reintegration of children.

Maryam, a 16 year old girl working as chef assistant at the Village Restaurant in Mogadishu describes her employment as an eye opener and the beginning of her professional journey to be a well-known chef in Somalia. She stated with confidence, “I am work in the morning, get paid while I attend classes in school in the afternoon, to keep my education going. Now I am feeling the joy of freedom from poverty and abuses, I am like a boss in my house as I am contributing to my family.”
The head chef of Village Restaurant
and Maryam preparing a meal

As for the employed youth, they are in agreement that the intervention by the project was timely and has made significant differences to their individual lives and their sense of being together to positively influence those around them; with most stating their lives and that of their families have changed for the good.

Mr. Ahmed Jama, a well known entrepreneur and chef who owns a restaurant in one of the villages in Mogadishu. He has employed two waiters and three cooks from the program. When asked about his experience with the youth, he stated “I have seen a positive change that has positively impacted my business. The youth are motivated, showing great interest in improving their professional skills as chefs and waiters. I want to employ four more waiters from the project with the same great attitude to work in my restaurant!”

Finally the project component to support the process of ratifying conventions commenced in December 2012 with a knowledge sharing and regional workshop on Elimination of worst forms of Child Labour. The workshop included all tripartite members and the advocacy resulted in the signing of the ILO conventions on March 20 2014: Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98) and Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182). H.E. Dr Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed, Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Somalia signed the convention partly in order to rid Somalia of the scourge of child labour, to adopt a child labour policy, develop a national action plan on child labour and produce the statutory instrument to designate hazardous forms of child labour.