« 100 Years – 100 Lives » | ZAMBIA - “Staying away from child labour will benefit the entire family, not just the child”

Febby Kahale is a 17-year-old girl who did not finish her schooling because she was working in tobacco fields. However, she and other children involved in child labour are now slowly going out of poverty thanks to an ILO project.

Feature | Zambia | 16 July 2019
KAOMA - The long road that Musole Fufu walks with her uncle and 6-year-old brother is not the road to school. They are crossing a field to find the underground coal fires that her uncle lit a few days ago.

Barefoot in the humidity and dust, she and her brother dig and pick up pieces of charcoal which fill bags that weigh 25 kilos by the end of day. Her uncle Mike will sell the bags along the road just for few dollars each.

Kaoma region, in the western part of Zambia, is known for its tobacco plantations. While waiting for the harvest season, children spend their free time in the production of charcoal or picking caterpillars out of the trees which are then cooked and dried in the sand.

“I don’t like to do this”

Other kids work for hours carrying heavy cans of water to tend the small seedlings in the tobacco nurseries that will soon be planted.

Children like Mubila Ngilish come to the water hole twice a day.

“I am watering the seed beds to help my family and to get food. I don’t like to do this. During the harvest season, often I drop out of school to help them cut the tobacco leaves. Once I injured my leg offloading a tobacco bag from the cart.”

The ILO has set up the ARISE project to reduce child labour in tobacco growing communities of Zambia. It set up local commissions called District Child Labour Committees” (DCLC) to have an integrated approach to tackling the problem in the most vulnerable communities in the region.

“We work on awareness raising, capacity strengthening and then also the actual direct interventions to identify the children at risk and those already engaged in various forms of child labour,” said Mukatimui Chabala, National programme manager for ARISE Zambia.

“We work with those structures on the ground because these are the ones who will continue the monitoring and ongoing support to those children and families where they are coming from,” she added.

“The Ministry of Labour and Social security works very closely with DCLC members so when they do their regular inspections either on the farms or in the workplaces, wherever we have found cases and issues of children being involved in hazardous forms of work, inspections are done. And where withdrawals have been conducted, we go there to verify that it is true that these children are no longer there and no longer working,” said Edgar Mainza, president of the DCLC in Kaoma.

Training and education

The programme helps local communities train former child labourers through apprenticeship in masonry, carpentry, animal husbandry, agriculture and sewing.

Hundreds of children have already been trained and thousands more have been educated about the risk and dangers that work in the tobacco fields pose to their health and development.

Self-help groups have also been created and nearly 200 families have received microloans to help them launch small income-generation activities.

Febby Kahale is 17 years-old- She worked several years in the tobacco fields and never managed to finish her schooling. But thanks to the ARISE programme, she is now being trained to cultivate and manage a fish or chicken farm.
These skills have given new meaning to her life. “In the future I want to become a very big farmer and I am going to help my parents,” she told us.

Theatre and musical events

Through the ARISE programme, the ILO also organizes community theatre and musical events in schools with students and their parents. They are designed to point out the dangers that child labour poses for children’s health and to raise awareness about how important education is for their future.

“In the beginning it was a bit hard with parents but today they understand (…) we are telling them that staying away from child labour will benefit the entire family, not just the child,” concluded Brenda Namakau Mwendende, teacher at Munkuye A School.

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