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Child labour programmes on course

Ten years down the line, the International Labour Organisation s (ILO) programmes on child labour in Kenya have achieved a considerable degree of success.
Zachary Ochieng

This is according to a report launched by ILO on May 20 at the Nairobi Safari Club. The report Stock taking exercise of ILO-IPEC Action programme of the elimination of child labour in Kenya (1992 2002) highlights the programme achievements since ILO, through its International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) and the Government Of Kenya (GOK), through the Ministry of Labour signed three Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) in1992.

Through the MOUs, the parties undertook to work with government departments, NGOs and workers and employers associations to eliminate child labour in Kenya. According to the report, IPEC has so far supported 68 action programmes, which have been implemented by 22 organisations, including ministries, the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU), the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

Strategies used include awareness creation and social mobilization, policy development and legislation review, capacity building and mainstreaming, direct support for prevention and withdrawal, rehabilitation and integration, collaboration and networking, research and monitoring and evaluation.

The report was prepared after a review conducted between March and April 2003 with a view to documenting IPEC s main achievements and lessons learnt between 1992 to 2002, with the ultimate goal of using the report as a learning and accountability tool among stakeholders.

The methodology used in the review included evaluation workshops, review of progress reports and literature on child labour and other relevant documents. It also included visiting and holding discussions with representatives of organizations implementing action programmes.

The report was prepared for ILO-IPEC by Dr (Mrs) Phillister Onyango, the Executive Director of the African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN).

The report notes that Kenya was among the six countries in the world and the only one in Africa to be considered in the initial stages of the programme. Kenya, according to the report, has 1.9 million child labourers, with 500 000 in domestic work. According to the Deputy Commissioner of Labour Mrs Alice Taabu, majority of child labourers in Kenya are to be found in domestic work and commercial agriculture.

Speaking during the launch, George Mucai, the Deputy secretary general of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) an umbrella organization of Kenya s trade unions said COTU has been involved in child labour programmes since 1994. According to him, initial stages targeted trade union leadership, exposing them to conventions 138 and 182 and Recommendation 190 against child labour.

Mucai noted that COTU had succeeded in the withdrawal and placement of 200 children formerly in the worst forms of child labour into primary schools and formation of community child labour committees at the district level.

According to the report, the labour ministry, through ILO-IPEC initiated and lobbied for programmes such as the review of labour laws and the enactment of the Children s Act. The ministry has also been providing direct support to children aimed at preventing and withdrawing them from work. Accordingly, the ministry organized training and produced materials and guidelines for the workforce.

The report notes that a national steering committee on child labour was formed in 1993, drawing members from the government and the civil society. The committee came up with a draft policy on child labour, which is awaiting cabinet endorsement.

Among the achievements cited in the report include the raising of levels of awareness. Different sectors were mobilized and children prevented from dropping out of school, while many others were withdrawn from exploitative and hazardous working conditions and returned to school or vocational training.

Trade unions and the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) have been sensitized on child labour and communities encouraged to start income generating activities in schools, with a view to encouraging children to stay in school. The report also notes that 140 labour inspectors have been trained to monitor child labour activities in the country.

But the report also highlights challenges faced in implementing the programmes. The major challenge has been sustainability of the programmes as ILO-IPEC prepares to leave the country. It is worth noting that most programmes have been dependent on IPEC and have not put any sustainability measures in place. It notes that the sharing of good practices or working strategies has been a challenge and many opportunities have been lost in scaling up and sustaining some of the action programmes.

Another challenge has been the frequent transfer of the ministry and IPEC staff, which has affected action plans at both the local and national levels. The report also highlights a major gap, which needs to be bridged. Child labour is still around even with the implementation of free primary education. There is a need to review created systems like the Division of Child Labour Unit in the ministry of labour and IPEC operations with the ultimate goal of making them truly effective , says the report.

In conclusion, the report notes that the current action programmes are donor driven and short term. It recommends that the government should spearhead long term interventions, if the problem of child labour is to be eliminated. Specifically, the report laments that it has taken more than seven years to prepare a draft policy on child labour, a failure which Ms Taabu blames on the previous regime.

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