Kenyan children put in harm's way for sexual exploitation and forced labor
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
6/17/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Poverty in the African nation of Kenya has forced families - especially those in rural areas, to turn over their children over to forced labor, commercial sex work and early marriages. While 80 percent of all Kenyon children receive elementary education, less than half go on to secondary schools. Fees for such schools range from $100 to $1,000, forcing poorer families to put their children to work for increased household income.
Under-aged boys usually work on farms in Kenya. Girls stay behind to do household chores while their mothers are working.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Millions of Kenyan children miss out on school because they are forced to work, are married or trafficked,
"Child marriage, child labor and child trafficking: we have a high correlation between those three areas and children not being in school," the child rights charity, Plan International Director Roland Angerer says.
"There is also a reverse correlation that means if children are in school then the risk that they are exposed to one of these three threats is much lower."
There are around one million child laborers in Kenya, aged between five and 17, according to the government. Nine out of ten of these children live in rural areas.
"Poverty is the main driver why children are being sent to work," Angerer said.
Under-aged boys usually work on farms. Girls stay behind to do household chores while their mothers are working.
"These girls, they are 10 years, 12 years old," Angerer says. "They get up at five in the morning. They fetch water. They make fires. They cook. They look after siblings at home." By the time the girls go to school, they are too tired to concentrate or do homework and usually end up dropping out, he said.
Child labor laws go unenforced in Kenya. "It's a toothless law. There are hardly any penalties ever issued against people who employ children," Angerer says.
Early, forced marriages on young girls are also a cultural norm here. "Poor families expect something in return for giving their daughters away in marriage," said Angerer. "They get some bride price [dowry] for them and if they are poor this is a considerable income for the family."
Even more sinister is the employment of children for commercial sex services. Up to 17,500 persons are trafficked in Kenya every year and 50 percent of them are children.
"They are trafficked into the country or from rural areas to urban areas or tourist centers basically for three purposes - commercial sex work, domestic work and agricultural work," Angerer said.
"The main driver is poverty and what is really sad to see and to hear is that in many places parents themselves are colluding with child traffickers to give away their children."
Secondary education made more accessible to poorer families would protect some of these children, Plan said.
"The majority of children who are being trafficking have finished primary school and have nothing else to do," Angerer said.
"If we can offer a good transition from primary to secondary school, the risk of being trafficked, of being exposed to traffickers, of being lured into some dubious opportunities is much lower."
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has promised to introduce free secondary education within three years.
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