Children Intervene to Address the Real Issues that Affect them

Summary: Second day of the West and Central Africa
[25 May 2005, BAMAKO] - This morning’s session opened with two
presentations on the remaining themes to be discussed at the
consultation, namely, violence in schools and institutions, and violence in
the workplace.

Mr. Kodjovi Kouwonou from UNICEF Togo, gave a presentation on violence
in schools and in institutions, and introduced the subject by explaining that
one of the main challenges in this region was the lack of statistics on any
of these forms of violence.
It is known, for instance, that most children have been victims of corporal
punishment and we also know that sexual violence is widespread and
affects girls more than boys. However figures do not tell us to what extent.
Hopefully, he said, this study will encourage more studies to be done at
national levels.

A presentation on violence in the work place was delivered by Mrs Vera
Perdigao-Paquete, ILO, Regional Office for Africa. She talked about the
worst forms of child labour and the ILO Convention 182 on the worse
forms of child labour. She defined this as work that harms a child’s
development and health. “Work done in the home, such as chores are not
too bad, and does not necessarily constitute child work”. She offered some
definitions of violence against children in the work place referring to those
children most at risk “because of being children, they are physically unable
to defend themselves, they are dependent and inexperienced. These
factors make them easy targets in terms of relationship employer-
employee, but also in relation to adult colleagues, and clients”.

Another area that lacks much information, she explained, is child domestic
workers, as it happens behind closed doors, it is hard to get data and
quantify this phenomenon. Generally, she said, children “shouldn’t be
working, their place is in school, and they can only be protected by being
removed from there”.

Following those two presentations, children were given the priority to
react. One representative from a working children’s association said that
many girls go to school in the morning, but then come home and have to
cook for the family, take care of younger siblings and have no time for
studying but are expected to succeed, “this is parents’ responsibility, but
we are all responsible, and answers will come from all, we must feel guilty
to find a solution”.

A child from a working children’s movement in Guinea was upset about
some of the comments in the presentations saying; “I don’t agree that the
place of children is only in schools. Sorry! The place of a child can be at
school and at work. With everything that happens in schools and the bad
quality of education, corrupt diplomas, to prepare for life, or one’s family,
you must know something. When someone says our place is not at work
we do not like that. I don’t want to work all my life, but work has helped
me, nobody has helped me, I didn’t get help from UNICEF or Plan, or
whatever, my work helped to pay for myself to go to school… What’s also
clear is that girls who work as domestics, if they don’t work there, it will be
sexual tourism… finally, if you say that chores done at home is not work,
then what is the name of those doing that?”

A girl from the Children’s Parliament of Mali gave an example of a personal
story where her family hired a young girl to work in the house for three
months during the summer, and it helped her a lot as she could then buy
materials to go to school.

A member of a working children’s movement said “I wish to see all children
in school so we all have a chance, but it’s not the case. But we recognise
the value of learning to read, so we set up an organisation for child
workers to improve our situation. This is where partners can help, they can
listen to what we want. We should also value alternative education,
sensitise employers about rights and corporal punishment. But saying no
to child work that hurts!”


Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.