Childhood is a time for learning, playing, exploring, and enjoying the perks of being a kid. It shouldn’t be about working.
Unfortunately, an estimated 120 million children aged 5-14 around the globe are involved in some form of child labour – often depriving them of their childhood and education, and jeopardizing their safety.
You may be wondering, how does this happen? And where are the children’s parents? Child labour is a complex issue driven by the cycle of poverty and sadly, the people forcing children into child labour are in many cases family members.
To better understand some of the challenges and issues surrounding child labour, meet 2 brave young girls from Togo who were freed from their lives as domestic servants.
When Esther was 13 years old, her aunt invited her on a trip to Lomé, Togo’s capital city. It was during school break, so her parents let her go. However, when Esther arrived, her aunt left her at a stranger’s house where she was forced to become a domestic servant.
“I was in Lomé for four months. I wasn’t paid. I wanted to leave, but my aunt said I had to stay,” said Esther. “My boss was unkind. She hit me if I didn’t wash the plates or the clothes well. I was afraid of her.”
Esther’s parents were alarmed when she didn’t return home for the start of the school term. With Plan’s help, they realized Esther was trafficked into child labour and alerted the police, who located and brought her home.
“I was so happy to see my family, I cried,” shared Esther. “After, I was back in school. I felt at home, at ease.”
Every year, thousands of children are trafficked inside Togo, and thousands more are taken to neighbouring countries, like Nigeria.
“I was 10 when I went to Nigeria. My mother took me there,” shared Rachida, now 17 years old. “She told me we’d go for a month. But when we got there, she fled…The lady I worked for beat me every day. I did all the work. I was like a domestic slave.”
After years of forced labour in different households, Rachida saw her brother one day and he brought her back to her village in Togo, reuniting her with her grandmother.
For youth like Rachida, the years of child labour has meant years of lost education. To support these former child labourers, Plan helps them return to school or gain vocational skills – empowering them with the knowledge and ability to create a brighter future for themselves.
“I learnt sewing with the help of Plan. I want to be the boss one day and have my own workshop,” shared Rachida.
Ending child labour
Esther and Rachida’s experiences of child labour are far too common in villages across Togo and in communities around the world. In fact, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest incidence of child labour, with over 21% of the entire child population involved in forced work.
With poverty a critical driving factor of child labour, Plan’s anti-trafficking project in Togo is educating communities on children’s rights and the dangers of child labour, while also improving education and economic opportunities for children and their families.
“The aim of the project is to confront child trafficking through education and professional training. The project has the specific aim of putting children who are vulnerable to or have been victims of trafficking back in school, or to help them learn a trade,” shared Ouro Gbeleou, the project’s manager.
The project even engages former perpetrators of child labour, like one-time trafficker Moussilia, 45, to educate them on children’s rights and change their attitudes to end this practice. Forced into domestic labour as a child herself, Moussilia now works with Plan to end trafficking by raising awareness in communities, and she believes it will make a difference.
“In my opinion, child trafficking will stop one day. It will be because people learn about child rights.”
Protect children’s rights
Child labour deprives children of their right to education and safety. Every day, Plan works in developing countries around the world to protect children’s rights, and you can help. Sponsor a child and you can help children and their entire community access their basic rights.