Let’s end child labour


Child workers, particularly those who work as kanchhis as domestic helpers and kanchhas in restaurants, are exploited. Almost without exception, children who are in domestic labour are victims of economic exploitation. They are forced to work long hours with no time off, low or no wages at all.

Though childhood differs according to context, culture and urbanisation, the Child Labour Act of 1992 defines childhood as children who are under 16 years of age. It clearly states that children who are under 14 years should not be employed at the expense of their mental, spiritual and physical status. Children under the age of 18 are also prohibited to work under hazardous health conditions.

Poverty and landlessness in rural areas are fuelling child labour. Noticeable causes of poverty include structural inequality in access to assets, education and health services, and absence of social security systems in developing countries.

In Nepal, Kathmandu is among the major destinations for migrant children. The Capital attracts hundreds of children who end up in some workplace or the streets. They make up a mass of unprotected children who face exploit-ation and risky situations.

Child labour cannot be viewed in isolation because it is a cause and consequence of the country’s socio-economic and political reality. Child labour is not a new phenomenon in an agrarian economy like Nepal. It has been a part and parcel of the feudal economy.

The rural communities in Nepal are living under social injustice, economic exploitation, poverty, unemployment, landlessness, deprivation and backwardness. Farming, plantation, cattle grazing and agriculture-bonded labour are the most common forms of child labour in rural areas, whereas factory work, domestic services, construction work, scavenging, transportation work is the scene in urban areas.

The armed conflict is also another major cause. Children are exposed to psychological trauma as they face serious consequences like death of near and dear ones, arrests, abductions and disappearance of family members and internal displacement. They also become victims of killings, injuries, arrests, abductions, and recruitment as child soldiers. This has created despair, distrust and fear among children.

Education plays a vital role in combating child labour. Child labourers are not the only ones who need to be educated. Parents must also be aware of the dangers of child labour and the devastating effects it may have on their children and society.

The elimination of child labour cannot solely rely on legislation and enforcement. The Nepali society must attain a common understanding of the negative effects child labour has on their children, families, economy, and country. — Sabita Joshi, Manju Basnett, Gautam Shrestha, Suman Maharjan, Prabir Rana, KUSOM