Long distance child porters in remote areas

Long distance child porters in remote areas

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, April 28

A large number of children in the country work in order to supplement the family income, and that’s not a revelation. However, over 42,000 children between 10 to14 years of age working as long distance porters in the far-flung areas of the country must be a revelation.

These children who carry heavy loads through the rough terrains are featured least in the media and seem to have caught even less attention of the social organisations.

According to a recent study, there are over 46,000 children working as porters in the country out of which an overwhelming majority work as long distance porters; far away from the urban areas. The legislation prohibits minors from carrying more than 25 kg at one time but due to ineffective enforcement the legislation does not bar children from taking on the load.

These long distance porters, who come from the age group of 10-14 are younger than short distance porters, majority of whom fall in the age group of 15 to 17. Such long distance porters walk on an average for six days, carrying loads and food along to span their days in the journey.

According to the report, more than 61 per cent of the child porters participating in the research admitted to drinking alcoholic beverages, smoking and chewing tobacco. The rapid assessment study carried out for International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) of International Labour Organisation (ILO) has found that the child porters, overwhelming of which are male, are compelled to take up the work largely to support the family.

Since wages are determined according to the load, children are motivated to carry as much as possible, often heavier than their own weight. The long distance porters carry construction materials such as iron blocks, pipes, metal pots and long wire rope and other odd-sized loads.

The children get a paltry amount for their work with a long distance porter earning about Rs 71 per day. The long distance porters, more prevalent in eastern Nepal, begin their foot journeys on paths at road heads and end at the Himalayan foothills. In west, however, the use of mules to transport consumption goods and construction materials has restricted the use of children.

The push factors, as listed by the report, includes the need to help pay off family debts, to earn money for personal expenses, peer group pressure and boredom in the village life whereas children’s desire to see and experience the urban life acts as a pull factor. A large number of the long distance child porters reported that they began working even before ten years of age.

Children from poor and socially excluded castes and ethnic groups are prone to becoming porters, although they do not necessarily become porters because of these factors, says the report. “Most child porters, short and long distance, come from rural areas of the hill districts and have homes though their families are landless,” it said.

IPEC/ILO is implementing a five-year Time Bound Programme (TBP) with an aim to eliminate the worst forms of child labour from the country. The TBP which is being implemented in three countries as a pilot project endeavours to eradicate seven forms – domestic labour, child porters, trafficking of children, bonded child labour, street children, children working in carpet factories, and mines - which have been identified as the worst forms in Nepal.

The other two countries where TBP is also being implemented are – El Salvador in South America and Tanzania in Africa.