Kenya Sunday joined the global community in observing the International Day against Child Labour with civil societies alarmed with rising cases of child prostitution and beggars in Mombasa County.
At least 13 Community Based Organizations (CBOs) from the six sub counties had a procession along the streets to raise awareness over the child exploitation.
The group further called on the national and county governments to deal with cartels who minted millions of shillings by recruiting children to beg on the streets of the coastal town.
This year’s International Day against Child Labour theme is “Universal Social Protection to End Child Labour” which calls for investments into social safety nets and programs to protect children from being forced into child labour.
Mombasa Grassroot CBOs Network Chairman Francis Almond said poverty, economy, social challenges and diseases were primary causes of child labour in the sub counties of Nyali, Likoni, Changamwe, Jomvu, Mvita, Nyali and Kisauni.
“We are here today to raise our voices on the sorry situation of child labour in our county. Children are involved in streets begging and involved in sex instead of schooling,” added Almond.
He also blamed parents and guardians’ flagrant disregard of the country’s laws safeguarding the wellbeing of minors by allowing children to work as casual workers, house helps and hawkers on the pretext of a harsh economy.
Together 4 Society organization Programme Coordinator Ms. Sophia Mwari said child labour has also fuel cases of teen pregnancies in informal settlements among destitute families.
“We have seen cases of teen pregnancies and most of them are victims of child labour. Duty bearers and society have collective responsibility to ensure these children are in schools,” added Mwari.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Peally Salim of Social Justice Center who opined that areas like Kisauni were hotspots of sexual exploitation due to underlining poverty and broken marriages.
“We call upon the national government to provide solution to high cost of living and help address some of underlying factors behind child labour. Poverty and lack of food are main reasons families are sending their children to work in factories, malls and markets,” added Salim.
Kadzandani Creative Youth Organization Director Omar Chai called on the national government to develop stringent laws, policies and regulation that would address sexual exploitation of underage and adolescents.
“Gender based violence and broken marriages have pushed under aged girls to run away from homes and get into labour,” Chai added.
Pazuri Psychosocial Development Center Coordinator Wilfred Otieno praised the national government for imposing a ban on scrap metal businesses.
“We thank President Uhuru Kenyatta for banning the scrap metal business which was thriving because of children who were used by brokers and dealers to collect scrap metal,” he revealed.
Otieno stated that victims of child labour also suffered from depression and anxiety hence needs professional psychosocial support.
“Kids deserve proper care and education for the future of our nation. The country has duty to ensure the future generation is free from all forms of abuses and exploitation,” he added
They further alleged that among Kenyans working in Gulf countries include minors who were lured by middle men and trafficked to work abroad.
Bless a Child Foundation Chairman Abeid Joshua called for a concerted effort to stop child labour and other forms of exploitation of children.
“We further appeal to the Mombasa County government and the national government to work closely and address the challenge and equip grassroots groups to educate masses,” added Joshua.