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Issa, 14 years old,
child labourer in gold mines in Burkina Faso

“I work here to help my mother since my father is disabled.”

At more than 30 meters below ground, it is dark and humid. Barefoot, crouched between narrow walls, skin covered with mud, with only a thin light coming from a flashlight, children work every day to extract gold in Burkina Faso. They represent more than 30% of the work force in the gold mines of the country. In these rough conditions, breathing is hard. Moreover, there are risks of rockslide and use of toxic chemicals to wash the gold once it’s extracted. 

Issa*, a 14 years old boy from a family of 28 is one of these child labourers. “I came to work here to help my mother who takes care of everything since my father is disabled. In 2017, since the crops were bad, my mother had to collect sand and sell it to buy us food. She asked me to do like my brothers who already worked in a mine so I could also help my family.”

Previously shepherd, Issa became a child miner. For more than 8 months, he has been helping the gold panners and goes down into the mines to bring up the rock to the surface.

“Often, when my brothers are tired, they ask me to go down into the mine. At first, I was afraid. I had to overcome that fear, helped by the fact that I was not on my own. I already heard that there were risks of rockslide but that never happened here. Nevertheless, I saw people wounded and children with feet and hands damaged by the chemicals used to wash the gold. Some of them also cough and I know this is because of the dust.“

Community agents with whom Tdh works have met Issa thanks to our mobile application that helps them identify children working in gold mining sites and sends alerts in case of violation of their rights. The community agents referred the boy to the local social services who take care of him, try to better understand his family background, organised meetings with his family to raise awareness regarding his experiences and provided Issa with medical care. Soon, they will talk to Issa about his plans for the future and help him realise them.

Tdh protects children's rights and reduces child labour in value chains. In 2017, we have improved the situation of 18,000 children at risk or victims of work exploitation. 

*The name and image of the child were changed to protect his privacy.