10.06.2021 - News

Understanding child labour by listening to children

Worldwide, an estimated 79 million children are engaged in hazardous work. But these figures do not appear in the official statistics of the countries where it occurs. Child labour is often illegal and hidden. In several Asian countries, Tdh is trying to shed light on this issue by listening to what children themselves have to say.

Farida* is 11 years old. She works in a leather factory in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Every day, she carries hides on her back to the fifth floor and dries them in the sun. Eleven hours a day for less than CHF 90 a month. A situation that puts her health and her life at risk.

In Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal, Terre des hommes, together with other partners of the CLARISSA consortium, wants to bring to light and fight against the worst forms of child labour. We are working with local organisations, communities and families to understand the processes of within the sectors that use hazardous work. The aim is also to identify the reasons why children risk their health in exchange for income. To do this, we listen to the children themselves tell their life stories.

Listening to Farida, we learn that she lives in one of Dhaka's many slums. Originally from Kurigram, a region in the north, her family had to migrate to the city to escape the floods that were destroying the area. One day her father fell ill. To help the family survive, Farida started working in the leather industry.

"The children themselves choose to tell us their stories. They are usually grateful to be able to express themselves without anyone judging them. It gives them confidence. Often it brings up emotions, which is why we also offer them psychological support if necessary," explains Sudarshan Neupane, regional coordinator of the programme. "We then train the children so that they can collect more testimonies and analyse it themselves."

Groups of children analyse these stories themselves identify the main causes that drive children to work, and to spot trends. The young participants also propose solutions to these problems. The results of these reflections are then used to formulate requests and recommendations to governments and employers. The aim is to improve the situation of the most disadvantaged families and thus reduce the number of children forced to work in dangerous and exploitative conditions.

"It's a new way of working, combining research, action and child participation," says Sudarshan Neupane. "The solutions are developed by the children themselves and are not pushed on them. So, they are different and adapted to each context."


*The name has been changed for privacy reasons.

Photo credit: © Tdh/Didier Martenet