Yesterday I saw these 3 boys at a construction site and my heart broke because I am certain that they are not up to 15 years old. As a child rights advocate these kinds of scenarios always leave me in a dilemma because I never know if I should complain to the boss because he’s encouraging child labor or thank him for giving the children the job because I know that they need the money.
It is always so easy to label things as abuse as “child labor” when we fail to recognize the living dynamic in the country. In 2010, the US Department of labor report claimed that Nigeria was witnessing the worst forms of child labor particularly in agriculture and domestic service; also in 2004, UNICEF reported that child workers in Nigeria were about 15 million.
But every time we discuss Child labor, nobody addresses the elephant in the room- Poverty and Lack of Opportunities!
The driving force for child labor is poverty and in Nigeria, we are extremely POOR.
Just this September, $124 sums up to N43, 694, which means many people in the country who earn N50, 000 don’t earn up to $200/ month.
So when we discuss child maids and outrightly say that anyone who hires one is bad, I am always reluctant to jump on that bandwagon because what are the other options?
It is unfortunate that many children will continue to work as domestic- helps in exchange for basics (education, shelter, and food), but that has been the only exit out of abject poverty for so many people!!
So if the boss refuses to send them to the same school as his/her biological child, it doesn’t make them bad people- Let’s focus more on how they treat these children. What is their workload? Are they abusive towards them? Do they ostracize them? Do they show compassion and kindness towards them? Are they fair?
I recall an article @elnathan_john wrote about this- he explained the living dynamic between the rich madam and oga and their child slaves masquerading as domestic workers. I have to say that I agree with his points but it’s not always black and white!
That child we fight for not to work as a maid/ bricklayer etc. because it robs them of their childhood will fight us for taking that opportunity from them because they have no other options!
So before we start bashing everyone who employs children, let us discuss and create opportunities for the children. If I get these 3 boys out of this site, what can I offer them in exchange? If you take that child maid out of the home, what can you offer?
Poverty is bad but the lack of opportunities is WORSE!
Lolo Cynthia Is a public health specialist, sexuality educator and founder of the social enterprise LoloTalks, that employs all forms of media (online and offline) to create awareness and sustainable solutions to our contemporary social and health issues in Africa. She also doubles as a documentary and talk show producer and lends her voice on issues regarding interpersonal relationships, sexuality, gender, and social issues through her YouTube channel LoloTalks and her blog.