KABUL (Pajhwok): In Afghanistan, one in five children are engaged in child labor and the number of such children is high in Khost, Bamyan and Helmand provinces and less in Kabul, Badakhshan and Laghman provinces.
Under the labor law, employing children in work which is harmful to their health is forbidden.
The government says it has taken some steps to deal with the stigma of child labor and has initiated some programs in this regard.
Key points of Pajhwok’s findings:
- One in five children in Afghanistan engaged in child labor
- Poverty forces children to quit school and turn to heavy work
- Some children work for 12 hours against 150 afghanis
- Labor Law prohibits recruiting children for work harmful to their health
- Hard work causes health problems to children
- Past wars, instability behind child labor
- Govt: Several programs underway to support children
Child labors complain about their difficult life
Sixteen-year-old Dawatullah, a resident of eastern Kunar province, has been working in a shoe manufacturing factory in the industrial park in the ninth security district of Kabul since last six years.
He said his parents, three brothers and five sisters were living in Kunar and he being the eldest among his siblings had to work to support his family.
“We work for 12 hours from 4am to 4pm, we paint shoes, carton them, put them in sacks, then we put some of the sacks in go-down and others we load into trucks. It is not easy, but I have no choice”.
Dawatullah goes home twice a year on Eid holidays and sometimes after months for a few days when there is no work in the factory. He earns up to 4000 afghanis a month.
To a question, he said he never had time to go to school and has been working since he was a minor.
It does not mean Dawatullah does not love education and a good life, but problems in his life are preventing him to achieve these goals.
“When alone, I think if I had good education or own business, my future would have been better, but I am helpless and that’s why I am here, I still want our lives to improve.”
He spends a long time in Kabul and always misses weddings of his close relatives and villagers.
He said his gray-bearded father owned a food stall in village, but his income was insufficient to meet family’s needs.
Eleven-year-old Wihdatullah, a resident of Laghman province, carries people’s goods in a hand-cart in return for money in Mehtarlam, the provincial capital.
He said he studied in 6th grade, but he also worked in free time to help his father meet the expenses of his 11-member family.
He said his father sells ice cream and earns from 50 afghanis to 100 afghanis a day, but sometimes he returns home empty-handed.
Another child, Sidameer, a resident of Nimroz province, said he wanted to get education, but due to poverty he was working with his brother in a block-making factory since last three years.
The 10-year-old said: “I earn 200 or 300 afghanis a week. My father and mother are ailing. I love going to school, but I can’t because I have to work to pay for house expenses.”
Thirteen-year-old Sakhi Dad, a resident of Badghis province, stopped going to school due to economic problems two years ago and has since been working in a small tin-making factory.
Being the eldest son of his father, he has to work to meet family’s expenses. He said his parents were sick and his small siblings attended a seminary.
Twelve-year-old Faizullah, a resident of Maidan Wardak province, said his father was no more and he had shouldered all responsibilities of his family of six. He works in a car mechanic shop and earns 250 afghanis a day.
He said he would want to go school if his economic situation improved.
These children say the government should help resolve their problems
In Afghanistan, about 20pc children engaged in child labor
One in five children in Afghanistan is engaged in child labor and the number of working children is high in Khost, Bamyan and Helmand provinces compared to other provinces and less in Kabul, Badakhshan and Laghman provinces.
According to National Statistics and Information Agency’s report of last year (1401), 44.6 percent children in Khost, 36.2pc in Bamyan, 31.5pc in Helmand, 30.7pc in Samangan, 29.5pc in Daikundi, 28.1pc in Takhar, 27.8pc in Kandahar, 27.5pc in Parwan, 26.1pc in Zabul, 26pc in Logar, 22.6pc in Farah, 22.4pc in Maidan Wardak, 21.4pc in Faryab, 20.3pc in Ghazni, 19pc in Panjshir, 18.4pc in Baghlan and 18.3pc of children in Ghor between the ages of five and 17 are working.
In Balkh 18.2pc, in Badghis 18.2pc, in Paktia 16.8pc, in Herat 16pc, in Kunduz 15.3pc, in Paktika 15.3pc, in Nangarhar 14.4pc, 14.1pc in Jawzjan, 14.1pc in Kunar, 13.8pc in Uruzgan, 13.5pc in Kapisa, 12.6pc in Nimroz, 12.5 pc in Sari Pul, 12.1pc in Laghman, 9.3pc in Badakhshan and 7.4 percent of children in Kabul are engaged in child labor.
Girls constitute 19.1 percent of all working children.
According to the National Statistics and Information Agency’s 1400 year report, the population of Afghanistan is estimated at 33.6 million and 16 million of them are children under the age of 15.
According Ramin Behzad, the Senior Coordinator of the International Labour Organization (ILO) for Afghanistan, 160 million children aged five and 17 years are engaged in child labor worldwide.
According to his information for 2021, 1.6 million children are working in Afghanistan, but their numbers are likely to have increased considering recent developments.
In Afghanistan, according to the 4th paragraph of Article 13 of the country’s labor law, it is prohibited to recruit children below 18 years of age for hazardous work that can result in physical damage, including disability.
Heavy work causes health problems to children
Dr. Wihdat Alakozai, director general of Central Hospitals at the Ministry of Public Health, said children under 18 years of age were not physically fit to do heavy works.
He said: “Children doing hard or heavy work may have growth problems, they may develop physical problems that will haunt them in future life. Their spine cannot lift heavy weight and they mayl suffer for the rest of their lives, but at age 18, their ability increases.”
According to him, children under 18 years of age have less experience and they work too much and harm themselves.
“Such children may also suffer from mental problems and become hopeless.”
According to Alakozai, children under 18 years of age should not do heavy work, they should study and live a normal life from medical point of view.
Past wars, instability push children into hazardous works
Former head of Afghanistan human rights commission, Lal Gul Lal, says the past wars, political, economic and social instability in the country pushed Afghan children into hazardous works.
He said more than two million peoples lost their lives in the past wars i and around one and a half million more disabled, depriving many children from guardians.
Children of such families are forced to do hard work to support their families and some have turned to begging.
According to Lal Gul, children having no family and society support are left with no option but to do heavy works.
He said the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child obliged governments to take into account the rights of children, but unfortunately children’s rights were violated in the third world countries re struggling with poverty.
He said there had been no stable government in Afghanistan for 45 years and short and temporary governments lacked economic and political stability.
“That’s why Afghanistan did not pay attention to the rights of children according to the United Nations Convention”.
Government: Various programs in place to support children
Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs spokesman Samiullah Ibrahimi told Pajhwok their ministry was responsible for the protection and care of children at the national level.
He said: “With the Islamic Emirate’s reestablishment, serious attention has been paid to prevent child labor. Kindergartens and orphanages are established in Kabul and all provinces. Children whose parents have died, missing, imprisoned, or orphaned are trained and cared for and vocational education programs are also launched for the children of families who are facing economic problems.”
According to Ibrahimi’s information, about 10,000 orphans and poor children are imparted education in more than 80 educational institutions in the country.
Islamic Emirate’s deputy spokesman Bilal Karimi said this year: “The Islamic Emirate is responsible to solve the problems of all people, especially children, who are the needy and weak sections of society. The Islamic Emirate considers this its obligation and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs has various programs to support children”.
Karimi said the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs was running centers in 200 districts of 34 provinces with the support of Child Protection Network (CPN). In these centers, children whose parents were disabled or imprisoned were provided care.
He revealed that these centers were built with financial assistance from the United Nations Children’s Fund.
Without giving details, he said as part of the campaign to collect beggars, many beggars and working children were collected from streets and handed over to training and support centers.
Karimi added next year the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs would enroll and protect about 10,000 orphans and children working on roads in educational and training centers.
The Ministry of Education also plans to build educational centers next year for children engaged in child labor and those returning from neighboring countries.