A study conducted by Childline Botswana reveals that sexual exploitation of children (girls and boys) involving mostly older men working on farms or in the construction industry as labourers was found in the rural catchment areas of the North East District.
Research findings by Childline and the International Labour organization (ILO)’s experiences on present day child labour practices in Botswana specifies that the children are victimized as a result of sexual exploitation practices in the North East District and states that these are children from poor backgrounds, lacking parental support and guidance both financially and socially.
The research was undertaken by Gloria Jacques, Associate Professor at the Social Work Department at the University of Botswana and Olebile Machete, a programme officer for Childline Botswana.
In urban areas, the report says that the children came from high density, low income communities and it was found that a small number had been forced into having sex with family members in exchange for continued financial support.
The study results indicate that some of the girl children living in urban areas were found engaging in commercial sex but were not necessarily from poverty stricken families but mostly from female headed households.
The men with whom they consorted with were civil servants, miners, truck and taxi drivers and self-employed business men. It was found that most of the children had dropped out of school to be involved in these practices.
“As a society, more attention should be paid to inter generational sex and children’s exposure to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, the study states.
Between 2010-2012, Childline Botswana participated in a project from the International Labour Organization through its International programme for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) initiative.
The interventions incorporated in the programme involved the withdrawal of children from work situations, associated networking and co-ordination activities as well as enabling the provision of support services, such as those related to health, nutrition, shelter, counselling and the payments of stipends.
According to the report published in Thari-Ya Bana: Reflections of Children in Botswana 2012, a research publication in which United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) partners with the University of Botswana, the first objective of the project was to build capacity of the organization and communities in order to combat child labour in the North East District of Botswana.
“Sexual exploitation of children is a much larger issue than perceived or admitted by the country,” the report says.
According to Thari Ya Bana publication 2012, Childline’s initiative of preventing children from being absorbed into the labour market has not been fully realized as only 261 out of a targeted 400 were assisted. However, it was surpassed with regards to the prevention of boys being involved in sexual exploitation practices.
Another objective set for the 2010-2012 project was to remove 200 child labourers from the agricultural and commercial sexual exploitation sectors (CSES) and reintegrate them into mainstream society. The report states that only 67 of the targeted 200 children were removed from CSE sectors. Some of the children were placed with relatives, others in boarding schools and one was accommodated in a women’s shelter project.
“Although Childline failed to meet its target for prevention and withdrawal of children involved in child labour situations in the North-East District, significant strides were made in raising awareness of the problem in the region.”
The Botswana 2005/2006 labour force survey noted that although the prevalence of child labour in Botswana is relatively low in comparison with other countries in Southern Africa, this should not signify that less attention should be paid to the situation.