Although there is generally an outcry and action geared towards eradication of various forms of social problems in Botswana, the public is fairly silent and oblivious to the plight of child victims of child labour, such as in the agriculture sector and Commercial sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) in the North East District, Childline Botswana has revealed.
The Labour Force Survey of 2005/06 revealed that there was a high prevalence of child labour in the agriculture sector and Commercial sexual Exploitation of Children. It is against this backdrop that Childline has engaged in a programme of removing child labourers from the agriculture sector and CSEC and reintegrate them into mainstream society in the North East district.
Childline Botswana seeks to withdraw 200 child labourers from falling prey to child labour in the agriculture sector and prevent 400 potential children in commercial sexual exploitation.
“We are optimistic that by making people aware of the prevailing problem, they can prevent and detect offences more quickly,” said Olebile Machete Programs Officer at Childline Botswana.
Child labour and CSEC are issues which need to be tackled urgently in North East District because the children and young people, who are drawn into exploitive situations, face huge risks to their physical, emotional and psychological health.
“These are the reasons why we are working with local communities to reduce offences, as well as providing early intervention to protect children,” said Machete.
Rapid assessment on CSEC in the North East District revealed that it is most common in urban centers, around the bars and night clubs, at the bus stops. Machete said they have observed that girls as young as 12 years are engaged in CSEC.
Childline is looking into conducting an in-depth investigation to unearth factors or circumstances compelling young girls into CSEC and appropriate referrals will be done.
“Given the complex and secretive nature of CSEC, children withdrawn from CSEC will be referred to a counselor for psychosocial support,” said Machete.
He said members of the public who might witness “suspicious behavior” are encouraged to contact the police or Child line.
“They may see things like young girls hanging around with men, being offered food, money, alcohol or getting into cars with them, we are encouraging them to get in touch with police or Childline.”
Machete appealed to Batswana to help preserve the children’s childhood through protection from work that might be detrimental to their development and growth; Promote social integration into schools, families and their communities.
“We will work closely with the employers and labour movements such as BFTU and BOCCIM to make child labour a national agenda,” he said.
Machete said in-depth research has shown that victims of child labour are most often orphans and children from very low income brackets of the community. The children are forced into hazardous working conditions as a means for survival for themselves and at times for members of their families.
According to the LFS 2005/06, children who labour in the agriculture sector were found in cattle rearing and arable farming. Machete said there is need to work closely with local structures such as VDC’s and agricultural extension workers as well as schools and social workers to combat child labour.