Child labour in East Africa

Bestrijding van meisjesbesnijdenis

In East Africa, 15 million children go to work instead of school - one in every four children. About 5 percent of these children are working in the worst forms of child labour. For example, they are exploited  in gold mines or as domestic workers in families. In many cases, children are forced to do so. They perform exhausting work for many hours in a row, in unhealthy and hazardous conditions. Even though legal frameworks  outlawing child labour do exist in all East African countries, enactment and enforcement remains inadequate due to insufficient budgets, limited technical capacity and low awareness.


Child domestic workers

Thousands of child domestic workers are hidden within households, working hard and long (often over 16 hours a day), for little or no pay, living in abusive situations, without regular contact with their family. Being exploited in child domestic work means that they are no longer attending school, missing the opportunity to improve their future prospects through education.

Children working in mines

Thousands of other children are forced to work in mines. They have to work with tools only suitable for adults and carry heavy loads, in a tough, abusive and violent environment that is far from child-friendly. Exposure to the very toxic mercury, and to landslides, collapsing pits, dust and the scorching sun is part of their daily reality.


Poverty is a major cause of child labour. Other push factors include: the high number of school drop-outs and the general lack of educational opportunities, coupled with traditional norms and practices as well as a growing demand for cheap labour. 


To fight the worst forms of child labour in East Africa, we focus on the following target groups:

  • Children who are forced to work in gold mines and in child domestic labour in Tanzania and Uganda.
  • Families and communities of children who extremely vulnerable to  this form of exploitation.
  • The private sector.
  • Local authorities in Tanzania and Uganda, responsible for child protection.
  • Law enforcement agencies (police and judiciary).
  • Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).

What we do

In the East African region, our child labour programme focuses from 2016 onwards on the worst forms of child labour in artisanal mining and in child domestic work in Tanzania and Uganda. We aim to eliminate child labour by:

  • Protecting children. We prevent that children become victims of child exploitation and we support victims of child labour. Apart from withdrawal, we offer these children the opportunity to go back to school, or to enrol in vocational training.
  • Sensitising parents/guardians and communities. We create awareness on the risks of child labour and the importance of education. Parents/guardians are assisted with creating alternative forms of livelihood, to increase the household income so that their children no longer have to work.
  • Training the police, judiciary and other government stakeholders to increase their knowledge on child labour and what they can do to effectively address  it.
  • Lobbying local and national governments to enact and improve the application of legal provisions and policies against child labour, to stop employers from exploiting children in artisanal mining and domestic work. This includes lobbying governments to allocate (more) budget for proper law enforcement. 
  • Partnering and cooperating with local and international organisations, to create synergy in our fight against child labour. Together we can influence government policies at the national and regional levels.


Some of the results of our work against child labour in East Africa in the first six months of 2017:

  • 870 child labourers discovered in two Ugandan districts with a lot of small scale goldmining: 402 child labourers in the Bugiri district, 468 in the Moroto district
  • 29 victims (28 girls, 1 boy) saved from the worst forms of child labour
  • 38 child labourers supported with judicial support
  • Supported 79 former child labourers to go back to school (again)
  • Support for 981 households of former child labourers with income generating activities
  • 2,267 children and 367 parents/care takers reached with education about the risks of child labour and the importance of education
  • 320 public servants trained in children's rights and child protection