Protecting Children From Child Labour

Children and youthSocial issues

Notes to broadcasters

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It is estimated that more than one million children are forced into exploitative child labour each year. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that worldwide 246 million children are engaged in child labour; 186 million are under the age of 15. Some forms of work are perfectly acceptable, and can be a positive experience for children. Child labour, on the other hand, is exploitative, physically or psychologically harmful or abusive, and unfair. It robs children of their youth and their education. While it is true that some adults exploit children intentionally, others do so because they are unaware that they are risking children’s physical or mental health.

The following script aims to raise awareness among adult listeners of child labour issues, by telling the stories of several children who have been exploited. Perhaps you can find out other stories of children in your area to add to these. Other scripts in this package help prevent child exploitation by promoting children’s education. Radio programs that aim to reduce poverty also help; poverty is the most important root cause of child labour.

The stories of the children in this script should be read by children. Work with young actors in your community who can read the scripts with expression. Have them practice the script in advance, and give them time to get used to a microphone. If possible, tape the script in advance so that you can edit out any mistakes

If you wish to develop more programs about this issue, consider a program about children’s human rights. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international agreement that lists the rights of children everywhere. It has been ratified by 191 countries around the world. Likewise, child labour is addressed by two ILO Conventions: the Minimum Age Convention No. 138 and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention No. 182. These Conventions have been widely ratified. If your country has ratified one or more of them, it can be held accountable; if it has not, your programs might encourage your government to take that step




Shahid, Rupinder, Sunita and Manu:
former child labourers

Good [day/morning/evening]. Welcome to our program, [name of program]. During the past few [days/weeks], we’ve been discussing a number of problems that children in our community face. Today, we’re going to hear some very sad, but true stories that have happened to children in other parts of the world. I think what makes these stories especially sad is that they have happened to many children — and similar things have even happened to children in our own communities. These are stories about child labour. [Pause]

But first I want to say a few things about child labour. Some work that children do is good for them. Sometimes it helps their mental or physical development, if it doesn’t interfere with schooling and play time. Children’s work also helps their families. Most children contribute in some way to chores at home and in the fields. But sometimes work harms children. That’s what we call child labour — and that kind of work must be stopped. Children shouldn’t spend too many hours working. Their work shouldn’t hurt them — physically, socially or psychologically. Work should not damage a child’s dignity and self-esteem. Children should not be working on the streets, or in other dangerous conditions. Children are harmed if they aren’t paid fair wages, or if they have too much responsibility. And of course, children should never be sold into slavery, or bonded labour, or sex work. [Pause]

Now let’s hear these children’s stories. The voices are actors telling the stories — but the words are the words of real children, and their stories are true. First, we’ll hear from Shahid, a boy who was sold into slavery.

My name is Shahid. I am thirteen years old. One day when I was five, I was playing in front of my house, and a man came to talk to my sister. My sister helped this man kidnap me. He took me far away from my home and kept me in a house for four months. Then he put me on a plane to another country. I was sold to a man to work as a camel jockey. At first, I looked after the camels. Then I was trained to ride the camels in camel races, but I was not paid for my work. They didn’t give me very much food to eat, so I was always very hungry. When I asked for food, they beat me.

When I was sold, I was a small boy. But as I grew, I was too heavy to work as a camel jockey. So I was sent back to my own country. I was picked up by the police and put in jail. After a few months in jail, I was taken to the shelter where I live now. I stay here because I’m going to school. Sometimes my mother comes to see me. I want to work as an artist and build a house for my mother.

That was Shahid’s story. It’s an extreme example. But you may be surprised to learn that there are almost six million children worldwide who are working in forced labour, slavery, and bonded labour. There are many other children who are forced into unfair or dangerous working conditions. Let’s hear now from Rupinder.

My name is Rupinder and I am 13 years old. My parents work on a coffee plantation. When I was young, I went to school for two years. But when I was 8, my parents told me I had to stay home and look after my younger sisters and brothers. Then, when I was 10, I started working on the coffee plantation too, during picking seasons. I worked from 6 in the morning till 10 at night. One day while I was working, I hurt my arm. Now I can’t work on the plantation anymore. My parent’s can’t afford to keep me at home if I don’t work, so I came to the city. I thought I could find work here. But I cannot read and write, so it is hard. What I really want is to go to school, and learn to be an engineer or a builder.

I’m sure you all know someone who has had to leave school to help the family. This is a difficult decision. Rupinder’s story helps us to think about what might happen to children who are forced into work too early. He hurt himself on the job, probably because he was too small to do such heavy work, and now he can’t get another job because he left school so early. So that is something for us to think about.

Many children end up in cities and towns because they think there are more opportunities for them there than in villages and rural areas. But listen to Sunita’s story, and to what can sometimes happen to children who end up in the city without their families to look after them.

My name is Sunita, and I am fifteen years old. After my father died, my father’s second wife took me out of school. I worked at a hospital, where I met and fell in love with Bishal. I wanted to marry him. I went with Bishal to the city to visit his sister. But when we got there, he tricked me. I was put in a dark room. When I asked what was happening, I was told that I had been sold to a brothel. I never saw Bishal again.

I started working in the brothel the next day. I worked from six in the morning to eleven at night. If I refused to work, I was beaten, and I wasn’t given food. I had to have sex with about twenty men every day. Most men didn’t want to use condoms. I got pregnant. The woman in the brothel made me have an abortion when I was seven months pregnant, and I got very sick. But even then I still had to have sex with the customers. [Pause] I got away from the brothel when another girl asked one of her clients to help us escape. But when I went home, when people heard what had happened to me, they wanted nothing to do with me. Nobody in my family would talk to me. So I came here to the city, and now I live at the shelter as well, and I’m going to school part-time.

Fortunately, Sunita escaped from the brothel. It is sad that she couldn’t go back to her family, but she is lucky that she has found a shelter where she can live while she goes to school. Now let’s hear from Manu, who works at the shelter.

My name is Manu, and I work with the kids here at the shelter. I’m 21 years old. I started working at a clothing factory when I was six years old. There were many children in my family, and my parents couldn’t afford to send me to school. I was sent to the city to work instead. My neighbour gave my parents the address of a man in the city. The man took me to the factory. I worked there for six years. When I was twelve years old, they passed a law saying that children could no longer work in the factory. I was out of work, but I managed to complete my schooling. Now I work here at the shelter. I try to help children who have suffered like me.

Now you’ve heard these children’s stories. Their families weren’t able to protect them, and sometimes they even sent them away. But this doesn’t have to happen. Listen to what the children say families can do to stop other children from being exploited:

The first thing is that parents must understand that children have rights, too. Children have the right to be children — not to be forced to work at adult jobs. Children have the right to go to school. Children also have the right to play, not to work all the time.

I think that parents need to know that there are many ways that children are sold into labour. Child traffickers can be very smart, very tricky. Sometimes the parents are convinced by promises of a better life, of a good job in the city, or even in another country. But these promises are usually lies. Parents must investigate. They must find out who these people who are making these promises are. Many times children end up being enslaved, beaten and miserable. They are not really even children any more.

I know it’s hard for parents who don’t have enough money, or who have lots of children. I understand that there are families in villages that need their children to work on the farm. I understand that if the children didn’t work, the family might not eat very well. But the important thing is: how are the children being treated? Are they being abused? Are they being asked to do things that are hurting them? Are they going to school even part-time? If a working child doesn’t get an education, that child will grow up to be uneducated and poor. And his children will remain poor. It will never change. Parents should always think about school. Going to school is the key to getting other rights.

I was married last year, and my wife is pregnant. I have made a solemn vow that, when my son or daughter is born, he or she will have a full childhood. We will do whatever we can to make sure that our children do not have to work like I did. We will do everything we can to send our children to school. But parents can’t protect children alone. Communities must act together. They must help each other to stop children from being exploited. Governments must help families to send their children to school. There should be more shelters like this one for children who have escaped. And children need training programs so they can learn skilled work.

Of course, parents alone cannot eliminate child labour. There is much that has to be done by governments. We need laws that put limits on work done by children — even what children can do in their own homes and fields. Existing laws need to be enforced. Companies should guarantee that they won’t employ children in conditions that violate their basic rights. And we can all put pressure on the government to ensure that every child has the right to a free primary education and a real childhood.


Contributed by Vijay Cuddeford, North Vancouver, Canada.

Reviewed by Joost Kooijmans, International Labour Organization – International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour, Geneva, Switzerland.

Information sources

International Labour Organization/International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour
Tel:  +41.22.799.8181
Fax: +41.22.799.8771

Child Trafficking: Case Studies. International Program on the Elimination of Child Labour.

Mudbhary, Diksha. “Peer Intervention in Nepal: a Model of Empowerment.” ECPAT International Newsletters. ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Traffic in Children for Sexual Purposes).

The State of the World’s Children, 1997. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Popular Participation Towards Ending Child Labour. African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN).

Komo Lane, Off Wood Avenue
PO Box 1768, 00200 – City Square
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: 254 2 573990/576502

The impact of discrimination on working children and on the phenomenon of child labour. NGO Group for the CRC Sub-Group on Child Labour, 2002.

Advancing the Campaign Against Child Labour: Efforts at the Country Level. US Department of Labor, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2002.

Convention on the Rights of the Child. United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.