Ending Child Labour in Rwanda through Children’s Grassroots Groups

Tuesday 21 June 2016


It is no secret that school dropout and child labour are intimately connected. Many children who drop out of school find themselves working, while working children are more likely to drop out of school.

“I was a child domestic worker. After dropping out of school, I had no goal other than to feed myself and my family. I had no dreams,” said Shema, 17.

“Then last year, Children’s Voice Today selected my colleagues and me for a vocational training and we graduated. Now, I am no longer a domestic worker. I work in a restaurant with a better salary. This is the start of my journey. I have a dream to own my own restaurant one day.”

It is because of children like Shema that the Government of Rwanda and its partners decided to jointly celebrate the Day of the African Child and the International Day Against Child Labour, under the theme: “Quality education is a stable foundation for the bright future of the child”.

Around 500 boys and girls gathered at the playground of Groupe Scolaire Kivugiza on June 18th 2016 to celebrate the day through poems, drama and songs urging all parties to ensure children are not involved in child labor. The call was addressed to parents, employers, business owners, government and children themselves.

When asked about their hopes for children in the next five years, children at the event said they wanted to live in a world where no child will be in harmful labor, no child will live on street, and no child will be malnourished. In turn, every child will enjoy quality education, and every child will be able to support other children as s/he was supported.

Child labor not only hinders the physical, psychological and social development of the child, it is also one of the worst violations of the child rights to health, education, protection and survival and development.  It is thus worrying when businesses use children as cheap manpower and when families hire children to work in their homes.

Save the Children and Children’s Voice Today have been working with the Government of Rwanda to protect children from harmful work. The programme, ‘Books Can Open Closed Doors’, works with children’s grassroots groups to reach out to child domestic workers. Over the past 18 months, more than 6,000 children and 3,000 community members have been sensitized on child rights and protection from harmful labour. 98 children have been supported through case management, 42 have graduated from vocational trainings, and 5 children have been reintegrated into their communities.

The Books Can Open Closed Doors programme is a unique model of child participation in child protection. Children’s grassroots groups use storybooks to attract child domestic workers to join their groups. Children reach out to child domestic workers in their homes, while fetching water, sending or picking children up from school, at the market, among others. Once a child domestic worker becomes a member of a children’s grassroots group, they attend group sessions together with the employer’s children.