Each year, the world unites to commemorate the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. This international campaign kicks off on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs through December 10, the Human Rights Day.
This year, Terre des Hommes Netherlands (TdH NL) is shining a spotlight on child exploitation, the most pertinent child rights violation, through its “UNITE! End exploitation against children” campaign.
Children in Africa are often exploited by both domestic and external actors including family members, community leaders, state and non-state actors, foreign tourists often seeking the continent’s children for sex, and international criminal gangs engaged in the production of child pornography, sex trafficking, recruitment of child soldiers among others.
Significant efforts have been made to end the exploitation of children in Africa. The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, for example, has contributed to advancing efforts to end violence against children through its General Comments and its Days of General Discussion that focused on ending child marriage, sexual exploitation, and child labour, among other initiatives.
African governments have invested in policy reviews and legislation in addition to provision of social services. However, this is not enough. Statistics by the ILO and UNICEF indicate that in 2022, approximately 86.6 million children aged 5-17 years are affected by child labour. Additionally, the UNICEF report of June 2022 suggests that Africa is home to 130 million child brides, including adult women who were married as children.
TdH NL exists to prevent child exploitation, stop child exploitation where it is happening, and empower children to make their voices count. Informed by research, lived experiences of children and the intersectionalities that increase their risks to exploitation, TdH NL and partners have built the confidence and skills of children to raise their concerns to decision makers at national level in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and also at regional and international forums.
Our engagement with multi-stakeholder platforms has enabled us to co-create solutions to systemic drivers of child exploitation, including risks created by emergencies like the drought currently experienced in northern Kenya and Ethiopia.
In Madagascar, we have removed children from the mica mines, and back to school, by influencing responsible mica mining among private sector practitioners. Through parental education, strengthening of local child protection structures, joint work with civil society organisations and the local and national governments in Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya, we have traced and reintegrated trafficked children with their families.
Many more efforts are being made in all the five countries where we operate, to influence the functioning of referral mechanisms to report and address child exploitation cases.
Ending child exploitation is a collective responsibility. As we commemorate 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, we invite you to unite with us. Let us all take decisive actions to reinforce our commitment and strengthen our collaboration to reduce and prevent child exploitation, protect children’s rights and ensure they flourish in a world free from all forms of exploitation. For more information, about Terre des Hommes Netherlands visit www.terredeshommes.nl
Raphael Kariuki is the Head of Region, Africa, Terre des Hommes Netherlands