The Day of the African Child: Child Trafficking
Monday, June 18, 2007 10:16 AM

Since 1991, June 16 has been marked annually as the Day of the African
Child. The date is a commemoration of the 1976 Soweto uprising when school
children in Soweto, South Africa took to the streets protesting against the
imposition of Afrikaans as the language of teaching, and against the
inferior quality of their education. On that day hundreds of children and
adults were killed and thousands more injured.  In 1991 the Organization of
African Unity, as the regional body was then called, earmarked the day to
honour those who died as well as to draw attention to the lives of African

This year, the theme of the Day of the African Child is child trafficking,
a phenomenon that has scourged the continent in different forms. It is
estimated that 17,500 children and young women are trafficked out of Kenya
annually[1], while 1000 are trafficked each year from Mozambique to South
Africa alone. [2] Global trafficking is a USD 10 billion per annum
industry, putting it at par with illegal trade in small arms and drugs. [3]

Child trafficking in Africa

Children are trafficked mainly for forced labour and sexual slavery. A
number of children are kidnapped for these purposes. In conflict
situations, such as in northern Uganda, girls are captured and forced to be
soldiers, wives, domestic workers and porters. Where force is not used,
traffickers lure children and young women with promises of marriage,
education or jobs. Cases of kidnapping and other means of direct force
however, form just a small percentage of the child trafficking cases in
Africa; poverty is a major factor. If there was less poverty, there would
likely be less trafficking. In many cases, the conduits of trafficking are
parents themselves, whether or not they know that they are getting their
children into exploitative conditions. The lure of money or jobs is just
too great for many parents to resist or permit them to make the effort to
investigate.  Children who are trafficked live and work in extremely
exploitative conditions. They typically receive meagre or no pay, work long
hours and are deprived of childhood rights to education and play. Many
children who are trafficked at a young age know nothing else other than the
situation they are in and would prefer to stay in their exploitative
situations as they remember nothing of their home or family situation and
have nothing else to fall back on.

Legislative and policy measures to combat trafficking in Africa are weak,
though improving. Celebrated child rights campaigner, Former First Lady of
Mozambique Graca Machel has lent her voice to the clamour against the
practice, urging for heavy penalties to be inflicted against traffickers.
[4] The Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) has launched an
awareness raising campaign aimed at combatting trafficking. ECOWAS has 15
members, 11 of which have ratified international conventions against
trafficking in persons, all of which have task forces to combat the
practice and most of which have legislated against it. [5] There has been
an increase in the number of prosecutions and convictions for child
trafficking and child sex tourism and in inter-governmental cooperation to
address trafficking. However this is not enough and trafficking is on the
increase. Poverty has been cited as one of the underlying factors in
trafficking [6] and without combatting poverty it will be difficult to make
inroads into eliminating the trade.

Children's Voice

Most African countries have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the
Child, which articulates children's rights and expands democratic space for
children. In most initiatives to address child rights issues, children are
regarded as silent victims. During the Soweto uprising children
demonstrated that they understand their rights, can articulate their own
issues and are prepared to take a stand on them, sometimes even to the
death. In the spirit of the Soweto uprising, the African Day of the Child
should give a platform to children themselves to raise their voices and
give an opportunity for older people to appreciate their perspective. A
study on Ethiopian children's perspectives on violence against them [7]
revealed that children appreciated the inter-relation of violence and
poverty and the need to have adequate legislative and policy measures
entrenched. It also revealed that children have an appreciation not only of
their rights, but also of their own responsibilities and roles in addressing
violence against them. As the Day of the African Child is commemorated this
year, it is important that the children of Africa are not only seen, but
heard as well.


1. 'Report of the Conference on Child Trafficking.' African Network for
Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse, Nairobi 2006.
2. Letsididi, Bashi 'Botswana: Child Trafficking Rife.' June 12, 2007. 'The
Reporter' Gaberone.
3. Ibid 1.
4. Ibid 2.
5. da Costa, Gilbert 'ECOWAS works to eradicate child trafficking.' June
13, 2007, Voice of America News.
6. Ibid 1.
7. 'Violence against Children: In their Words.' 2000, African Child Policy
Forum, Addis Ababa.

Published in: The Day of the African Child: Child Trafficking, Kathambi Kinoti, The Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID), 15 June 2007.