New figures reveal that 146,386 children are employed in the worst forms of child labor and hazardous work across Rwanda, prompting activists and government officials to warn businesses that they will face harsh punishments for using child labor.
Child laborers are predominantly found in sectors including: tea and coffee, fishing, agriculture, construction, mining, marshlands, restaurants, bars, as well as transport.
The recent warning came at a conference bringing together the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Rwanda Mining and Petroleum Board, National Children Council, the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, Private Sector Federation, National Agricultural Export Development Board, the Ministry of Labor, and CLADHO, a coalition of CSOs fighting for human rights.
“All businesses should fight against child labor according to the principles but we still see children in large mining operations, tea plantations and informal sector,” said Evariste Murwanashyaka, the Programs Manager and Child Rights focal Person at CLADHO.
Faustin Nsanzimana, the Legal Advisor to the Ministry of Trade and Industry stressed that punitive measures must be enforced against businesses that violate children’s rights.
“In some policies and big projects we find no policy in protection children and therefore some policies must be revised. All must be revised and enforce punitive measures,” he said.
He added that, on the other hand, there are policies in some instances which are not implemented.
“We know what labour law says about decent work but this right is still violated, people have contracts, no insurance among other challenges,” he said.
Yves Shirimpumu from the Chamber of Tourism at Rwanda Private Sector Federation said that new guidelines by Rwanda Development Board are clear that offending businesses will be shut down.
“In hospitality sector we have businesses such as bars and hotels. RDB has issued over 80 guidelines to all business in the sector including those on how they have to protect children,” he said.
“Those who will be caught red-handed will see their business closed, arrested or face other punitive measures.”