First-person perspectives on the world of work
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Child labour

It takes a community to end child labour

Growing up in Makurdi, in Benue state, in Nigeria, it was a normal phenomenon to see children in child labour. It has always been my dream to combat this worm that has eaten deep into our society.

I got engaged in the fight against child labour because it has menaced children in my environment. I have personally known children who have been raped, physically abused, and deprived of education and childhood. It is a great pain to me.

During my university days, I organized lessons for children living in nearby villages, since most of them did not attend school. My goal was to prove the value of education to their parents and ignite a passion for school in the hearts of the children.

NGO worker Peace Okebugwu holds a sign which reads "#Adopt the child right act in Bauchi, and stands surrounded by schoolgirls wearing blue uniform headscarves. Some children resting and sitting around on the floor. Rudimentary hut school.

This photo was taken at a government secondary school during my project on the Child Rights Act in Bauchi state.

© Okebugwu Peace/Itodo Samuel

Children often work with their families on nearby farms or sell goods in the streets, at bus stops, and at gas stations. They hawk things like water, soy milk, and biscuits. If they come from farming families, they might sell their product: groundnut, corn, and so on.

On my university campus, I saw children who would work until 11 p.m. and fall asleep near the student walkway. Some students feel pity for these children; others accept it as the norm. 

After I graduated, I knew that I wanted to make an impact. I went to camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) and educated teenagers on topics including sexual reproductive health. My siblings and father assisted me. 

From there, my passion to help my community only grew stronger.

During my year of service in the Nigerian Youth Service Corps in Bauchi state in northeast Nigeria, I realized the state has one of the highest rates of child rape, child labour, and child marriage. 

So, I started a campaign around the adoption of the Child Rights Act, which is currently under review.

It wasn’t always easy: Stakeholders were not always accessible to us, and my team really needed their audience. We also encountered financial challenges, since we had to move around a lot.

But I kept going. When I help a child, I feel like I’m living my dream and, at the same time, I feel the need to do more.

My parents always encouraged me to stay focused and achieve my dreams, no matter the challenges in front of me. That drive is why I am able to organize young people against child labour.

Peace OkebugwuNGO project manager

Growing up as the third of five children, I experienced what it meant not to have all my needs met. This ignited in me a fire for greatness. My parents always encouraged me to stay focused and achieve my dreams, no matter the challenges in front of me. I also have supportive siblings, especially my elder sister, who has a similar drive.

That drive is why I am able to organize young people against child labour. I engage them through active discussions around our common goal, and together we work to achieve our vision.

I currently work with Beulah Future Leaders Foundation, an NGO based in Kaduna state that works on issues affecting girls and women. Working directly with our target beneficiaries, we empower children, adolescents, and young people through education. We improve their access to information and services about their rights and sexual reproductive health. 

In our practical, community-based approach, we try to meaningfully involve the most marginalized, especially girls and women and people living with HIV. Our goal is to eliminate child labour, gender-based violence, and child abuse through advocacy, shared learning, capacity building, and quality programming. 

Some of the things I do to end child labour include: organize classes for children in rural communities who do not go to school, partner with organizations and individuals on sensitization activities, and organize community development services.

Regular people can take action against child labour by raising awareness, volunteering, and funding projects that seek to end child labour. They could also make posters or write to local newspapers.

Recruiting others into your awareness campaign is important. Establish contacts with young people in schools and advocates in community groups who could work with you in your action against child labour.

This is the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour. Get involved!

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