Thursday, 27 September 2007

Children at work

In Morocco, child labor is accepted both by society and by law. The legal age for labor is 15, but about 11 % of the children between the ages of 7 and 14 work, according to official figures from 2000. Wherever you go you can see children at work - shining shoes, selling handkerchiefs and chewing gums at the red lights, helping out in the shops, working in the fields or as shepherds, learning a trade... And then there are the "invisible" children in the domestic service who you seldom see because they live their lives within the four walls of the employer's home.

One of the main reasons for child labor is poverty. Poor families, often with several children, see no other option than to send their children, sometimes as young as 5 years old, to be apprentices to tailors or carpet weavers or work in the domestic service. Many maids, even the youngest, are forced to work 100 or more hours per week, without rest breaks or days off. Most of them suffer from frequent physical and verbal abuse, not being allowed to attend school, get medical care or enough food. Sexual harassment by employers or their relatives is common. If a girl loses her virginity due to the harassment, her family is considered to have been dishonored. If possible, she is obligated to marry her aggressor. If she becomes pregnant as a result of the rape, society is most likely to turn its' back on her. Abortions are illegal in Morocco and unmarried, pregnant girls are usually forced to prostitute themselves for life in order to survive.

Education from age six to fifteen is compulsory and free in Morocco. In spite of that, millions of Moroccan children don't attend school. Poor families can't afford to buy textbooks, school material, uniforms and pay for transportation, so the dropout rate is very high. Many girls in rural areas are not even registered at birth so they are not allowed to attend school. Instead, they are sent to the cities to work as maids. According to a 2001 study of child domestics, over 80% of the maids had never attended school.

The government is working to help these children, but much more could be done. International organizations, like UNICEF and Save The Children, have projects in Morocco. I believe the key to all this is EDUCATION. Illiterate parents are more likely to send their children to work instead of letting them attend school. By giving the children of today a chance to study we help both them and their children to come. Benjamin Franklin said “The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance.”

More posts about different types of abuse at Blogcatalog.