In 2009, HOPE worldwide Kenya made a debut in Nyanza Province. Nyanza Province is one of the most underprivileged regions in Kenya despite endowment with natural resources such as land and water. Siaya District is among the areas known for ‘exporting’ cheap child labor to other towns. It is in response to this need that a unique program was tailored to meet the needs of the community. The program resonates with HWWK’s mission of improving quality of life through responsive and innovative health programming.
TACKLE is an acronym for child labor prevention program titled ’Tackling Child Labor through Education’, and is funded by the European Commission (EC) through the International Labor Organization-International Program on Elimination of Child Labor (ILO/IPEC). This type of program is also implemented in six other countries in Africa — Zambia, Sudan, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, Mali, and Angola.
HWWK’s TACKLE Program aims at combating child labor through reducing poverty and hunger. The community is supported to grow staple and nutritious foods such as maize, millet and grain amaranth through provision of certified seeds, fertilizers, and technical support. To support school-going children the beneficiaries give 30% of the harvest to community schools in support of a lunch program.
Children from needy families are provided with school uniforms and older girls are provided with sanitary pads. Children have been withdrawn from exploitative work and supported though psychosocial counseling. Through child help desks a child abuse monitoring structure is in place, and six Child Rights Clubs have been formed to increase child participation.
For sustainability, vocational skills have been integrated with agribusiness, horticulture, apiculture, and aquaculture projects. These are managed through a proposed community Cooperative Society which facilitates a social security institution.
The TACKLE program has the following three objectives:
- Preventing children at risk of dropping from school and joining Worst Forms of Child Labor (WFCL) in Kabura-Uhuyi Location, Uranga Division in Siaya District.
- Withdrawing children from WFCL and providing them with learning/ skills building to earn alternative livelihood.
- Establishing and building capacities of child labor committees to deliver quality services to children prevented and withdrawn from WFCL.
The strategies of TACKLE include:
- Improving retention in school by initiating school feeding programs.
- Supporting farmers in local community to produce adequate food to support school feeding programs and generate additional household income.
- Initiating a community-managed educational trust fund.
- Creating and building capacities of community-based child protection teams.
- Providing vocational training for children withdrawn from WFCL.
Uranga Division is one of the five divisions in Siaya districts and covers approximately 183 square kilometers (KMS), with a population of 42,783 persons. The population is threatened by:
- High mortality rates, partly as a result of HIV/AIDS related deaths
- High levels of malnutrition
- High rates of out-migration to other towns especially by young able bodied men in search of employment.
HIV/AIDS prevalence in Siaya district1 is high among the productive age group (15-49 years).
It is estimated to be in the range of 38.4% and is the highest in Nyanza Province having increased from 36.9% in 1997.
The impact is mainly felt at the village level due to the increasing number of orphans who are in and out of school; increasing number of female headed and child headed households and the high drop-out rates in schools among others2.
Siaya District’s school drop-out rates stand at 8.8% for girls and 7.4 % for boys which calls for more action to save the girl child. Absolute poverty accounts for about 57.93% while those without food accounts for 52.60% of the district’s population.
The causes of poverty are diverse and include:
- Poor soil leading to low yields,
- Over reliance on traditional methods of agriculture
- Unpredictable rainfall patterns
- High rate of deaths due to HIV/AIDS
- Collapse of the main cash crops such as cotton in the district
- Lack of industries and cultural beliefs and practices.
The TACKLE (Tackling Child Labor through Education) program has addressed the root causes of child labor in Kabura-Uhuyi Location in Uranga Division, through empowering the community to produce adequate food to support school lunch feeding program for the children.
The project has created community structures which have supported children at risk of dropping out of school into child labor and placed them in schools.
The community structures have also served as social safety nets which include Village Anti-Child Labor Committee and Village Education Trust Fund Committee.
(A story of two girls championing the fight against child labour from their experience)
Maureen and Vivian have a story to tell. They owe their lives to TACKLE for getting back to school. This is a program within HWWK that campaigns against child labor and helps such children go back to school. The two girls were rescued from the worst forms of child labor within Nyanza province and have been used to reach many others suffering the same plight.
When the TACKLE program coordinator found these two girls, they were already in domestic child labor. The coordinator learnt that the two had dropped out of school after they got babies while still in primary school. When their parents insisted that they should get married, the girls opted to seek employment to fend for their children though they were children themselves being the age of below fifteen. The employment was no solace for the girls but for lack of a better way to earn a living, they accepted it.
Vivian disclosed that even when she became pregnant she was in search of help to buy herself sanitary towels. She said that the man who fathered her baby had promised to meet her needs if she accepted to have sex with him. ”When I was in my menses I opted to skip school because of the fear of staining my dress, yet my love for school was overwhelming,” she said during an interview. She added that she would do anything within her reach to ensure that she did not skip school. “But I ended up being a mother!” She pointed out. She expressed her gratitude to HWWK for supplying her and her friends with sanitary towels and underwear saying that she participates in every activity without the slightest fear now.
TACKLE, a program that has been fighting child labour in Nyanza province has been preventing child labour by taking children to school, promoting food programs in schools and involving children in appropriate technology trainings. These trainings which are agri-business are currently approved by the Ministry of Education Syllabus. They involve bee-keeping, fish ponds and green houses. Maureen and Vivian are just part of 78 girls who were supported by TACKLE and were offered a one year sanitary pads supply, tuition fee, counseling and school uniforms to enable them remain in school.
These two girls are now champions in anti child labour crusades and encouraging their peers to go back to school. They are now role models and mentors in the community as well as mentors of the other children who are being rehabilitated from child labour. This idea has been innovative as children are being used to withdraw other children from child labour by sharing their experience.