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Millions of children throughout Africa undertake many forms of farm and domestic work. Some of this work is for wages, some is on their family’s own small plots and some is forced and/or harmful.
This book examines children’s involvement in such work. It argues that framing all children’s engagement in economic activity as ‘child labour’, with all the associated negative connotations, is problematic. This is particularly the case in Africa where many rural children must work to survive and where, the contributors argue, much of the work undertaken is not harmful.
The conceptual and case-based chapters reframe the debate about children’s work and harm in rural Africa with the aim of shifting research, public discourse and policy so that they better serve the interest of rural children and their families.
Social protection is increasingly considered a development success story. At the same time, it still does too little to account for social differentiation and to address vulnerability, as opposed to poverty. Child sensitive social protection has gained considerable momentum, particularly in a developing country context, raising questions about its concept and practical implications. We argue that three types of vulnerabilities call for more tailored thinking about social protection for children and discuss implications for social protection interventions on the basis of case studies. Child sensitive social protection requires a critical perspective and for context to guide its design and delivery.
This chapter introduces the book by highlighting the tension between the celebration of family farming on the one hand and the desire to eliminate child labour from agricultural value chains on the other. It argues that at all levels of social policy, and in high-level public discourse, children’s engagement in economic activity is frequently conflated with ‘child labour’; and that this is particularly problematic for agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. To set the stage for the chapters that follow this introduction explores change and continuity in African family farming, and evolving perspectives on children, childhood and children’s work. Finally, the individual chapters are briefly introduced.
This chapter highlights the need to re-think how harm experienced by children in rural Africa is addressed. Drawing from the previous chapters it argues that approaching children’s harmful work as essentially an agriculture sector problem, a poverty problem, a school-quality problem or a cultural problem is of little value. The required re-think must address the existing framework of international conventions, instruments and organizational mandates; the framing of policy and public debate relating to children and work; the on-going re-shaping of agrarian relations and livelihoods in rural Africa; economic and political geography and specifically the left-behind rural areas and the poor quality of rural services including education; and shifts in state-society relations. And all of this must privilege children’s gendered experiences of the trade-offs around work, school and potential harm. An agenda for action is outlined.
This chapter argues that the design and delivery of social assistance does not take adequate account of the nuanced role of work in children’s lives and that current interventions are therefore ill-equipped to tackle children’s harmful work. This argument is developed against a background of increasing evidence that social assistance has the potential to reduce children’s engagement with work but limited understanding of its impact on children’s engagement with harmful work. The chapter reviews a set of evaluations of social assistance schemes, and shows that few studies look beyond prevalence or intensity of work. This results in a substantial knowledge gap about the extent to which, and how, social assistance may reduce harm through work. An alternative way of understanding benefits and harms of children’s work is proposed.