May 12, 2012
May 12, 2012
In the Souss valley, in the center of Morocco, one often meets children working in the fields or who have gone to work as ‘little maids’ in families in the towns. Domestic servants, shepherds, these youngsters are the victims of a system of middlemen: called ‘Samsars’, these are third parties from the same village who recruit children to go to work for other employers. Sometimes the children are well treated, but all too often they become the victims of violence and abuse: and for the most part their rights are not respected. In the districts of Agadir and Taroudant, Terre des hommes and its Moroccan partner Oum El Banine are developing a scheme to protect the children or to release hundreds of them from a situation of exploitation as domestics or farm workers.
The exploitation of children as domestics and farm workers is a phenomenon deeply anchored in rural traditions, touching about 600,000 youngsters from 7 to 14 years of age (Source: National employment survey). And yet, children under 15 are not permitted to work in Morocco, and it was only at the end of last year that Moroccan labor laws finally regulated domestic work. The new law authorises labour inspectors to enter private homes to inquire into breaches of the law. However, putting this new law into practice has still to begin.
Whilst respecting the cultural values of each community, Terre des hommes and Oum El Banine want to combat these old practices that are now contrary to the rights legally granted to every citizen. Community agents will go to the villages in the Souss region to make the people there conscious of the risks their children run when working under such conditions. They will also be told about suggested ways and means and economic alternatives to protect their children from exploitation. Up to date, 455 people have been made aware of the situation and are engaged in relaying the message to the other villagers.
… but put an end to exploitation
Children already exploited or at risk of being recruited into such work are supported, listened to, reunited with their families, given schooling, can participate in psychosocial activities (linguistic, artistic, creative and sporting). Tdh also helps their families to find economic alternatives, like farm cooperatives or small cottage industries (making couscous, production of argan oil, etc.). Since this project was launched in November 2011, 354 youngsters, formerly domestics or farm workers, or ones who had barely avoided this fate – were individually followed-up by the project teams, and 646 youngsters considered to be at risk followed school support classes and took part in psychosocial activities.
Tdh’s aim is for the system of child protection to be developed and adopted by local players and the communities. The TDH and Oum El Banine agents intervene with the authorities, associations and the Imams of the region so that they, themselves, can watch over the protection of the most vulnerable children and their families can find other ways to survive, and to ensure the correct implementation of the law against child labor. A whole network of local associations and organizations advocate with the Moroccan authorities for practical implementation and application of the legislation. A database is currently being set up; this will enable bringing out the good practices for prevention and for the protection of those children who are especially vulnerable to being exploited in this way. A model for action will be created with other specialized professionals in the area for proposing practical solutions drawn from consolidated information.