a boy sat in a tree

The Hidden Child Labour

There is a difference between a child doing house chores and child labour. However, the moment chores turn into labour often goes unnoticed. 

In Uganda it is traditionally believed that a child is a property of their parents and they can tell the child to do whatever they wish. Some families even tell children to carry out very hard tasks that end up leading to fatalities or physical harm. Some are scalded by burns from kitchen accidents when children have to prepare meals for the family. Others suffer from long term health problems like chronic chest or back pains from lifting very heavy items, such as having to collect water from far away wells.

Many parents find it hard to believe that children can be hurt by forced labour. It is often the way in which the parents themselves were raised. 

Henry’s struggle

Henry* decided to run away from home when his mother told him to chop wood using a metal axe that was too heavy for him. His mother couldn’t understand that he was unable to carry out the task. She believed that he had refused to do it and was being rebellious. 

Henry knew that he would be harshly punished if he didn’t do it, so he used a route through the family’s banana plantation to the nearby town. The residents there tried to send him back home but he convinced them that he was waiting for a relative. At night, he decided to board a truck that went to the main town. 

Making a difficult decision

Henry did not know the main town very well and ended up joining a group of children who, although they were friendly towards him, were bad influences. They pickpocketed many pedestrians and would beat some up. Henry did not want to be a part of this and feared he would be arrested. 

He spoke to a woman who took him to the police station. Discussions with the police family department resulted in a referral of Henry to S.A.L.V.E. International. The staff members helped him by listening to his side of the story and convincing him to go back home. He was hesitant until they promised to ensure his safety and work with his family. 

Reunited with his family

Back home, Henry pleaded with his parents for forgiveness for the worry caused by him running away. In turn, the parents received family counselling and education about children’s rights and responsibilities from S.A.L.V.E. and apologised to Henry for asking him to do house work he could not manage.

They agreed to let Henry come back home and to take good care of him.

Suffering in silence

Many children silently suffer at the hands of their parents. They often feel they have no one to turn to, as there is a fear that reporting these cases can result in abandonment. 

S.A.L.V.E. International connects with vulnerable families to help them understand children’s rights and how to cope, especially after a child has run away. Many families have been helped to improve family behaviours after having sessions with S.A.L.V.E. staff. 

Please join hands with us to continue helping families so that children can see a better future.

*Names have been changed in line with our child protection policy.

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