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Bounded child labour: I am working out of Compulsion

Bounded child labour: I am working out of Compulsion

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Nov 25, 2017 - 12:31

Pul-I-ALAM (Pajhwok): A 15-year-old boy from central Logar province, employed by a well-off man for 1,400 kilograms of wheat a year, says he is not allowed to work elsewhere.

“From dawn to dusk, I have to work hard. Barring emergencies, I’m not given leave... And most of the times, I’m beaten.”

This is the story of Jamal (not a real name) who works for a rich family in Logar province for 1,400 kilograms of wheat annually.

The price of 560 kilograms of wheat is 15,000 AFS while a daily wager is paid 400 AFS for eight hours of work.

Livelihood problems of family have forced Jamal to work in the house of this wealthy person, who subjects him all types of hard labour. But in return, the boy is given wheat worth three-month salary of a daily wager.

Legal angle

Under Article 3 of the Afghan Law to Combat Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants, hiring an individual to do unfair work or exploiting his plight... amounts human trafficking.

Another clause of the same article explains that controlling or exploiting a child to do undue things is also human trafficking.

Article 10 of the same law says if the human trafficker of a woman or child will be sentenced to eight years in prison.

Based on the above article of the law, Jamal is a victim of human trafficking. He is a resident of Haroon khel village of Pul-i-Alam. He has five brothers and two sisters. His father is dead.

Working alongside mother

During an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan News, Jamal (not his real name), said he was a breadwinner for his brothers and sisters. So, he has to work to feed them.

Grazing his employer’s cows, Jamal shared his story with Pajhwok. He said: “I’m responsible for working inside and outside the house. I am not allowed to go on leave unless there is an emergency.”

Jamal said he was small and no one wanted to accept him as a daily-wager. As a result, he has to work at the house of this wealthy man.

“I clean the cow pen, give them water, take them to the meadow, irrigate farmland and bring grocery from the bazaar.

“In the winter, I clean rooftops of snow, take food to the mullahinfo-icon and guests and look after jungles and orchards besides doing things. But I always hear abusive words from my employer his family members.”

It has been four years that he is working for the moneyed man, “certain times, I decided to escape and leave everything behind, but when I thought of my little brothers and sisters, then I changed my mind.”

The boy said as per his mother’s agreement with the employer, he will receive 1,400 kilograms of wheat annually to meet the family requirement to some extent.

“My mother has two cows at home and we sell their milk and yogurt to meet our needs because 1,400 kg of wheat is not enough for us,” he added. He has to work even on Fridays and holidays in order to avoid a possible ugly situation.

“I left school in the fourth grade after my father’s death,” said Jamal, who wants to live like other people with fewer problems.

My biggest hope in life is to see Jamal in school: Sara

Fifty years old Sara -- not her real name -- is Jamal’s mother. She wears old clothes and her skin has turned dark due to privations in her life.

In an interview with Pajhwok Afghan News, Sara said she had not seen a single good day after her husband’s death. “I pray to God no other Muslim face such problems (as I do).”

Sara added she knew pretty well about livelihood management but had to send her little son to work at the village headman’s house because of her financial woes.

“Jamal should have gone to school at this age, but I am forced to send him for work in exchange for an amount of wheat,” she remarked.

She said her little children would die if Jamal did not work. “Jamal was very younger when the village head hired him as house’s servant.

“Now it depends on the village chief to allow or disallow Jamal to work somewhere else,” Sara said, adding it was her biggest hope to see her son and other children get educationinfo-icon and their economic situation improved.

Ahmadullah- not his real name-, the boy’s uncle, said his brother had died of cancer five years ago.

He said: “My brother has left behind seven children. Being a farmer, I cannot help them financially. Jamal and his mother work to earn bread for their family.”

He assailed the government for not helping the poor family, which were left with no option but to send their children for work, including hard labour.

The village head

Mir Ahmad Khan, not his real name, is Jamal’s employer. He confirmed the boy had been working at his home for the past four years. The man owns a large area of land and could not handle all matters single-handedly.

The man recalled: “Jamal was small when I employed him. Now the boy has grown up and knows how to work. His family has promised me he will work only for me, so I will never allow him to work elsewhere...”

However, Khan denied suppressing his workers, each of whom was assigned their duties on day one. He said Jamal was given 1,400 kilograms of wheat, new clothes on Eid and two-time food.

Provincial council view

Haseebullah Stanikzai, a provincial council member, said many families had lost breadwinners to the war in the country. Now children have to work hard to earn bread for their households.

He added: “There are many children having no family heads and are forced to work in others’ homes to earn money.”

Stanikzai claimed the provincial council had repeatedly shared the issue of forced child labor and trafficking with the government, but no positive response had been received so far.

AIHRC seeks respect for children’s rights

Mohammad Bilal Siddiqui, spokesman for Afghanistaninfo-icon’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), said forcing children into hard work was unfair and against the law.

“The AIHRC has conducted awareness programs on children’s rights in different provinces, including Logar,” he said, asking families to avoid involving children in forced labour, so their future could be protected.

Clear human trafficking

Mohammad Hassan Salimi, a member of the, High Commission to Combat Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants said, what happened to Jamal was a clear human trafficking.

He added the High commission has been promoting awareness in this regard and it was the responsibility of security institutions to curb such crimes.

Security officials

Police spokesman Mohammad Shahpor Ahmadzai confirmed Pajhwok, many children were hired on debt bondage.

“But we have received no complaint from any family about children being forced to work or disallowed to work in another place,” he said.

Ahmadzai said if they received any complaint in this regard, police would act under the law.

Like Logar, children in other provinces are also forced to work hard. Instances of human trafficking could be found in many parts of the country. 

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