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Cablegate: Swaziland: Reclisa Child Labor Conference Urges Free And

DE RUEHJO #0468/01 3211431
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E.O. 12958: N/A

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1. Representatives of the Swazi Ministries of Education and of
Enterprise and Employment, academia, NGOs and media, as well as
the International Labor Organization (ILO), attended a
conference on Child Labor in Manzini, Swaziland, from November
7-8. The conference, held under the auspices of the U.S.
Department of Labor-funded project on Reducing Exploitative
Child Labor in Southern Africa (RECLISA), produced a statement -
the "Manzini Declaration" -- calling on the Government of the
Kingdom of Swaziland (GKOS) to take a variety of actions,
including establishing a child labor action program, making
education free and compulsory, and reconciling domestic
legislation to be both internally consistent and in accord with
those ILO conventions on child labor which Swaziland has
adopted. The conference also noted that the number of orphans
in Swaziland, which currently has an HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of
over 40 percent, is likely to double by 2010. End Summary.

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2. Approximately 50 people attended the Manzini Child Labor
conference from November 7-8. Participants in the conference
included the Labor Commissioner, who chaired the bulk of the
sessions; representatives of various Ministries; the Director of
Public Prosecutions; academics; representatives from the ILO,
NGOs and the media. The conference was organized by the project
on Reducing Child Labor in Southern Africa (RECLISA) which is
funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. Charge d'Affaires a.i.
Peter Piness presented remarks on behalf of the USG at the
opening of the conference.

Outline of Child Labor Issues in Swaziland

3. Velephi Riba, an independent researcher working on a sister
ILO child labor project, outlined the push and pull factors
behind child labor in Swaziland based on census data and that
provided by statistical office surveys. She said that in 2000,
11.8 percent of sampled children between the ages of 5-14 had
been engaged in child labor. Only one percent of children were
in paid work, while 1.5-4 percent of children were doing unpaid
work for someone other than a family member. She noted that the
survey on which this information was based did not investigate
children's activities in subsistence agriculture, leading to
results that emphasized the amount of domestic work being done
by children. She noted that children were visible on streets or
in towns in Swaziland working as traders and hawkers, porters,
car wash attendants, bus or kombi (minibus) drivers and

4. Riba noted that poverty levels had increased from 66 percent
in 1995 to 69 percent of the population in 2001, and that
unemployment rates had similarly risen from 22 to 29 percent -
reaching 55 percent in the rural Shiselweni region. Children's
labor was seen as an important asset for poor families.
Children worked to produce family income and/or pay for school
fees. The death, separation and divorce of parents adversely
affected the ability of children to stay in school. One study
showed half of all commercially sexually exploited children were
orphans. Swaziland's official statistics put the number of
orphans at 69,000 with estimates that the number will increase
to 150,000 by 2010.

5. High HIV prevalence rates have also affected household
income and increased poverty. Household savings are depleted in
caring for ill family members, and often children are pulled out
of school to care for ill or dying family members and/or take
over the work normally done by these family members. Once
withdrawn, children are unlikely to return to school due to cost
and other factors. Food insecurity and hunger are another
factor affecting child labor, especially in subsistence

6. According to Riba, high costs of schooling were cited in a
1999 UNICEF study as reasons for why children worked, and the
main reason for dropping out of school. Riba also noted that
GKOS grants to orphans and vulnerable children had been reduced
in 2005 to allow the government to subsidize the costs of
workbooks and supplies to primary school students through grade
4. Riba said the average Swazi child took 11 years to complete
the first seven years of schooling, and that the World Bank
estimated Swaziland's primary school completion rate to be 60
percent, while secondary school completion rates are judged to
be 36 percent. Girls in particular were apt to drop out, often
because of pregnancy. Roughly 25 percent of children were not

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enrolled in primary school. Riba also noted that the high costs
of vocational education and lack of a pre-vocational curriculum
limited opportunities for further education of children and that
violence, especially sexual violence against girl children, also
contributed to high dropout rates. The Swaziland National
Association of Teachers reviewed the issue of school violence
against girls at their August 2006 conference, said Riba.

Prosecutor Notes Lack of Cases and Influence of Tradition
--------------------------------------------- ------------

7. Mumsy Dlamini, the Director of Public Prosecutions, made an
extremely insightful presentation on the difficulties of
prosecuting offenses against children in Swaziland. She noted
that in most instances, courts relied on statutory laws passed
by Parliament, since the Roman Dutch law on which Swazi Law was
based did not distinguish by age. The Employment Act defined a
child as under age 15, and allowed employment of children under
certain circumstances, including in agriculture and in families.
She added that the prosecutor's office did not go looking for
offenses, but worked based on cases reported to her. She said
that no/no dockets of child labor had been brought to her
courts. She also noted that the penalty was a fine of less than
E3000 (or about $400) or sentence of not more than a year in

8. The constitution protected a child from work, Ms. Dlamini
emphasized. However, children in the households of their
parents and relatives were often exposed to harsh conditions of
work, in which the child became a servant. Many underage
children were adopted or married but the purpose behind the
adoption or marriage was to use the child to do work at the
homestead or home. In one case, an elderly man had slept with a
young girl and then undertook a traditional marriage with the
girl. Ms. Dlamini, under whose tenure prosecutions for child
abuse have increased substantially, noted that judges, following
the constitution, allowed traditional marriages for which no
legal minimum age was defined, and that she had been
unsuccessful in prosecuting that case cited. Children who were
married did not attend school. Since birth certificates were
also not prevalent in Swaziland, prosecutions for statutory rape
of child sexual abuse generally did not succeed, since the age
of the child was considered "debatable."

Commissioner Urges "Manzini Declaration" on Child Labor
--------------------------------------------- ----------

9. Labor Commission Jinoh Nkhambule, who chaired the bulk of
the conference, noted that labor inspectors under his authority
performed a variety of inspections in the formal sector of the
Swazi economy, which accounted for roughly 10 percent of all
economic activity. Child labor was not an issue in the formal
sector, he said. Nkhambule noted that he required additional
resources and training for labor inspectors who are required to
perform inspections in the formal sector, especially given that
the Employment Act did not restrict employment of children in
agriculture or family enterprises.

10. At the close of the conference (in the absence of the
Minister of Education who was scheduled to speak), the Labor
Commissioner successfully pushed for the conference to adopt a
declaration calling on the GKOS to take steps to combat child
labor. The "Manzini Declaration" calls for the drafting and
adoption of a child labor action program by 2008; the alignment
and harmonization of Swazi legislation dealing with the
interests of children to conform with ILO conventions; the
establishment of government and community structures to assist
children; a public awareness campaign; and creation of
structures to implement free and compulsory primary education
consistent with the Swazi constitution. Additional
recommendations were also made regarding food aid and food
insecurity, vocational and non-formal education, culture and
tradition, HIV/AIDS and health relief.

Public Awareness

11. Despite the absence of the Ministers of Education and of
Enterprise and Employment from the conference, media coverage
included print, radio and television. The "Swazi Observer," a
government-oriented publication, had several reports on the
labor conference published over three days (November 6-9). PAO
Peter Piness was quoted extensively in a report of November 9.
The GKOS radio station, Swaziland Broadcasting and Information
Services, provided an accurate and well-articulated report on
the labor conference. Both local television stations, the
Swaziland Television Authority Corporation and Channel Swazi,
also provided coverage on the conference and showed clips of the

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conference proceedings.


12. The conference was notable not only for the commitment
shown by some of the Swazi participants in addressing child
labor issues, but also for clarifying just how many steps still
need to be taken in order for children to be less vulnerable to
exploitation. Both poverty and a strong sense of tradition
impede acceptance of child labor norms and the importance of
education in building capacity necessary to economic growth.
Several participants were clearly on the defensive in espousing
traditional cultural practices, but upheld them nonetheless.
End Comment.

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