Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April 2014, 13:11 GMT

2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Rwanda

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 22 September 2005
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Rwanda, 22 September 2005, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48c8ca6f5.html [accessed 20 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Selected Child Labor Measures Adopted by Governments
Ratified Convention 138 4/15/1981X
Ratified Convention 182 5/23/2000X
ILO-IPEC Associated MemberX
National Plan for Children 
National Child Labor Action Plan 
Sector Action Plan 

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

UNICEF estimated that 41.8 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 years were working in Rwanda in 2000.[3385] Children are found working in sectors that the Government of Rwanda has identified as worst forms, including domestic work for third party households;[3386] agricultural activities on tea, rice, and sugar cane plantations; work in brickyards and sand extraction quarries; crushing stones; prostitution;[3387] and various other forms of work in the informal economy.[3388]

There are an estimated 7,000 street children in Rwanda's capital city, Kigali, and in provincial capitals[3389] who work as porters and garbage collectors or sell small items such as cigarettes and candy.[3390] Such children are at significant risk of commercial sexual exploitation, such as the exchange of sex for services (e.g. food or protection).[3391]

A study by the Ministry of Labor and UNICEF estimated that 2,140 children are engaged in prostitution in urban areas.[3392] There are isolated cases of Rwandan children being trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation, labor, and soldiering. Children, specifically, have been trafficked to Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo,.[3393] While the Government of Rwanda no longer recruits children for the official Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF, formerly the Rwanda Patriotic Army, or RPA),[3394] Rwanda-supported rebel groups have continued to recruit child soldiers for combat against armed groups in the DRC and Burundi. The Government of Rwanda officially withdrew from the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2002.[3395]

In 2002, over 600,000 children in Rwanda were orphans. Of this number, 43 percent were HIV/AIDS orphans (264,000).[3396] As many as 13 percent of all households are headed by children (between 200,000 and 300,000 children),[3397] and a large number are headed by girls.[3398] Children who head households in Rwanda care for siblings and engage in informal work activities for survival. Over 60 percent of child-headed households rely on subsistence agriculture for survival, and 95 percent do not have adequate access to education or health facilities.[3399] Children in these households, and girls in particular, are extremely vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation.[3400]

The Constitution guarantees free, compulsory education in Rwanda from the age of 7 to 12 years.[3401] In 2001, the gross primary enrollment rate was 117.0 percent and in 1999, the net primary enrollment rate was 96.1 percent.[3402] Gross and net enrollment ratios are based on the number of students formally registered in primary school and therefore do not necessarily reflect actual school attendance. In 2000, the gross primary attendance rate was 88.7 percent, and the net primary attendance rate was 71.6 percent.[3403] As of 2000, 40.0 percent of children who started primary school were likely to reach grade 5.[3404]

Public schools lack basic supplies and cannot accommodate all primary age school children, and private schools are inaccessible or too costly for the majority of the population.[3405] Despite a 2003 announcement that primary education would be free for all Rwandan children, as of December 2003, the policy is not fully implemented and children are required to pay tuition fees.[3406] Even in cases where tuition has been waived, expenses such as books, uniforms, and transportation are prohibitively expensive for many poor families. In addition, over half of primary school teachers lack basic qualifications.[3407]

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Labor Code establishes the minimum age of employment at 16 years.[3408] However, the Minister of Labor can make exceptions for children aged 14 to 16, depending on the child's circumstances, such as allowing a child with parental authority to work. Children under 16 are prohibited from night work or any work deemed hazardous or difficult, as determined by the Minister of Labor.[3409] The minimum age for apprenticeships is 14 years, provided the child has finished primary school.[3410] Forced labor is prohibited by Article 4 of the Labor Code.[3411]

Trafficking is not specifically prohibited by law.[3412] The Criminal Code prohibits prostitution and compelling another person to become engaged in prostitution.[3413] Law No. 27/2001, Relating to the Rights and Protection of the Child Against Violence, sets the minimum age of military service at 18.[3414]

According to the U.S. Department of State, the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Local Government do not effectively enforce child labor laws.[3415] The Ministry of Labor maintains one office that focuses on children. This office is severely under-funded, as evidenced by the Ministry's Inspector Program, which has only one inspection office in each of the country's 12 provinces to follow up on child labor reports.[3416]

Current Government Policies and Programs to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

With assistance from UNICEF, the Government of Rwanda adopted a National Policy for Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children in 2003 that identified some of the worst forms of child labor and sets strategies to ensure that children are protected from labor exploitation.[3417]

The Government of Rwanda is one of seven countries participating in a USDOL-funded ILO-IPEC program to prevent the involvement of children in armed conflict and support the rehabilitation of former child soldiers.[3418] In 2004 the government opened a demobilization center for child soldiers returning from the Democratic Republic of the Congo that provides counseling, medical screening, and schooling. Former child soldiers returning to their home communities receive financial support from the Ministry of Local Government and Social Affairs in the form of school fees, uniforms, and supplies.[3419]

Currently, the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion implements a limited vocational training program, and runs "solidarity camps" to assist street children.[3420] The Ministry for Local Administration and Social Affairs (MINALOC) maintains safe houses for street children in each of the 12 provinces.[3421]

MINALOC has also been responsible for administering two funds, which provide partial educational assistance for orphans to attend secondary school and assistance for genocide survivors to cover school fees.[3422] The World Bank is implementing a 6-year USD 35 million program that began in 2000 to build the capacity of the Ministry of Education.[3423] The program includes school construction and other components designed to increase access to primary schools, enhance the quality of education, improve teacher training and curriculum development, provide more textbooks, and strengthen the administration of and community involvement in the educational system.[3424] UNICEF, in cooperation with other donors, is supporting the establishment of the government's National Education Statistical Information System, which will facilitate data collection. UNICEF also works to meet the goal of universal quality primary education, and has established a national Education For All committee that has taken up the issue of girls' education.[3425] The World Food Program, in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, provides food for children in 200 schools in 5 provinces.[3426]


[3385] UNICEF, Enquete A Indicateurs Multiples (MICS2) Tables, Kigali, January 11 2001; available from http://www.childinfo.org/MICS2/newreports/rwanda/rwandatables.pdf. For more information on the definition of working children, please see the section in the front of the report entitled Statistical Definitions of Working Children.

[3386] Some children taken in by foster families report that they were given room and board, but expected to perform domestic labor for the family. In this position, they were often unable to attend school. Lasting Wounds, Consequences of Genocide and War on Rwanda's Children, Human Rights Watch, New York, March, 2003, 49-50.

[3387] U.S. Embassy-Kigali, conference call with USDOL official, February 24, 2004. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2003: Rwanda, Washington, D.C., February 25, 2004, Section 6d; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2003/27744.htm.

[3388] Lasting Wounds, 62-64.

[3389] Human Rights Watch, Rwanda – Lasting Wounds: Consequences of Genocide and War for Rwanda's Children, Vol. 15, No. 6, New York, March 2003, 62; available from http://www.hrw.org.

[3390] Lasting Wounds, pg. 63.

[3391] Padraig Quigley Angela Veale, Theoneste Ndibeshye, and Celestin Nyirimihigo, Struggling to Survive: Orphan and Community Dependent Children in Rwanda, Government of Rwanda and UNICEF, 2001, xv. See also U.S. Embassy-Kigali, conference call, February 24, 2004.

[3392] Integrated Regional Information Networks, Rwanda: Interview with UNICEF representative Theophane Nikyema, [online] 2002 [cited May 18, 2004]; available from http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=28223&SelectRegion=Great_Lakes&SelectCountry=RWANDA.

[3393] U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2004 – Rwanda, Washington, D.C., June 14, 2004; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2004/33189.htm.

[3394] Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Child Soldier Use 2003: A Briefing for the 4th UN Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict, Rwanda, London, January 16, 2004. The rebel Rwandan Liberation Army reportedly had several hundred child soldiers in their ranks, some of whom served in combat. See Human Rights Watch, "Rwanda: Human Rights Developments," in World Report 2002, 2002; available from http://www.hrw.org/wr2k2/africa9.html#developments. See also U.S. Department of State, electronic communication to USDOL official, February 24, 2004.

[3395] See U.S. Department of State, electronic communication, February 24, 2004. See also Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Child Soldier Use 2003: Rwanda. In 2003 it was reported that children had been abducted by Rwandan-supported Congolese militia to serve as combatants, perform forced labor, or for sexual exploitation. There is no current information on this matter. See U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2003 – Rwanda, Washington, D.C., June 11, 2003; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2003/21277.htm#rwanda. See also Human Rights Watch, "World Report 2002: Rwanda." See also U.S. Department of State, electronic communication, February 24, 2004.

[3396] Children on the Brink 2002: A Joint Report on Orphan Estimates and Program Strategies, UNAIDS, UNICEF, and USAID, July, 2002, 22.

[3397] Angela Veale, Struggling to Survive, xi. See also Human Rights Watch, Lasting Wounds, 47.

[3398] The number of orphans may now be closer to 1 million, with 40,000 child-headed households. See U.S. Embassy-Kigali, email communication, May 27, 2005. IRC estimated that 45,000 families were headed by children. See Jill Donahue John Williamson, and Lynne Cripe, A Participatory Review of the Reunification, Reintegration, and Youth Development Program of the International Rescue Committee in Rwanda, USAID, July, 2001, 2.

[3399] Human Rights Watch, Lasting Wounds, 47-48.

[3400] Ibid., 48. Prostitution or the exchange of sex for services (food, protection) has become part of some children's survival strategy. See Angela Veale, Struggling to Survive, xv.

[3401] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Second Periodic Reports on States Parties due in 1998, CRC/C/70Add.22, prepared by Government of Rwanda, pursuant to Article 44 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, October 8, 2003, para. 81. See also UNICEF, Enquete A Indicateurs Multiples (MICS2), Kigali, January 11 2001, 7; available from http://www.childinfo.org/MICS2/newreports/rwanda/rwanda.pdf.

[3402] World Bank, World Development Indicators 2004 [CD-ROM], Washington, D.C., 2004. For more information on the definition of working children, please see the section in the front of the report entitled Statistical Definitions of Working Children.

[3403] USAID Development Indicators Service, Global Education Database, [online] [cited October 25, 2004]; available from http://qesdb.cdie.org/ged/index.html.

[3404] World Bank, World Development Indicators 2004.

[3405] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Rwanda, Section 5.

[3406] U.S. Embassy-Kigali, conference call, February 24, 2004. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Rwanda, Section 5.

[3407] Lasting Wounds, pg. 50.

[3408] Law No. 51/2001 Establishing the Labour Code, (December 12, 2001), Article 11; available from www.rwandainvest.gov.rw/lawlab.htm.

[3409] Night work is defined as work between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m.; children also must have a rest period of at least 12 hours between work engagements. See Ibid., Articles 11, 60-66.

[3410] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Rwanda, Section 6d.

[3411] Labour Code, Article 4.

[3412] U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2004: Rwanda.

[3413] Punishment for these crimes is imprisonment for up to 5 years and a fine. Penalties are doubled if the crime is committed against a minor under 18 years old. See Government of Rwanda, Criminal Code, as cited in the Protection Project Database, [online database] [cited May 17, 2004], Articles 363-65, 74; available from http://www.protectionproject.org.

[3414] The law was passed in April 2001, and entered into force in 2002. However, it apparently does not apply to government-organized civilian militia. See Lasting Wounds, 16.

[3415] U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Rwanda, Section 6d.

[3416] U.S. Embassy-Kigali, unclassified telegram no. 1216, August 23, 2004. See also U.S. Embassy-Kigali, conference call, February 24, 2004.

[3417] U.S. Embassy-Kigali, conference call, February 24, 2004. See also National Policy for Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children in Rwanda, 19-20. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2003: Rwanda, Section 6d. See Section 1 of this country report for a list of worst forms identified by the government.

[3418] ILO-IPEC, Prevention and Reintegration of Children Involved in Armed Conflict: an Inter-Regional Program, project document, INT/03/P52/USA, Geneva, September 30, 2003.

[3419] U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2004: Rwanda.

[3420] U.S. Embassy-Kigali, conference call, February 24, 2004.

[3421] U.S. Embassy-Kigali, unclassified telegram no. 1216, U.S. Embassy-Kigali, unclassified telegram no. 1473, August 14, 2003.

[3422] Reports indicate that these funds do not sufficiently meet the needs of the target population. In addition, in some cases, budget shortfalls have led to delayed school fee payments, causing children to drop out of school. See Lasting Wounds, pg. 53.

[3423] World Bank, Human Resource Development Project, [online] November 5, 2003 [cited May 19, 2004]; available from http://www.worldbank.org/external/projects/main?pagePK=73230&thesitePK=409418menuPK=2284248Projectid=P045091.

[3424] Ibid.

[3425] UNICEF, At a glance: Rwanda, the big picture, [cited May 19, 2004]; available from http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/rwanda.html.

[3426] U.S. Department of State, electronic communication, February 24, 2004.

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