Last Updated: Monday, 24 November 2014, 10:24 GMT

2005 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - The Gambia

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 29 August 2006
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2005 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - The Gambia, 29 August 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48d748ed14.html [accessed 24 November 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     9/4/2000
Ratified Convention 182     7/3/2001
ILO-IPEC Member
National Plan for Children
National Child Labor Action Plan 
Sector Action Plan 

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

An estimated 24.8 percent of children ages 5 to 14 were counted as working in The Gambia in 2000. Approximately 25.2 percent of all boys 5 to 14 were working compared to 24.5 percent of girls in the same age group.1888 Most children working in rural areas can be found assisting in the home and on family farms.1889 In urban areas, children work as street vendors or taxi and bus assistants.1890 Children also work in carpentry, sewing, masonry, plumbing, tailoring, mechanics,1891 and begging.1892

Children are victims of prostitution in The Gambia. They work in bars, hotels, and brothels, often with the knowledge of business owners and managers.1893 The Gambia is a source, transit, and destination country for the trafficking of women and children.1894 The number of trafficking victims is small, but growing.1895 The problem is most acute in the sex tourism industry, where adults coerce young children, especially girls, with gifts and promises of a better or more Western lifestyle.1896 In January 2005, UNICEF and the Government of The Gambia reported that the majority of prostitutes in tourist areas were underage.1897

The Constitution mandates free and compulsory primary education up to age 8.1898 However, The Gambia's lack of resources and educational infrastructure has made implementation difficult.1899 Many families cannot afford school fees or tuition that are imposed on children above age 8,1900 and girls generally have less access to education.1901 Working children are also less likely to attend school and more likely to drop out.1902 In 2002, the gross primary enrollment rate was 85 percent, and the net primary enrollment rate was 79 percent.1903 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, 57.8 percent of children ages 5 to 14 years were attending school.1904

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Gambia's statutory minimum age for employment is 14 years.1905 The legal framework governing child labor is limited, and there are no laws that restrict the sectors in which children can work.1906 The Constitution protects all citizens from forced labor,1907 and all children under age 16 from economic exploitation and hazardous work.1908 The Constitution also outlaws discrimination1909 but allows unequal treatment in the workplace with regard to adoption, marriage, divorce, and inheritance, which threatens children, especially girls, born out of wedlock or with disabilities.1910 The Children and Young Persons Act (CYPA) calls for the protection of orphaned, homeless, and at-risk children from neglect, abuse, abandonment, slavery, child bondage, destitution, and prostitution.1911

The Criminal Code prohibits prostitution,1912 kidnapping, abduction, child sex tourism, child sexual exploitation,1913 child abuse, and child neglect.1914 The 2003 Tourism Offenses Act punishes tourists found guilty of involvement in child prostitution, trafficking, and pornography.1915 Draft anti-trafficking legislation is still pending.1916

There is no conscription in The Gambia.1917 The Armed Forces Act enables children under the age of 18 to enlist, but they may not begin military service until they reach 18.1918

According to the U.S. Department of State, The Gambia's Department of Labor does not consistently enforce labor laws because of inadequately trained staff.1919 The department, which is responsible for implementing the provisions of ILO Convention 182, requires workers to register with the Labor Commissioner and distributes labor cards to eligible employees who satisfy the minimum age for employment.1920 However, child labor laws are rarely enforced and inspections rarely conducted.1921 In addition, the government does not comprehensively prohibit trafficking in persons.1922 The government also provides no victim protection in law or practice and has no strategy for collecting trafficking data.1923

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

The government provides more funds to the Department of Education (DOE) and the Department of Health and Social Welfare (DHSW), which administer sponsorship schemes for children in need of special protection, than to any other agencies.1924 Nonetheless, the country's lack of resources limits the functions of the DOE and the DHSW.1925

To combat trafficking, the DHSW partners with five European countries to screen Gambian children under age 17 who apply for travel visas to Europe.1926 In 2004, multiple government agencies and NGOs combined efforts to develop a Trafficking Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons.1927 With support from the government, the IOM supports a regional Health Assessment Program that provides medical and monitoring support for trafficking victims.1928 The government has not established victim care and health facilities for trafficking victims, but does provide temporary shelters with access to medical and psychological services.1929

The government operates a nationwide education initiative to increase the gross enrollment rate, to improve educational opportunities for girls,1930 to strengthen basic education curricula, and to improve teacher training.1931 The World Bank and the African Development Bank fund projects to combat poverty and improve the health and education of children.1932 NGOs and the DOE run various education initiatives.1933 The President directs an Empowerment of Girls Education project in Banjul and the West and North Bank regions.1934


1888 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and World Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates, October 7, 2005. Reliable data on the worst forms of child labor are especially difficult to collect given the often hidden or illegal nature of the worst forms, such as the use of children in the illegal drug trade, prostitution, pornography, and trafficking. As a result, statistics and information on children's work in general are reported in this section. Such statistics and information may or may not include the worst forms of child labor. For more information on the definition of working children and other indicators used in this report, please see the "Data Sources and Definitions" section of this report.

1889 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2004: The Gambia, Washington, D.C., February 25, 2005, Section 6d; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/27729.htm. Many girls in rural areas leave school for work; some migrating to urban areas to seek domestic or other employment. See UNICEF, Country Profile: UNICEF in The Gambia, Programme Cycle: 1999-2003; available from http://www.ungambia.gm/unicef/profile.html.

1890 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: The Gambia, Section 6d.

1891 U.S. Embassy – Banjul, reporting, October 15, 2002.

1892 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: The Gambia, Sections 5, 6d.

1893 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2004: The Gambia, Washington, D.C., June 3, 2005; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2005/46613.htm.

1894 Ibid. Children are trafficked regionally (mainly from Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, and Nigeria) and internally (from rural to urban areas) for forced work, which includes exploitation, begging, street vending, and domestic servitude. Vulnerable girls are often led to a life of prostitution and trafficked to Europe. Government of The Gambia UNICEF, Study on the Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children in the Gambia, 2003, pp. 39, 49; available from http://www.unicef.org/media/files/gambia_report.doc.

1895 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: The Gambia, Section 5. Sexual abuse increases with rising poverty. Integrated Regional Information Networks, "GAMBIA: Rising poverty breeds sexual exploitation of children by Sugar Daddies", IRINnews.org, [online], May 6, 2004 [cited January 12, 2006]; available from http://www.irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=40937.

1896 UNICEF, Child Sex Tourism and Exploitation Increasing in The Gambia, Press Release, UNICEF, May 5 2004; available from http://www.unicef.org/media/media_20825.html.

1897 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: The Gambia, Section 5. Sex tourism exploits street children, school dropouts, and children from low income families. ECPAT International, Gambia, in ECPAT International, [database online] [cited January 12, 2006]; available from http://www.ecpat.net/eng/Ecpat_inter/projects/monitoring/online_database/index.asp.

1898 Constitution of the Gambia, (1997), Section 30; available from http://www.childlaborlaws.org/docs/866.shtml. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: The Gambia, Section 5.

1899 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: The Gambia, Section 5. See also UNICEF and Government of the Gambia, Programme of Cooperation 1999-2003; available from http://www.ungambia.gm/unicef/pdf/mpopart2.pdf.

1900 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: The Gambia, Section 6.

1901 International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Internationally Recognized Core Labour Standards in Gambia: Report for the WTO General Council Review of the Trade Policies of Gambia, February 4, 2004; available from http://www.icftu.org/www/pdf/gambiacls2004.pdf. Enrollment of girls remains low in rural areas where cultural factors and poverty discourage parents from sending them to school. See also U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2005: The Gambia, Washington, D.C., June 3, 2005; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2005/46613.htm. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: The Gambia, Section 5.

1902 Government of The Gambia in collaboration with UNICEF, The Gambia Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey Report, New York, 2000; available from http://www.childinfo.org/MICS2/newreports/gambia/gambia.htm.

1903 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, http://stats.uis.unesco.org/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=51 (Gross and Net Enrolment Ratios, Primary; accessed December 2005).

1904 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and World Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates.

1905 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: The Gambia, Section 6d.

1906 U.S. Embassy – Banjul, reporting, October 15, 2002.

1907 Constitution of the Gambia, Section 20.

1908 Ibid., Section 29.

1909 Ibid., Section 33.

1910 Ibid., Section 33(5). See also United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Gambia, CRC/C/15Add.165, Geneva, Switzerland, November 11, 2001; available from http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/7cc49e32d664bc49c1256aea002fae9c?Opendocument.

1911 The law only applies to the City of Banjul and the Division of Kombo Saint Mary.

1912 Specifically, the Code penalizes procurement of a girl under 21 years of age for the purposes of prostitution, both within the Gambia and outside of the country. International Labor Organization LABORSTA, http://laborsta.ilo.org (Total and Economically Active Population by age group, accessed January 30, 2006). See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: The Gambia, Section 5.

1913 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2005: The Gambia.

1914 LABORSTA, (Total and Economically Active Population by age group, accessed January 30, 2006). See also Government of The Gambia, Criminal Code, as cited in The Protection Project Legal Library, [database online] 1964; available from http://209.190.246.239/protectionproject/statutesPDF/GambiaF.pdf.

1915 Government of The Gambia, Criminal Code, 1964. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: The Gambia.

1916 The National Assembly's Head of State speech in March 2005 noted the pending status of a Children's Bill that would outlaw trafficking of children. U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2005: The Gambia, p. 109.

1917 Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook, CIA, [online] January 10, 2006 [cited January 30, 2006]; available from http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ga.html.

1918 Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004, London, November 17, 2004; available from http://www.child-soldiers.org/resources/global-reports.

1919 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: The Gambia, Section 6d. Workers who refuse to work in hazardous conditions may lose their jobs without recourse. Unions, Internationally Recognized Core Labour Standards, pp. 4-5.

1920 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: The Gambia, Section 6d.

1921 Ibid. See also Unions, Internationally Recognized Core Labour Standards, p. 5.

1922 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2005: The Gambia. See also U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: The Gambia.

1923 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report – 2005: The Gambia.

1924 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: The Gambia, Section 5. United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Initial Reports of States Parties due in 1992: Gambia, CRC/C/3/Add.61, Geneva, Switzerland, September 28, 2000, para. 194.

1925 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: The Gambia, Section 5.

1926 European partners are Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Sweden and Norway. ECPAT International, Gambia.

1927 U.S. Department of State, Country Reports – 2004: The Gambia, Section 5.

1928 Ibid.

1929 Ibid.

1930 One program is the Scholarship Trust Fund, which covers the costs of tuition, textbooks, and examination fees for girls at all levels of education. See Initiatives in Girls Education: The Scholarship Trust Fund, Secretary of State for Education, [online] [cited January 30, 2006]; available from http://www.edugambia.gm/Directorates/Current_Projects/Girls_Education/body_girls_education.html. The program includes girls attending private schools. See also U.S. Embassy – Banjul, reporting, August, 2003. The DOE cannot fund the entire program, but works with various partners for financial support.

1931 The initiative lasts through 2005, extending a program that began in 1988. Scholarship Trust Fund, pp. 107-108. See also World Bank, Education and Health in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Review of Sector-Wide Approaches, The Gambia Education Case Study, January 2001, p. 96.

1932 The projects conclude on June 30, 2005. The World Bank, Projects and Programs, Active Projects, Washington, DC, January 2006 2005; available from http://web.worldbank.org/external/default/main?menuPK=351670&pagePK=141155&piPK=141124&theSitePK=351626. See also Child, Concluding Observations on the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

1933 Some initiatives include the Education Management Information System for implementing education policy; the Remedial Initiative for Female Teachers for training women teachers; and the Computer Technology and Literary Program for computer-skills instruction in secondary schools. The Gambia Department of State for Education, Current Projects, The Gambia Department of State for Education, n.d. [cited January 30, 2006]; available from http://www.edugambia.gm/Directorates/Current_Projects/current_projects.html. The U.S. Department of Agriculture works with the Government as part of a global effort to provide meals for school children. U.S. Embassy – Banjul, reporting, August 2003.

1934 The U.S. Embassy in Banjul contributes funds to this project through the Education for Development and Democracy Initiative Ambassador's Girls Scholarship Fund. See U.S. Embassy – Banjul, reporting, August 2003.

Search Refworld

Countries