Last Updated: Monday, 23 May 2016, 07:53 GMT

2001 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Rwanda

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 7 June 2002
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2001 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Rwanda, 7 June 2002, available at: [accessed 24 May 2016]
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.

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

The Government of Rwanda is participating in a regional program to prevent the participation of children in armed conflicts in Central Africa, which is sponsored by ILO-IPEC and funded by USDOL.[2156] UNICEF is also sponsoring a rehabilitation program for child soldiers with the WFP, the International Red Cross, the International Rescue Committee, and Save the Children to provide health care, food and water, psycho-social counseling, and reunification for children.[2157]

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In 1999, the ILO estimated that 41.4 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 14 in Rwanda were working.[2158] Most child labor occurs in the agricultural sector.[2159] As recently as August 2001, children have been rescued from forced recruitment in domestic fighting, where they have been working either as soldiers or as servants for the armed forces.[2160] Reports indicate that children as young as ages 10 to 18 have been recruited by government armed forces.[2161] Because of the genocide of 1994, many households are being run by children, creating extreme pressure for them to provide for their families.[2162]

Primary education in Rwanda is compulsory from the ages of 7 to 12 years.[2163] Families must pay fees to enroll their children in school.[2164] In 1991, the gross primary enrollment rate was 81.3 percent and the net primary enrollment rate was 75.4 percent.[2165] In 2000, the net primary attendance rate was 65.6 percent for children between the ages of 7 and 12 and 73.7 percent for children ages 8 to 13.[2166] Of the children who enter the first grade, 76 percent reach the fifth grade.[2167] There is a high dropout and repetition rate among primary school children.[2168] 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. School fees are regularly waived for orphans.[2169]

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The minimum age for employment is 15 years. However, children between the ages of 13 and 14 can work, with Ministry of Labor approval, if the work will not have a negative effect on their health, development, or education.[2170] With the exception of subsistence agriculture, children under age 16 are prohibited from working at night or in unhealthy, strenuous, noxious, or dangerous conditions.[2171] Forced or bonded labor by children is not specifically prohibited.[2172] Under Article 374 of the Criminal Code, trafficking is an aggravated offense, with a doubled penalty for delivering a minor into prostitution upon entering or exiting the country.[2173] Legislation from 1977 sets the minimum voluntary age for military service at age 16.[2174]

The Ministry of Public Service and Labor does not effectively enforce these laws in part because of the large number of children who are heads of household.[2175] Rwanda ratified ILO Convention 138 on April 15, 1981, and ILO Convention 182 on May 23, 2000.[2176]

[2156] ILO, Phase I: Regional Programme on the Prevention and Reintegration of Children Involved in Armed Conflicts in Central Africa (Geneva, 2001).

[2157] Ibid.

[2158] ILO labor force statistics as cited in World Development Indicators 2001 (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2001) [hereinafter World Development Indicators 2001] [CD-ROM].

[2159] Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2000 – Rwanda (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State, 2001) [hereinafter Country Reports 2000], Section 6d, at

[2160] UNICEF, press release, at

[2161] Ibid. The genocide killed 800,000 Rwandans.

[2162] BBC World Service, "Children of Conflict: Child-Headed Households," at

[2163] Enquete à Indicateurs Multiples (MICS2) Rapport Preliminaire: Rwanda, Ministere des Finance et de la Planification Economique B.P. 46 Kigali, January 11, 2001 [hereinafter Enquete à Indicateurs Multiples] 8.

[2164] Country Reports 2000 at Section 5.

[2165] World Development Indicators 2001.

[2166] Enquete à Indicateurs Multiples.

[2167] Ibid at 8.

[2168] Ibid at 4.

[2169] Country Reports 2000 at Section 5.

[2170] U.S. Department of State, electronic correspondence from U.S. Embassy-Rwanda to USDOL official, November 30, 2001.

[2171] Country Reports 2000 at Section 6d. See also Electronic Correspondence from U.S. Department of State Official Mark J. Wildermuth to U.S. Department of State Official, Amy S. Radetsky, November 30, 2001. An ILO committee report indicates that the draft revision of the Rwandan labor code will extend the minimum age to the agricultural sector. See CEACR: Individual Observation Concerning Convention No. 138, Minimum Age, 1973, Rwanda (ratification: 1981, published: 2001).

[2172] Country Reports 2000 at Section 6d. See also The UN Human Rights System, "For the Record 2000: Rwanda" [hereinafter "For the Record 2000"], at

[2173] The Protection Project, Commercial Exploitation of Women and Children: A Human Rights Report on Rwanda. According to the Protection Project, prostitution and compelling another person to become engaged in prostitution are prohibited by Articles 363-365 of the Criminal Code. Punishment for these crimes is imprisonment for up to 5 years and a fine.

[2174] The Global March Against Child Labor, "The Worst Forms of Child Labour: Rwanda," at formsreport/world/rwanda.html.

[2175] Country Reports 2000 at Section 6d. See also "For the Record 2000."

[2176] ILO: Ratifications of the Fundamental Human Rights Conventions by Country at

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