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

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Rwanda

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 10 September 2009
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Rwanda, 10 September 2009, 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.

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years, 2000:2,497,644
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2000:27.3
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2000:29.9
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2000:24.8
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:16
Compulsory education age:13
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:147.4
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:93.6
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2000:55.3
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2003:45.8
ILO Convention 138:4/15/1981
ILO Convention 182:5/23/2000
ILO-IPEC participating country:Associated

* In practice, must pay for various school expenses

** Accession

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In Rwanda, children work in subsistence agriculture. Children also work on tea, sugar cane, and rice plantations, and harvest coffee. They engage in vending and microenterprises, and make bricks, crush stones, extract sand, and burn and carry charcoal. They also work at waste disposal sites. Girls engage in domestic service for third-party households.

The 1994 genocide, war and, more recently, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, have left many of Rwanda's children orphaned, resulting in an increase in child-headed households and children living on the streets in urban areas. Children living on the streets work as porters, car guards, garbage collectors, and vendors, selling items such as cigarettes and candy. Street children are also known to engage in prostitution.

Children, including some who lived in child-headed households, engaged in commercial sexual exploitation, including forced prostitution. Girls are trafficked within Rwanda for domestic service and commercial sexual exploitation. Older girls living in child-headed households sometimes provide sexual services in exchange for cash, in-kind goods, protection, and for school fees. A limited number of girls in Rwanda's Eastern Province may be trafficked to Uganda for commercial sexual exploitation and work on tea plantations.

Recruiters for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)-based militia group National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) conscripted a number of Congolese and Rwandan children living in refugee camps and towns in Rwanda, for forced labor and forced soldiering in the DRC.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The law sets the minimum age of employment at 16 years, but does not apply to children working in subsistence agriculture. Children under the age of 16 years are prohibited from working between the hours of 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. or from performing any work deemed hazardous or difficult as determined by the Ministry of Labor, and must have at least 12 hours of rest between work shifts. Subject to the aforementioned provisions and restrictions, children may be employed in light work at 14 years with parental consent. The Ministry of Labor can also make exceptions to allow children 14 to 16 years to work in a company or in apprenticeships. By law, however, the Ministry of Labor will only grant exceptions for light work that will not harm children's health or education.

The law prohibits forced labor. There is no law specifically addressing trafficking in persons, however, traffickers can be prosecuted under laws prohibiting slavery, rape, child prostitution, forced prostitution, and kidnapping. All sexual relations with children under the age of 18 are considered rape under Rwandan law. If the child is under 14 years, the crime is punishable by life imprisonment; if the child is between 14 and 18 years, it is punishable by 20 to 25 years in prison; and if it is committed by a person in a position of authority over the child, it is punishable by life imprisonment and a fine.

The law also prohibits prostitution and compelling a child to engage in prostitution. Violations are punishable by 5 years of imprisonment and a fine. Facilitating prostitution is also illegal, including serving as an intermediary between prostitutes and customers and leasing premises to be used for prostitution. Facilitating the prostitution of children under 18 years is punishable by 6 months to 6 years in prison and a fine. Using or exploiting children in pornographic publications is prohibited and is punishable by a fine and between 5 and 12 years imprisonment. The law also prohibits the use of children in drug trafficking.

The law sets the minimum age for voluntary enlistment into military service at 18 years. This minimum age law also applies to the Local Defense Forces, a paramilitary government militia. There is no conscription.

Rwanda was 1 of 24 countries to adopt the Multilateral Cooperation Agreement to Combat Trafficking in Persons and the Joint Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children in West and Central African Regions. As part of the regional Multilateral Cooperation Agreement to Combat Trafficking in Persons, the Government of Rwanda agreed to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenders; to rehabilitate and reintegrate trafficking victims; and to assist fellow signatory countries to implement these measures under the Agreement.

In an effort to combat child prostitution, the Rwandan National Police (RNP) issues warnings to hotel owners against allowing underage girls to frequent these establishments.

The Government continued to issue fines to employers who employed children illegally and those who sent their children to work rather than school. The Government has 12 regional offices employing 30 child labor inspectors; however, according to USDOS, these offices were not given adequate resources to identify or prevent child labor effectively.

The Ministry of Internal Security's National Police is charged with combating trafficking, and questioned men traveling with minors but without an adult female at border crossings and security checkpoints throughout Rwanda. In some cases, Rwandan border officials refused to allow young girls to cross the border into Uganda, to prevent them from engaging in prostitution there. According to the USDOS, Government efforts to address trafficking were constrained by a lack of resources, and enforcement of anti-trafficking laws was limited. In May 2008, a man was sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment for operating a child prostitution ring, and his 17-year-old accomplice was given a reduced sentence of 5 years imprisonment owing to her status as a minor.

Current Government Efforts to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Government continues to implement its National Plan of Action against Child Labor, which was developed with assistance from ILO-IPEC under the USDOL-funded Global Child Soldiers Project. The elimination of child labor is also specifically mentioned as a government priority in Rwanda's Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS). Targets to reduce child labor continue to be included in district officials' performance contracts.

The Government continues to implement its National Policy for Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children (OVC). The National Policy for OVC targets working children, children living in child-headed households, children affected by armed conflict, children exploited in prostitution and sexual abuse, children affected by HIV/AIDS, and street children for assistance. The National Policy for OVC outlines specific strategies for addressing child labor, such as improving children's working conditions, better enforcement of labor laws, supporting income-generating activities for families, strengthening a "catch-up" education system, and conducting child labor studies and sensitization campaigns. The Government continued to provide catch-up education programs for formerly working children.

The Government of Rwanda is participating in a 4-year, USD 6.8 million project funded by USDOL and implemented by ILO-IPEC to conduct data collection on child labor.

The Government continued to participate in the 4-year Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Ethiopia Together (KURET) project, which was funded by USDOL at USD 14.5 million and World Vision at USD 5.8 million through March 2009. Implemented by World Vision, in partnership with the International Rescue Committee and the Academy for Educational Development, the project withdrew and prevented a total of 32,823 children from exploitive labor in HIV/AIDS-affected areas of these four countries through the provision of educational services.

The Government of Rwanda continues to participate in the 2-year, USD 460,000 regional anti-trafficking technical assistance project implemented by the UNODC's Regional Office for Eastern Africa and funded by Norway and Sweden. The project aims to bolster coordination among the 11 countries involved through the Regional Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking in Eastern Africa and harmonize national legislation in line with the Palermo Protocol. The RNP has incorporated the EAPCCO's anti-trafficking strategies into its 2009-2013 Strategic Plan. The Government provided training to police officers on child trafficking and sex crimes during the year.

In March 2008, the Government's National AIDS Control Commission launched a project in Karongi District to provide income-generating assistance to teenage mothers, in an effort to prevent them from entering prostitution.

The Government continued to implement its Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) program. The second phase of the DDR ended in December 2008, and the third phase is being implemented from 2009-2011. During the DDR process, child ex-combatants are provided with special rehabilitation services before being reunited with their families. To prevent ex-combatants from being rejected by their home communities and ease their reintegration into society, the Government continued to conduct public awareness campaigns.

The Government of Rwanda provides support to former child combatants at the Muhazi demobilization center in the Eastern Province. In 2008, this center served 41 children who had formerly been soldiers in the DRC. Between January 2007 and October 2008, 29 Rwandan children were repatriated by the UN Mission in the DRC.

Local authorities continue to place street children in foster homes or facilities run by the Government. The Government supports 12 centers throughout the country that provide street children with shelter and help meet their basic needs.

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