2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Burkina Faso

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years, 2003:3,462,184
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2003:47.0
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2003:46.4
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2003:47.7
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%), 2003:
     – Agriculture97.4
     – Manufacturing0.4
     – Services2.0
     – Other0.2
Minimum age for work:15
Compulsory education age:16
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:65.3
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2006:46.9
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2003:27.2
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2006:80.6
ILO Convention 138:2/11/1999
ILO Convention 182:7/25/2001
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

* In practice, must pay for various school expenses.

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

The majority of economically active children in Burkina Faso are found in agriculture and stock-raising, often working on family farms, and in some cases as paid laborers. Children work throughout the farming process, sowing, weeding, and harvesting diverse products such as beans, cereal, and groundnuts. In addition, many children work on cotton farms where they may be exposed to harmful pesticides. Children work in hazardous conditions in quarries and in the mining sector, especially in gold mines where gold-washing may expose children to mercury. Children, particularly girls, also work as hawkers or domestic servants. Such children, street children, and those children working in the informal sector, including as beggars, are also engaged in commercial sexual exploitation.

The practice of sending boys to Koranic teachers to receive education, which may include a vocational or apprenticeship component, is a tradition in various countries, including Burkina Faso. While some boys receive lessons, others are forced by their teachers to beg and surrender the money that they have earned or to work in fields. Forced begging under the guise of religion is increasingly prevalent, as is the number of street children in urban areas, some as young as seven.

Burkina Faso is a destination, transit, and source country for children trafficked for the purpose of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Children are primarily trafficked within Burkina Faso, from rural areas to urban areas, to work in domestic service, prostitution, in street vending, and quarries; and increasingly to the western regions, to work in mining and agriculture, particularly cotton. Children from western and northwestern Burkina Faso, especially from the Dogon, Samo, and Dafing ethnic groups, are at higher risk of being trafficked. Trafficking hubs in Burkina Faso include the Sahel in the north, Boucle du Mouhon in the west, and Tapoa and Gnagnan provinces in the east. Children are trafficked into Burkina Faso from Nigeria and Togo for forced labor in mining, agriculture, and domestic service. Burkina Faso is also a transit country for children trafficked from Togo, Mali, and Benin. Children from Burkina Faso are trafficked into Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Togo, and especially to Mali to work in rice fields.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Labor Code sets the minimum age for employment at 16 years. Children of less than 18 years are prohibited from working at night, although children 16 years or older may do so in a case of force majeure. A decree lists the types of work and enterprises in which children are forbidden to work, such as work with explosives or, for children less than 16 years, work in mines.

This decree also establishes parameters for acceptable work, such as the amount of weight that children 14 to 15 years and 16 to 18 years may transport. Under the law, children and adolescents less than 20 years are prohibited from work that could harm their reproductive abilities. Violations of minimum age laws are subject to a fine and imprisonment of up to 3 years for a first offense and imprisonment of up to 5 years for a subsequent offense.

The Labor Code defines and prohibits the worst forms of child labor, including slavery, debt bondage, indebted servitude, forced labor, prostitution, children used in armed conflicts, children used in illicit activities, and any work that is by its nature harmful to the health of a child. Slavery and slavery-like practices, inhumane and cruel treatment, and physical or emotional abuse of children are also forbidden by the Constitution. A new law enacted in May 2008 prohibits trafficking in persons for purposes of forced labor, slavery, servitude, and sexual exploitation and expands the definition of child labor to include begging and domestic service. The penalty is set at 5 to 10 years of imprisonment, with an increased penalty of 10 to 20 years of imprisonment if the victim is a minor of no more than 15 years or a sentence of life imprisonment if the trafficking resulted in the death or permanent mutilation of the victim. These penalties also apply to violations of laws prohibiting the worst forms of child labor.

The Penal Code also makes it an offense to encourage or employ children in begging. Such acts are subject to sentences of imprisonment for periods of 6 months to 2 years. This law also forbids any involvement in prostitution and explicitly prohibits the debauchery or corruption of a minor. Under this law, such violations are punishable by 2 to 5 years of imprisonment and fines. The minimum age for voluntary recruitment into the military is 20 years.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Security and the Ministry of Social Action and National Solidarity are responsible for enforcing child labor laws. Labor inspectors, police, and customs service agents share responsibility for investigating child labor violations. Burkina Faso employs 39 labor inspectors, 1 of whom coordinates child labor issues in each region. In 2008, security forces arrested 40 child traffickers, 16 of whom were cleared of all charges, while others were sentenced to varying prison terms.

Burkina Faso was 1 of 24 countries to adopt the Multilateral Cooperative 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 Burkina Faso 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.

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

In March 2008, the Government of Burkina Faso finalized its National Employment Policy and Action Plan, which includes specific provisions aimed at linking the National Employment Plan and the fight against exploitive child labor. Specific actions will promote training and apprenticeships for children working in mines, quarries, domestic service, agriculture or pastoral sectors, and the informal sector, in order to remove them from exploitive forms of work. In May 2008, the Government of Burkina Faso ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which includes provisions against child labor. Additionally, in May 2008, the Government passed a new Labor Code that raises the minimum age of employment from 15 to 16 years.

The Government of Burkina Faso continues to implement a 2007 National Action Plan against Trafficking in Persons under its National Social Action Policy. The Ministries of Social Action, Labor and Social Security, Health, Justice, Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Decentralization, and Basic Education are all involved in anti-trafficking efforts under the lead of the Ministry of Social Action. In May 2008, a new trafficking law was passed increasing the penalties associated with trafficking and worst forms of child labor, and expanding the definition of exploitive child labor.

The Government cooperates with NGOs and international organizations to reintegrate child trafficking victims. The Government also supports Vigilance and Surveillance Committees throughout the country and has trained them on how to identify and assist trafficking victims. According to USDOS, the Ministry of Social Action's Directorate for Child Protection and Fight against Violence against Children collects statistics on these committees, reporting that such committees had intercepted approximately 591 trafficked children in 2008.

The Ministry of Employment and Youth, in partnership with IPEC, organized workshops on vocational training, and in partnership with the Gold Mining Company Field Burkina SA, organized training in masonry, carpentry, and some other trades as a means of withdrawing or preventing children from artisanal gold mining. The Government has worked with a committee of Government representatives, Islamic associations, and other partner organizations to develop strategies to combat child begging.

The Government continues to participate in a USD 3-year, 3 million USDOL-funded regional ILOIPEC project to combat child labor in small-scale gold mining. The project targets 1,500 children to be withdrawn and 2,500 children to be prevented from exploitive work in gold mining in Burkina Faso and Niger.

The Government of Burkina Faso is participating in a 3-year, USD 4.8 million regional ILO-IPEC project, funded by the Government of France, which runs until December 31, 2009, and includes vocational training and apprenticeship programming.


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