2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Sierra Leone

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Population, children, 5-14 years, 2005:1,670,733
Working children, 5-14 years (%), 2005:58.5
Working boys, 5-14 years (%), 2005:59.0
Working girls, 5-14 years (%), 2005:58.0
Working children by sector, 5-14 years (%):
     – Agriculture
     – Manufacturing
     – Services
     – Other
Minimum age for work:15
Compulsory education age:15
Free public education:Yes*
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:147.1
Net primary enrollment rate (%):
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2006:67.8
Survival rate to grade 5 (%):
ILO Convention 138:No
ILO Convention 182:No
ILO-IPEC participating country:No

* In practice, must pay for various school expenses

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Children in Sierra Leone are found working on family subsistence farms. Some children work in the fishing industry (e.g., snapper, herring, and mackerel). Children also engage in petty vending and domestic work. Street children are used by adults to sell various items, steal, and beg. Street children are also engaged in commercial sexual exploitation, including in Freetown and Bo. Children crush stones in granite quarries and work under hazardous labor conditions, including carrying heavy loads and working long hours. Children are engaged in sand mining. Children also work in alluvial diamond mining areas. The majority of children that work in the diamond mining areas are boys generally between the ages of 10 and 17 years. These boys work in areas such as the Kenema and Kono districts and generally engage in petty trade and perform supportive roles. Some children report being forced to work in diamond mining areas 6 to 7 days a week without pay and report injury and illness due to the activities they perform.

Sierra Leone is a source, transit, and destination country for trafficking in children. Within Sierra Leone, children are trafficked to urban areas, where they work in domestic service, petty trading, or are engaged in prostitution. Children are also trafficked internally for forced labor in agriculture, fishing, diamond mines, and begging. Children from Sierra Leone are trafficked to Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, and The Gambia. Further, children from Nigeria and possibly Liberia and Guinea, are trafficked to Sierra Leone for forced begging and mining, as well as portering and sexual exploitation.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The minimum age for employment is 15 years, although at 13 years children may perform light work, defined as work that is likely not to be harmful to a child or interfere with schooling. In addition, children must be 15 years or have completed basic education (whichever is later) before entering into an apprenticeship, including apprenticeships in the informal sector. Children are also prohibited from performing night work, defined as work between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. The minimum age for a child to engage in hazardous work is 18 years. Hazardous work is defined as work that is dangerous to a child's health, safety, or morals, and includes activities such as going to sea; mining and quarrying; carrying heavy loads; working in bars; and working in environments where chemicals are produced or used and machinery is operated.

Forced and compulsory labor by children is prohibited by law. The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children under 18 years. Procuring or attempting to procure a girl for prostitution is punishable by up to 2 years in prison. The law also criminalizes all forms of human trafficking. The penalty for trafficking a person for labor or prostitution is up to 10 years in prison and restitution to the victim. The age for voluntary recruitment or conscription into the armed forces is 18 years.

Sierra Leone 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 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.

The Ministry of Labor is charged with enforcing child labor laws through its seven labor monitors. The Ministry of Mineral Resources with an estimated 350 labor inspectors, is charged with enforcing regulations against the use of child labor in mining activities. According to USDOS, the Government did not effectively enforce laws against child labor (such as in the diamond mines), as well as forced and bonded child labor. However, during the reporting period, the Government undertook raids on brothels in an effort to enforce laws against commercial sexual exploitation. Further, in February 2009, the UN-supported Special Court for Sierra Leone convicted three Revolutionary United Front senior commanders of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The rebel leaders were also found guilty of recruiting child soldiers. The rebel leaders committed these crimes between 1991 and 2002, during the civil war in Sierra Leone. In addition, according to USDOS, the Government of Sierra Leone worked with the Government of Guinea to investigate traffickers and repatriate trafficking victims.

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

During the reporting period, the Government of Sierra Leone continued to refer trafficking victims to the shelter, which provides services such as education, medical care, and counseling. With support from NGOs, the Government continued to participate in training sessions and awareness-raising campaigns on trafficking.

The Government of Sierra Leone continued to participate in a 2-year USD 324,000 project funded by USDOS and implemented by World Hope International. The project seeks to provide training on trafficking and strengthen victim referral networks. In addition, the Government is participating in a 4-year USD 23.8 million project, funded by the EU and implemented by ILOIPEC, to combat child labor through education in 11 countries, including Sierra Leone.

The Government of Sierra Leone participates in the 4-year USD 6 million project that is funded by USDOL and implemented by the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The project operates in Sierra Leone and Liberia and aims to withdraw 8,243 children and prevent an additional 21,647 children in both countries by improving access to and quality of education. During the reporting period, the Government of Sierra Leone participated in IRC's media personnel trainings on child labor issues, in an effort to raise public awareness on child labor.


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