Malia Mayson (Nigeria)

Malia (Lia) Mayson (Women's Consortium of Nigeria (WOCON): Malia is Liberian/American. She earned her B.A in International Affairs with a minor in Economics from the American University of Paris, France. She later worked as an assembly fellow at the California State Capitol and then moved to Spain to work with Latin American immigrants at a local NGO in Madrid. At the time of her fellowship, Malia was pursuing a Masters degree in Economic Development and African Studies at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Child Labor

20 Jun

One of WOCON’s most recent campaigns is the removal and reintegration of child laborers and child domestic servants. This is most intriguing because there is a wide spread African custom that encourages low income families to entrust their children to their more prosperous relatives for training and work in exchange for education and financial support. This practice is sometimes referred to as “fostering”.

In fact, in Liberia at least, the custom also works the other way around: for example, my mother came from a relatively well off Liberian family living in the city. She was then sent to the village to her grandmother’s every summer to learn how to cook and clean and other such appropriate training for women in the time.

However, it seems that this practice has recently mutated into something completely harmful and negative. In Nigeria, it is usually children from poor rural families who are sent to work as domestic servants in the homes of families living in the city. There, they are housed in inhuman condition and are made to work long un-interrupted hours, without leisure or access to education. Many of them are also subject of physical and sexual abuse.

I was rather shocked to learn about a case whereby WOCON discovered the existence of child labor camps right in the heart of Nigeria. In fact, the nature of these camps was well known by the communities that lived nearby, yet they did nothing about it. Even worse, they saw nothing wrong with what was going on.

This is to show that there is great confusion on what is the difference between child slavery and the African traditional practice of child fostering. WOCON withdrew the children from the camps and began developing its awareness campaign on these issues.

I think that the Nigerian government should also take its share of responsibility in the matter. The fact is, NGOs and other grassroots organizations are still no substitute for the development of an adequate child welfare system in Nigeria.

Posted By Malia Mayson (Nigeria)

Posted Jun 20th, 2005

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