SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
Reducing the unemployment rate and empowering people with useful skills that enable them to find or create gainful employment for themselves—especially among young people—is the key to economic growth in Africa. More importantly, reducing unemployment among youth fulfils the promise to children that they can lead meaningful lives, contribute to the development of their societies and reach their full potential.
Youth unemployment and underemployment in Africa is a critical challenge. Africa’s unemployment rate sits at 12.9 percent, but that figure doesn’t tell the whole story.1 The African Development Bank reports that 60 percent of Africa’s unemployed population are youth. And nearly 70 percent of Africa’s youth fall into the category of “working poor”: in other words, they make less than US $3.10 per day, due to underemployment and low pay for the work they do.
With the high rate of unemployment and underemployment in Africa, the risk of child trafficking and other forms of exploitation is high. Eradicating forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking is a key target of SDG 8. We proudly support entrepreneurs who are tackling child trafficking in Africa and offering solutions that address the root causes of this devastating problem. We believe that creating safe, equitable employment opportunities for youth must be a priority in Africa to create a better, safer and more promising future.1. World Bank, 2017.
In the rural Kigoma region of Tanzania, extreme poverty puts families in desperate situations. With many families struggling to get by on just USD 8 or 9 dollars a month, their children are sent to work to help support their families and are extremely vulnerable to child trafficking by middle men who take advantage of their vulnerabilities.
As a result, children are exploited: boys work under horrendous conditions and get pulled into criminal circles, while girls are forced into sex slavery in attempts to earn something for their families. The outcome of these terrible circumstances produces youth with deep psychological problems, addicted to alcohol and drugs, and underage mothers who have no means by which to support their children born of rape. Not to mention these youth miss out on their fundamental right to education and the opportunity to develop useful skills that would enable them to acquire safe, equitable employment.
Edward Simon Bihage saw children and youth in his community being trafficked, so he decided to step up and do something to change it. He founded Umoja Wa Wawezeshaji, a social enterprise that tackles the root causes of child trafficking by empowering vulnerable youth, including child trafficking survivors, with vocational skills that enable them to earn income to support their families, while still continuing their studies. Umoja Wa Wawezeshaji also works directly with mothers to help them improve their livelihoods and advocates with the public and with government to make systemic changes to reduce child slavery in four districts in Kigoma.
A key component of Edward’s work involves a vocational training program that teaches youth about entrepreneurship and provides them with skills in areas like tailoring and construction, and provides start-up kits or capital investments that enable the youth to launch their own enterprises. which empowers youth to create their own employment, reduces the risks of trafficking and improves the economy in Kigoma by raising household incomes among of the poorest in the region.
Edward joined the Reach for Change incubator in 2016 and received one-on-one support to develop his plan for spurring widespread social change to eliminate the causes and devastating effects of child trafficking in rural Tanzania. The coaching Edward received and trainings he accessed through the incubator enabled Umoja Wa Wawezeshaji to support 1,350 children in 2017 alone and scale by 58%, expanding their work into 85 schools. His social enterprise created 27 new jobs in the Kigoma region in 2017, making a contribution to the broader issues of unemployment that his social enterprise aims to solve.
Edward says that being accepted into the incubator made a big difference on the scope of his intervention, and the introduction of wide-scale change initiatives..
"Before I joined Reach for Change were doing community awareness on child protection, but since we joined Reach for Change and we received the financial support, we expanded into sending weekly SMS on child protection and doing more household visits to create awareness.”
Edward and the Umoja Wa Wawezeshaji staff have also been working hard to bring numerous government stakeholders on board to help in the fight against child trafficking. “Through the visits [to government officials within the region], we were able to mobilize the local leaders to form the District Child Protection team in Uvinza," he explains.
The creation of the District Child Protection team also led to the creation of village and ward-level child protection teams that work for child rights within the 16 villages and wards within Uvinza, which have prioritized child rights as policy priorities that cut across all other district activities.
Edward continues to expand the work of Umoja Wa Wawezeshaji by addressing root causes of child trafficking, raising public awareness about the problem, and bringing on board strategic partners and decision makers to work to change the very systems that enable child trafficking to take place in Tanzania.
Mwajuma is a youth living in rural Kagoma in Tanzania. She comes from a poor family and she and her siblings experienced many periods in life when their basic needs were not met. Mwajuma had grown accustomed to hunger pains and she tried to help her family by going out to start her own tailoring business.
Fortunately for Mwajuma, she was not trafficked — a fate that has afflicted tens of thousands of children in Kigoma — but she struggled to earn enough to help her family because she only had access to a borrowed sewing machine, which limited the time she could spend working on her clients’ clothes.
“I was not working properly because I was using a sewing machine that I was borrowing from my friend,” Mwajuma explains, adding that it limited her to just 10 customers based on the hours that she had access to the machine.
Mwajuma was able to attend a vocational tailoring training with Umoja Wa Wawezeshaji and upon completion she was provided with a start-up kit that included a sewing machine.
“It was not easy for me to work before, but since I received the sewing machine, things have changed. I can work any time I want and my customers have increased from 10 to 25. Now I can bring food at home.”
The impact of Mwajuma’s success has extended to her entire family. The family can now afford three meals a day and have been able to buy essential school materials for Mwajuma’s youngest siblings who attend primary school. Additionally, Mwajuma and all her siblings have improved their performance at school.
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