Region of Bwengu, North Malawi


Child labour – an extremely complex problem

In the region of Bwengu in Malawi, IPA has taken a first step in the fight against widespread child labour. This pilot project will be followed by others.


In Malawi child labour is a real problem. Although there are local committees that fight against it, their members are insufficiently trained and they do not have the means to look into the many cases. Of course, fighting child labour was the main aim of the project, but IPA also wanted to gain experience for future approaches of the problem. The reasons for child labour are poverty, AIDS, unemployment, poor education and many other factors. "We have realised that you can not judge child labour as a unique phenomenon. In the long run we will have to fight child poverty", IPA partner James Gondwe said shortly before the project was completed. So we had learnt an important lesson, but the project was going to have many other positive effects.

Young Swiss people without mobile phones


A group of youngsters and students in Zurich decided to make it their business to make this pilot project possible. Financed by the Lions Club Zimmerberg, they worked for a week on the steep slopes above the village of Soazza (in the East of Switzerland) in temperatures like those in Malawi. They started work at 6.30 AM and had breakfast at 9.00 AM so that they could enjoy a siesta when the heat was at its peak. Mowing and making hay were the main tasks in order to protect the chestnut groves and the biodiversity of the region. Soazza is a village in a remote area, so one might think that it would have been important for the youngsters to spend their free time chatting with their friends at home. "It was cool that nobody used their mobile", a student reported from the camp. Obviously, there was no need, the group enjoyed playing games and having long discussions in the evenings. Their joint work and the project in Malawi quickly bonded them together – a pleasant side effect of the IPA concept "environmental work".

Not all problems solved


The young Swiss really managed to finance the pilot project. A theatre group then went from village to village in Bwengu. 56 theatre performances helped to interest thousands of children and villagers in the topic. The local committee was thoroughly trained and introduced to its task. Thanks to new bicycles, its members can now carry out checks in distant places. So far 14 children have been freed from child labour and have returned to their families and to school. Many other cases of domestic violence have been discovered and are being fought against. In certain regions child labour has diminished and important strategies for further and bigger projects have been worked out. One of the results of this pilot project is also the fact that not all the basic problems have been solved yet. A lot of work will still have to be done to improve the basic living condition of the people in the north of Malawi and so to eliminate the breeding ground for child labour.

Return of children to their families