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Celebrations help change children’s future

Zambia | 21 August 2014

Celebrations help change children’s future

Parents inspired by performances

A smallholder tobacco farmer, who is also the father of four, became intrigued by the sounds of the ARISE program’s World Day Against Child Labor celebrations in TBZ North, Zambia. A musical parade and other performances changed the future for all his children forever.

Eleven-year-old Lukano C. lives in the Kamasisi community in the area known as Tobacco Board of Zambia (TBZ) South in Nkeyema District in the Western Province of Zambia. Her parents have been involved in tobacco growing for more than 25 years. She recalls how, like many farmers in the area, every other year her parents used to move from one homestead to the next in search of new and better land to farm.

When Lukano began school in January 2010, she only attended classes for the first six months of the year. She recounts how in June of that year, very early in the morning her father ordered her older siblings to start packing their belongings to begin the move to a new piece of land.  ‘My father shouted, “Biemba, Lumingo, Mayondi, Nawa, Sendoi, what is taking you forever? We need to be going. Hurry up everyone!’”.

Being only seven years old, Lukano at first thought the trip would be fun. She did not realize that it would mark the end of her schooling and her entry into full-time child labor. The family moved about 15 kilometers from their old village, which was already about three kilometers from Kamasisi Primary School. Had she attended school, she would have had to trek about five hours each way, and she had no choice but to abandon school. Her older siblings continued attending classes at first but very soon dropped out as well.

Among other ARISE activities, the program has disseminated awareness-raising messages and facilitated the formation of Community Child Labor Committees (CCLCs) and a District Child Labor Committee (DCLC), who on 12 June 2014 spearheaded a series of activities to commemorate the World Day Against Child Labor (WDACL) within all twelve communities where ARISE operates. Unbeknownst to Lukano, these celebrations marked a turning point in her life.

Lukano’s father had produced a bumper harvest of tobacco in 2014 and had taken his produce for sale at JTI’s facilities. On 12 June he had just received his money when he heard the Zambian Army Military Band playing their March Past songs and saw a crowd of about five hundred parents, students, community members, representatives from the Ministry of Labor, and ARISE Zambia staff following the band. Tobacco growers left their tobacco bales and rushed to see what was happening.

The band led the crowd to the football grounds, and Lukano’s father was surprised to see his children’s former schoolmates in bright t-shirts with the words “Social Protection against Child Labor” on them. The District Commissioner read a speech by the Minister of Labor stating that it was shameful in this era to find parents not sending their children to school but rather making them work on their tobacco farms and other forms of hazardous labor. The Minister’s speech commented on the dangers such activities presented to children’s health, to their education, and their rights and warned parents that the government, through the action of the CCLCs, would visit them to ensure that these rights are protected. 

After the speech, students and community members presented poems, songs, drama performances around the theme of social protection from child labor. Afterwards students played in netball and football matches, and prizes were given to the top two teams. What hit home for Lukano’s father was a poem entitled ‘Stop Child Labor’ by a first-grade pupil.

According to onlookers, Lukano’s father knelt down in front of the crowd and while weeping, declared that he was moving back to his old community and apologized to all the attendees for his lack of foresight for his own four children. Many other parents were also seen shedding tears.

Lukano is now back in grade one after close to five years out of school.

Story told by the teacher of Lukano C. to Christine Nanyangwe, Winrock International School Outreach Coordinator.

ARISE aims to end child labor in communities where JTI sources tobacco leaf. We work with those directly affected and with others who have the power to change things. Our initiatives are developed and delivered in collaboration with tobacco-growing communities, social partners and governments.