Brick kilns in Nepal: developing a code of conduct to protect child workers
The smoke from brick kilns pollutes the city of Kathmandu. Each kiln employs between 500 and 600 people who work up to 15 hours per day, seven days per week. Families live on site in poor sanitary conditions. According to a survey by Terre des hommes (Tdh), children under 16 represent 20% of this workforce.
Children grow up without education
Rural exodus is a major problem in Nepal. Droughts, flooding and erosion have affected crops, making life in isolated villages extremely difficult. Entire families migrate to the capital city to look for work. The 2015 earthquake accelerated this phenomenon. Today, hundreds of artisanal brick kilns are located on the outskirts of Kathmandu. The number of children they employ is estimated at around 28,000. Most are hired to mould clay, turn dried bricks and arrange them in piles. Others cook and distribute food to workers, or lead the donkeys that transport bricks to construction sites. These children do not attend school and grow up uneducated. They suffer respiratory problems due to the dust and smoke.
Reducing child labour
Since 2010, Tdh has worked to improve living and working conditions for these children. In the six brick kilns we have operated in for the past three years, conditions have improved significantly. Owners have signed a code of conduct stating they will not hire children aged under 16. They have agreed to ensure that all workers – especially children and pregnant women – see a doctor at least once per year. They have also undertaken to educate children and provide drinking water and sanitary facilities. Each year we gave individual support (school supplies and medical care) to 100 children.
Protecting child health
In 2016, we installed toilets for 3,600 people and provided drinking water to 4,700 people. More than 2,000 people attended sessions raising awareness of hygiene practices. Five hundred pregnant women and new mothers received training on health, nutrition and breastfeeding. Two travelling clinics treated 385 people.
To curb the seasonal migration of families to Kathmandu, we plan to work directly with their villages and strengthen existing protection mechanisms (in particular, awareness-raising activities for teachers) to prevent moves that are harmful for children.
Picture: © Tdh/Sajana Shrestha
"Today I feel more sure of myself. I want to learn to sew so I can be a seamstress in my village and not have to rely on seasonal work."
Binita, works six month a year in a brick kiln since she is eight or nine years oldRead more...