While Yemenis pride themselves for their family values, hundred of thousands of families across the country continue to rely on their children to bring an extra income, to the detriment of their education, well being and development. And while the issue has been plaguing Yemen as far as memory can stretch, all agree that no modern state should permit its children from being sold out to the pillar of necessity.
In a recent report, ILO – International Labor Organization – revealed that 1.3 million children in Yemen were involved in work related activities; an increase of 400,000 compared to 2011 when IRIN estimated the number of working children in Yemen to be just below a million.
While harsh economic realities, inflation and security have had devastating effects on child labor, sociologists are warning that the issue runs deeper than that and has more to do with a social trend.
Yemen’s children are put at much greater risk than anyone seems to realize or wants to admit. A vast majority – over 70% – of underage workers will be on some degree subjected to abuse — sexual, physical or mental — Activists are now calling on the state to act and recognize the urgency of the situation as Yemen’s children are this nation’s future, and on them lies the hopes and promises of tomorrow.
Widespread poverty – over 40% of the population lives under $2 per day – means that families have had to withdraw their children from full time education -sometimes to save school related expenses – to send their children earn their daily bread.
Over worked, often mistreated and underpaid children are easy preys for the unscrupulous. Social worker Fatma Suneyni told the Yemen Post she felt Yemeni children had become slaves — slaves to their nation’s poverty, slaves of a system which fails to protect them and slaves to their own personal economic realities —
“In Yemen’s cities, children often work in restaurants, peddling goods on the streets, or collecting garbage for recycling. It’s not uncommon to see boys working as car mechanics or in metal workshops, surrounded by dangerous equipment. In rural areas children usually work in agriculture. Many are involved in the cultivation of qat — a natural narcotic that’s legal in Yemen — often working alone at night to guard qat plants from thieves.”
Child psychologists and sociologists are also ringing the alarm bells on the ill effects child labor will have on society as it has been proven that taken away from a nurturing environment children will often turn to violence as a coping mechanism, perpetuating the cycle of violence.
“Violence begets violence. As child workers are subjected to violence – whether at home or work, they will become aggressive towards society,” rightly noted al-Shami.
In 2012, Fatma Suneyni says things are worse than ever with boys and girls being forced into prostitution for a handful of dollars. “Because of the social stigma and shame attached to sexual related crimes, children almost never speak out, allowing their abusers to go on abusing others.”
“Hundreds of children are also being sent over to Saudi Arabia by their families, sold out as cheap labour to less than scrupulous individuals,” added Suneyni, lamenting on the government’s inability so far to address the matter.
Let this short video stir you as you seek God’s heart to pray for children in this nation.