Going child labour free in Malawi

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Child labour can be found throughout Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world.
Malawi at a glance:
  • Area: 94,280 km2
  • Capital: Lilongwe
  • Population: 15,883,000 approx.
  • Population under the age of 15: 45.9%
  • Life expectancy at birth: M:54.05%; F:54.23%; T:54.14%
  • Minimum age for employment: 14
  • Female Literacy: Youth: 86.96%; Adult: 68.49%
  • Male Literacy: Youth: 87.20%; Adult: 81.13%
  • Urban population: 15.7%
  • Rural population: 84.3%
  • GNI: 870 PPP per capita

Half the people here live under the poverty line, and nearly one and a half million children are in child labour. Both tradition and the cycle of poverty make change difficult, but the introduction of the ILO’s Support for the National Action Plan to combat child labour in Malawi, called “SNAP” has made a positive difference in people’s attitudes.

The SNAP model combines a community-based child labour monitoring system, investment in infrastructure, and coordinated community action to identify child labourers and give them a chance to access education, training and eventually, employment.

The child labour monitoring (CLM) system identifies children in, or at risk of child labour, offering them appropriate alternatives. The system also provides for the monitoring of the child labour situation in target areas such as on Malawi’s tobacco plantations and other rural settings. It is this community-based approach which makes the CLM so effective.

SNAP Programme statistics at a glance:
  • 5511 children withdrawn or prevented from entering child labour (Girls 2561 and Boys 2950)
  • 319 children completed vocational training (126 female & 193 male)
  • 323 adults supported by income-generating activities (130 Male and 213 Female)
  • 75 adults received business management training (58 female and 17 male)
  • 8 Established Outreach Skills Centres teaching carpentry, hairdressing, tailoring, brick laying, and welding

Watch the full documentary about the SNAP Programme (20 min.)

Communities tackling child labour in Malawi:

Since the introduction of the SNAP program in Malawi in 2009, which was funded by the US Department of Labour, more than 5,500 children have been withdrawn or prevented from entering child labour and more than 300 of these childeren have completed vocational training. Over 800 parents have benefited from livelihood support and were equipped with skills and knowledge on income-generation - such as saving money and setting up their own business through the ILO’s Start your Own Business tools.

In Malawi’s cities and towns, most child labourers work long hours as domestic servants, where they can fall victim to abuse and neglect. But an increasing number of domestic workers are now working under a contract that is signed by the worker, the village chief, the employer and a representative of the community child labour committee that stipulates the number of working hours as well as the conditions. The contract also allows workers to spend part of the day at a Service Outlet, where they learn vocational skills which will enable them to start their own business.

Pamela is an 18 year-old domestic worker and comes from a family of 11 children. When her dad died in 2008, she had to start working to help her mother to support the family. She used to work from dawn to late afternoon, but now she is trained as a carpenter and dreams of starting her own business.

Community-based approach to eliminate child labour

Using the SNAP community-based approach, local leaders “champion” the fight against child labour. Representatives from church, government, NGOs, employers’ and workers’ organizations, and law enforcement meet in District Child Labour and Community Child Labour Committees that manage the Child Labour Monitoring System. The committees identify children in child labour and get them into school or training programmes.

Olive Panyanja, District Labour Officer
Alfred Kazakumanja, Withdrawn from child labour
Elia Ngalande, Senior Chief, Kaomba Area
Petro Kondodo, Village Chief
Going back to School

When child labourers are identified and withdrawn from work, or when they have been prevented from entering child labour in the first place, the District Child Labour and Community Child Labour Committees refer many of them to school. The youngest are enrolled in 10 “multipurpose learning centres”, where they are given basic “non-formal” education to prepare them for public school.


Older children are trained in carpentry, tailoring, and business skills.

Finding solutions for child domestic workers

Working with ILO SNAP, thousands of children and families in Malawi are being freed from child labour and now have every reason to believe theirs will be an independent future, free of child labour.

SNAP Malawi is a project funded by the United States Department of Labor (USDOL). The content of this page does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the United States Department of Labor, nor does mention of trade name, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the United States Government.