International Labour Organization
South-East Asia and the Pacific Multidisciplinary Team

ILO/SEAPAT's OnLine Gender Learning & Information Module

Unit 2: Gender issues in the world of work

Emerging gender issues in the Asia Pacific region

The girl child labourer

ILO-IPEC and the Girl Child Domestic Worker

Why priority to working girls and gender?
How to give priority to working girls and gender?
IPEC activities for the girl child
At the national level
At the regional level
At the international level


ILO-IPEC and the girl child domestic worker

As an essential element of social justice, the ILO has been active in combatting child labour since its foundation in 1919. Standard-setting activities in this field were complemented by an extensive technical cooperation programme, the International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), launched in 1992 with the help of a substantial financial contribution from the Government of Germany.

In an effort to ensure the maximization of resources, the programme’s strategic approach was defined as the progressive elimination of child labour focussing first on the abolition of the most intolerable forms. Priority target groups were identified as

Why priority to working girls and gender?

There are a number of reasons why the working girl is identified as a priority target group within the IPEC strategy.

How to give priority to working girls and gender?

IPEC identifies and targets working girls through a number of ways:

IPEC activities for the girl child

At the national level

Action programmes at the national level have been supported in a number of countries so far by the ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), notably Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, the United Republic of Tanzania and Thailand. The following sections briefly outline the details of these activities.


Since 1992, IPEC has supported a preventive programme run by the Daughters’ Education Programme (DEP), in Northern Thailand, where there is a high incidence of child trafficking within the country as well as across Thai borders. DEP implements a series of activities at the local level in order to prevent young village girls from being tricked into prostitution. Girls who are at an extremely high risk of being coerced into prostitution are given temporary shelter and are enrolled in education programmes.

Over the last two years, IPEC has supported the Ministry of Education in revising the secondary school curriculum in order to provide relevant education for girls at risk of falling victim to prostitution and trafficking.

Currently, IPEC has been actively involved in the preparation of a provincial plan of action under the leadership of the Governor of the two Northern provinces in Thailand in order to prevent the problem at the provincial level.


An existing outreach programme to halt violence against women and children has been successfully extended to embrace child domestic workers. The IPEC-supported project is an initiative of the Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA) in response to concern about the growing number of girls under 14 years of age who were recruited from rural areas to work as domestics in the cities of Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Mwanya.

The main features of the project:


IPEC is supporting a programme for street girls which has been carried out since 1993 by the Child Welfare Society of Kenya. The girls are sheltered in a peace house in the district of Ngong, which is also used as a resource centre for:

The SINAGA Women and Child Labour Resource Centre has been supported by IPEC to provide skills training, basic literacy, legal advice, and to set up a crisis hotline for child domestics. To date 500 children have "graduated" from SINAGA.

IPEC supports the Child Welfare Society of Kenya, in its efforts to provide young women with skills training to upgrade the status of domestic workers in Nairobi to a level where they could earn higher wages and enjoy better working conditions.


IPEC supports a local NGO called Maiti, to set up transit homes for children who are at risk of being tricked into prostitution, by providing them:

In the near future IPEC will support the Ministry of Women and Social Affairs to launch nationwide campaigns against trafficking of children.


Two pilot projects are being implemented to prevent children from entering prostitution by providing them with informal education and vocational training. Income-generating activities are being developed for adult family members.

An Action Programme has been supported by the ILO-IPEC in the municipality of Campos dos Goitacazes, an area in which child workers are recruited for the Rio de Janeiro State. In this pilot project rehabilitated 50 girls in the 8-13 age group working in domestic service, by:

Convincing employers’ to release their child domestics to attend centres providing vocational or pre-vocational training for a certain number of hours per day was vital to the success of the project.


IPEC supported ICCB Philippines to conduct an action oriented research in order to improve the rehabilitation programmes for the victims of commercial sexual exploitation. A number of programmes are under preparation for implementation in 1997. These include:

A particularly successful project to strengthen initiatives against child trafficking for domestic employment (CTDE) is being carried out by the Visayan Forum with IPEC support. A strategy was developed and carried out simultaneously on three fronts in order to develop support and outreach services in the domestic service. The forum:

In its first phase, the project provided direct services such as:

Research was carried out to not only identify gaps in existing legislature for the protection of child domestics and but to also identify areas for future improvements. Active networking with various NGOs, governmental organizations and other social partner groups/institutions is continuing in the second phase as possible areas of future action (identified in the first phase) are taken up.


IPEC is supporting the Working Women Association (WWA), which has developed a nonformal and skills development programme for child domestics. Various centres provide nonformal education for children between the ages of 6 and 14 years; counselling to help build their self-esteem; and regular health checkups. This NGO is working closely with the community, parents, employers and children in raising their awareness about child labour problems, and more specifically the problems of child domestic work. Various get-togethers are organized where children’s developmental needs and the importance of education, health and safety are discussed.

At the regional level

Building alliances at the sub-regional or regional level enables the sharing of experience and information and also the coordination of efforts where cross-border migration is taking place.

In the Mekong Basin countries¾ i.e. Thailand and its neighbouring countries, Cambodia, China and Vietnam¾ and in the South Asian countries of Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, an action programme to stop child trafficking and exploitation for prostitution and other intolerable forms of child labour in Asia is underway. The action programme will be carried out in two phases over 3 years.

A regional conference, The Asia Consultation on Child Domestic Workers, took place in the Philippines (19-23 November 1997). Representatives from NGOs, employers’ and workers’ groups; as well as government agencies attended. Participating countries were the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Cambodia, Laos, India, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. If possible, China and Mongolia will also be invited. The Consultation will be organized by the Visayan Forum and guided by an Asian Advisory Committee composed of representatives from the Visayan Forum, ILO-IPEC and Child Workers in Asia (CWA).

ILO-IPEC is also planning to carry out a two year sub-regional programme on child domestic workers in six Francophone African countries¾ Bénin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Sénégal and Togo.

At the international level

At the international level, ILO-IPEC has supported Anti-Slavery International to develop a manual on child domestic workers which will provide guidance for research and action to organizations who would like to start work in this area.

IPEC also actively participates in international conferences and seminars, such as the Stockholm World Congress on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and the International Seminar on Domestic Workers, organized by World Solidarity in Leuven, Belgium (12-16 April 1997).

In addition to providing technical inputs at these conferences, IPEC actively pursues the establishment of networks with other organizations active in gender-related subject areas. At international conferences where the ILO has a larger role to play¾ such as at the Amsterdam Conference, the OAU Seminar, the Cartegena Conference and the forthcoming Oslo International Conference on Child Labour¾ ILO-IPEC ensures that the gender component is adequately addressed, through information materials and by considering girl children as a priority target group in discussions.

ILO-IPEC plans to carry out an evaluation of its action programmes for child domestic workers and will publish subsequent findings of successful strategies and lessons for action.


A new convention prepared for adoption in 1999 will focus on the most intolerable forms of child labour. As a target group, girls are implicitly included in this definition. However, various national and international NGOs and partner agencies are keen to see the gender component¾ and in particular child domestic work¾ more explicitly covered in the new legal instrument.

To this end, the ILO hosted an NGO roundtable discussion on "Invisible Child Labour: Girls and Domestic Workers", during the 1997 International Labour Conference. The meeting discussed the extent and gravity of the problem of child labour, focussing on the girl child. The objective was to inform and stimulate discussion and exchange views on how NGOs can work with the ILO to eliminate the most intolerable and exploitative forms of child labour.

In the preparations leading to the adoption of the new Convention, ILO-IPEC gives priority to:

[Source: Draft preliminary paper for IPEC's implementation report and comprehensive strategy paper, ILO, 1996.]

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