Child labour is a pressing issue in and around informal mining communities in the DRC. A study by The Centre for Child Rights and Business (The Centre) and Save the Children found that one out of six children are working, and 44% of these children work in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) to cover school fees for themselves and their siblings, while 72% of working children aged 15-17 in ASM communities work as artisanal miners due to a lack of alternative employment options. These children and youth work in extremely dangerous conditions that are damaging their physical and psychological health, while keeping them and their families trapped in poverty. Child labour is largely driven by economic factors.
DRC accounts for 70% of global cobalt production and an estimated 10-30% of this supply originates from ASM. 150,000-250,000 women and men make a living working at one of 40+ artisanal cobalt mine sites, among them, teenagers and children. Due to the complexity of the supply chain, companies should assume that ASM cobalt feeds into global battery supply chains (OECD, 2019). By engaging and recognising the role of ASM, companies can improve the situation and contribute to positive change for these families and children. By engaging, companies both reduce risk of child labour connected to their supply chains and contribute to an inclusive and fair transition of the mining sector and towards net-zero.
The Hub - For Child Labour Prevention and Remediation
Addressing the need for a sustainable, immediate, yet long-term solution to child labour prevention and remediation, The Centre, with support from the Fair Cobalt Alliance (FCA) established The Hub in 2022. The Hub is set up as an association together with seven local CSOs, to build a strong, local network of child rights practitioners in the Kolwezi area - Alternatives for Action (AFA), Action pour le Développement Régional Intégré (ADERI), Association des Femmes Pour Le Développement Communautaire (AFEDECO), Humanitarian Emergency Rescue Action for People in Need (HERAPIN), Institut Congalaise des Droits Humains (ICDH), Ligue Nationnale Paysanne des Droits de l’Homme(LINAPEDHO) and Maison Kwetu (MK). The Hub’s case managers are trained staff from within these organisations and The Hub’s growing network is designed to remediate cases that need immediate support while supporting long-term preventative mechanisms in collaboration with other NGOs and the government.
How The Hub Breaks the Cycle of Child Labour
To permanently keep a child out of the mines, remediation efforts must address the financial circumstances of the child or their family and commit to providing long-term support. Furthermore, each child is unique. The type of harm caused and needs differ from one case of child labour to the other. That is why The Hub’s case management is a key factor for successful outcomes. The Hub breaks the cycle of child labour by supporting the return of children to education, overseeing their development, and providing financial assistance until the child reaches working age. The Hub gives children and families a path towards a brighter future and ensures they do not return to the mines to work. Preventive activities include support to children of working age (16-18 years) and their families by finding alternative job opportunities outside of mining, and capacity building of schoolteachers to better cater for children at risk.
The Hub’s Programmes
Our programmes meet evolving due diligence expectations in a way that drives direct and positive change for children on the ground, and addresses the risk of child labour along the supply chain.
Child Labour Remediation Programme
Led by The Hub, this programme focuses on building the capacity of local partner organisations to co-develop and manage cases of child labour remediation. This case-management system supports children who have worked in mines and who are in dire situations, enabling their access to primary and secondary education as well as medical and psychological support if needed, until the children turn 16 years old. A monthly living stipend is provided to the family or guardian to support basic needs and protects the child from having to work to support their family or themselves from a too early age. Each child has a dedicated case manager who conduct regular follow-ups and engage with the child, family and teachers to ensure the best possible outcome for the child.
Emergency & Education Fund
To provide the best protection for children, The Hub maintains an Emergency Fund to provide additional medical, psychological or other support to the children in the remediation programme, who need interventions that go beyond the standard remediation programme.
The Education Fund supports children and youth who fall outside the scope of the remediation programme but who are at risk of becoming child labourers in mining communities, by funding school fees to enable their participation in primary, secondary or higher education or vocational training. Children who have reached the legal working age (i.e. 16), but who wish to continue to higher education can also receive stipends for their daily expenses, to enable them to focus fully on their studies.
Youth Development Programme
Understanding that children, 16-18 years, in mining communities are most likely to seek employment inside the mines, this programme connects out-of-school youth looking for non-hazardous work and training opportunities with companies wishing to cultivate a motivated, young workforce by providing working-age children with a decent and safe workplace. The participating company will receive training and guidance to set up an apprenticeship management system that is safe and supportive for underage workers; while the youth will receive technical skills training and soft skills training, such as literacy, communication, information on gender-based violence and adolescent health.
School Support & After-School Centres
The Hub School Support targets principals and teachers and trains them on how they can adapt curriculum and teaching methodologies to adapt to the special needs of children in our remediation programme (who have been out of school) or who are at risk of dropping out of school. The After-School Centres offer a range of recreational and learning activities, such as homework support. This keeps children engaged outside of school hours and improves their success rate in school. These programmes are run in collaboration with experts in childcare protection and support.
How you can get Involved
Companies, foundations, governments, and other actors can support one, several or all of The Hub’s Programmes.
Contract The Hub directly linked to your specific needs or become a member of FCA, contributing to the programmes via a membership fee
Donate to a specific programme (e.g. Education and Emergency Fund)
Offer apprenticeship opportunities to young workers in your company or your business partner’s organisation
Make an in-kind contribution
The Hub Outcomes to Date
Interested in The Hub’s work in the African region? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org