Crossfire: ‘MFIs are a good mechanism to address issues of children's work (child labour) and contribute positively to the well-being of children’
In our regular debate between experts, Crossfire invites Richard Carothers and Richard Rinehart to debate the following with Eric Edmonds: ‘MFIs are a good mechanism to address issues of children's work (child labour) and contribute positively to the well-being of children’.
Microfinance programmes can help low-income and poor families improve their earnings and begin the process of moving out of poverty, but young children often join the workforce of these microenterprises as credit becomes available. Experiences gained from Egypt and several other countries have shown that children from as young as six years of age can play an important role in helping their families meet the initial increase in labour demands of their growing business. This paper points out that microfinance institutions are well-placed to support working children within their client businesses and help these children improve their lives both within and outside of their work. By drawing on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, microfinance practitioners in Egypt were able to improve children’s working conditions and learning opportunities through a series of nine intervention tools that could be integrated into standard microfinance programmes. The paper describes the tools and explains how they were developed and implemented in collaboration with working children themselves, their families, and business owners. The paper also describes some of the opportunities and challenges that would face those intending to replicate this type of programming from the perspective of both microfinance institutions and children’s rights/child protection agencies.