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'After the Storm'. Economic Activities among Children and Youth in Return Areas in Post-war Liberia: the Case of Voinjama

Author(s): A. Hatløy M. Boas

This report maps types of formal and informal work which children and youth (in the age group 10-18) are involved in, by comparing children in the area of Voinjama city, the rural Mandingo villages and other rural areas. The analysis also distinguishes between children who live with their own parents and children who live with relatives. The report is based on a quantitative survey (479 children in the age group 10 to 18 years) combined with ethnographic life history and focus group approaches. The research shows that nearly all children experienced internal displacement and cross-border migration as a consequence of the Liberian civil war. Children accompanied by parents or distant kin members had to move from the place where they were born, e.g. 22 percent had to move between four and eight times. Turning to child work, the research demonstrates that children in Voinjama, regardless of age and gender, spend on average two hours a day on economic activities, such as farming and petty trading, as well as another three to four hours on domestic work. The paper argues that these findings contradict the traditional picture of hard-working rural African children, particularly, in the context of a situation of return migration, where child labour is expected to be in demand. Nevertheless, it might suggest that the returning population has not yet been able to establish their activities and therefore demand for child labour remains low.

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