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Working children and youth associations in Burkina Faso as spaces for the expression of the child’s capacity for action?

Joséphine Wouango

Since the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, taking into account the children’s point of view on decisions that affect them (article 12 of the Convention) has become increasingly popular. In this context child and youth movements have appeared in Asia, in Latin America and in Africa, seeking to be heard regarding the fight against child labour.
The working children and youth associations in Burkina Faso (AEJT/BF) that are studied in this article are a national representation of the African working children and youths movement (MAEJT) that was created at the end of the 1980s. The movement is based on two core principles: on the one hand the 12 primary rights of the children and young labourers and on the other hand the concept of “protagonism” (the child labourer as a capable stakeholder, rather than the child labourer as a “victim” of exploitation such as appears in international norms).
This article describes and analyses the workings of this movement in Burkina Faso, the manners in which it has reframed social issues concerning child labour and the results of the application of its guidelines. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, this paper offers original data on the realities of a collective player that has used the rhetoric of “participation” of the Convention on the rights of the child to its advantage, and has thus succeeded in entering the national debate on child protection. However, the Burkinabe section of the movement must still deal with questions such as those regarding the place and role of the children as well as that of the “aging” of their members.