'Working' children supporting the family

Fatima is 14 years old. She lives in Fushë Kosovë and belongs to the Roma community. He finished the fifth grade and then did not continue his education. Although still a child, she works seven days a week, spending up to 15 hours a day at the intersections of the roads, cleaning the windows of cars.

She says that she sends the money she earns home, where she lives with her eight-member family. Since he is the eldest child in the family, he says that he is obliged to work. Despite her age, Fatimja feels herself an adult and not a child.

"I am not a child. I am 14 years old. I work and earn up to 10 euros a day. The job I do is to clean the windows of vehicles. All the money I earn I send home. We are six children. Only my father and I work. The father collects glass bottles and cans which he sells. We live with the money we earn," says Fatima.

There are quite a lot of children like Fatima who are forced to interrupt their studies and engage in work. Meanwhile, in the Roma community, this phenomenon is more pronounced.

Non-governmental organizations dealing with the protection of children's rights in Kosovo consider that the current state of respect for children's rights is below the desired level.

In the Coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations for the Protection of Children (KOMF) they say that it is the last official data of the Statistics Agency of Kosovo which show an unsatisfactory state of children's rights in general in Kosovo.

According to the data they have, over 10 percent of children in Kosovo are involved in hard work, while nearly 7 percent work in dangerous conditions. This is what Klevis Vaqari from KOMF told Radio Free Europe. According to her, in the index that talks about child protection, which they published during this year, it is evident that the Government has done the least for this category.

If an assessment or scoring is made from 0 to 1, which represent the minimum and the maximum, the efforts of the Government of Kosovo to protect these children, said Vaqari, is 0.1 percent.

"The categories of children who work on the street are the most vulnerable. Not only are they abused and may be victims of trafficking, but they pose a potential risk for various forms of abuse. They are neglected children. We can see them in the late hours of the night, in the cold, as well as in high temperatures during the summer where they face a constant risk, both for their physical and mental health. They can also be prey or potential victims of psychological, physical, but also sexual abuse", says Vaqari.

"Very little has been done for these children, and very little continues to be done. Every institutional service is missing to make their immediate withdrawal from the street", she emphasized.

On the other hand, Lule Beka from the Organization for Children without Parental Care OFAP, which protects children without parental care who are mistreated and abused, says that their mission is to identify children without parental care who do hard work and shelter in families.

Meanwhile, for the category of children who live with their parents but are forced to work, she says that the OFAP organization does not deal with them, as it is not foreseen in the program.

"We deal with the protection of children's rights. Children identified without care have already been placed in foster families. Our psycho-social team, which consists of people from the appropriate fields, works with children. "Currently, there are 42 families that already have children without care," says Beka.

"Now the children who are in family shelter are not allowed to work, they have a normal life. When help is requested for the children, we send psychologists, pedagogues and others depending on the needs of the children", underlined Beka.

However, Kosovo continues to have no law for the protection of children's rights. Government officials have already several times declared the draft law for the protection of children, from the professional point of view it has been completed and all procedures have been carried out in the institutional aspect, but it is expected to be approved by the Government of Kosovo.