Dissertation Abstracts

Public Action in the Fight Against Child Labour in Burkina Faso: Policies, Actors, Dynamics of Action, and Controversies

Author: Wouango, Joséphine , josephine.wouango@ulg.ac.be
Department: Institut des sciences humaines et sociales
University: Université de Liège (Belgium) , Belgium
Supervisor: Marc Poncelet
Year of completion: 2012
Language of dissertation: French

Keywords: Child labour , Public action , Child protection pol
Areas of Research: Childhood , Institutional Ethnography , Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy


Since the early 1990s, the interest of the international community to combat child labour (in the Global South) is accompanied by an unprecedented attention to protect children and ensure them the full enjoyment of their rights. The international law instruments with respect to children (among others, the Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 and the ILO Convention No 182 of 1999) have stimulated renewed interest in combating child labour. The way in which this new objective, both political and social, is transposed, reclaimed and implemented in Burkina Faso (a West African country) is the focus of this thesis.

Using the framework of human rights laws translation and socialisation, a public policy analysis perspective combined with a socio-anthropological point of view and childhood studies, the thesis analyses public policy in a resource-poor country that relies on external resources, not only financially but also in normative matters, for instance for its social policies. The data of this ‘essay from the field’ originate from four phases of fieldwork carried out in Burkina between 2008 and 2011 dealing with policies and actions to combat child labour. The fieldwork consisted of textual analysis (of legal texts, government archives, literature and case studies, statistics, press) and above all, a qualitative survey (interviews and direct observation) with child labourers, their parents, public and private actors.

The fight against child labour is at first analysed in a socio-historical perspective. Then, the public action and the implementation of contemporary public policies on child labour are analysed. Finally, the public and concrete forms of protection of child labourers are analysed in order to examine the possible ways of dialogue and interaction between public and private strategies. Monographs of projects aiming to withdraw children form the hazardous forms of work allow a better understanding of the reality and the complexity of child labour in the country. The overall inquiry brings a fresh perspective, focusing on the political construction of the abolitionist policy, the role and place of governmental and associative actors, and the controversies and dynamics in Burkina Faso.

The lessons learned from this research are based on its empirical dimension and its specific subject. This subject is not child labour as such but the construction of public policies and its implementation in a country which remains overwhelmingly rural and heavily dependent on international aid. One can observe that beyond the dominant omnipresence of the State in the “governance” mechanisms of child protection in Burkina Faso, different social actors are present in the production of the abolitionist policy. Finally, this work is unique in its treatment of policies and practices relating to the fight against child labour in the country.