About CLW

Today there are an estimated 265 million children who work, including 168 million who are engaged in harmful work – work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and interferes with their education. Economic exploitation and hazardous work are key violations of children’s rights and Save the Children has worked for decades to protect children from these situations. To address the issue of children and work we use a holistic, child-centred approach that focuses on child protection, economic strengthening, health and education and to create opportunities for girls and boys to become healthy, educated, and empowered citizens.

Children Lead the Way (CLW) (2011-2016) aimed to secure the equal rights of girls and boys to protection, education, survival and health in Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Nicaragua and Peru.  The program promotes the protection of the rights of girls and boys, with a main focus on children and adolescents who work. We aim to ensure that children and adolescents who work in the five countries have access to quality education, learn skills that will improve their futures, and are protected from exploitation. We are also ensuring that their voices are heard in decisions and debates that affect them at the local, national and international levels. We reached 28,182 working children – 13,551 girls and 14,631 boys, as well as 11,461 girls and 7,774 boys through health interventions in Kenya and Burkina Faso – a total of 47,380 children. 

Together with over thirty grassroots organizations across the five participating countries, we have worked towards the goal of empowering working children to become engaged citizens and to access decent work. Some highlights of our achievements include:

  • 14,835 working children (7,326 girls and 7,508 boys) access quality and relevant school at the primary and secondary levels. Of these 73.2% of girls and 77% of boys went on to access further education, including secondary, technical vocational or tertiary education.
  • A total of 5,617 working children underwent technical and vocational training, through formal and non-formal TVET centres, and through participation in apprenticeships – 2,972 girls and 2,645 boys.
  • Over 14,000 working children were trained in life skills, including leadership, self-esteem, child rights, advocacy, gender equality and financial literacy – 6,830 girls and 7,172 boys. Of children trained, 90% reported they are applying life skills at school and are speaking more in class; 88% of boys and 85% of girls attest to using their life skills at home and are not afraid to talk to their parents; and 73% of girls and 76% boys are applying these skills at work and are more careful about their personal health and safety.
  • Teachers were trained across the five countries in child friendly teaching, issues facing children who work, child rights, and life skills – totaling 1,270 women and 917 men.
  • 89 organizations and groups of working girls and boys were established or strengthened, with 88.5% of them found to be taking tangible actions, such as meeting with decision makers, attending public forums and participating in municipal budgeting and agenda setting.
  • 12 policies that protect the rights of working children were approved and implemented, and over 40 government entities at the municipal, regional, provincial and national levels are addressing the issue of working children.


Because of the high levels of poverty and inequality in Bolivia, Over 800,000 children (approximately 10% of Bolivia’s total population) are working in Bolivia. Children and youth most frequently work in informal sectors, usually alongside their families as extra-sources of cheap manual labour. The poverty they face and the lack of resources often force them to quit school. A significant number of children work in sectors considered to be high risk and consequently the work is hazardous to their health and development, such as commercial agriculture (sugarcane and cotton harvesting and Brazil nut collection), as well as mining.


Creating a positive and relevant learning environment that includes teaching in native languages, introducing student governments, and applying productive education training, eight program partners across Bolivia (Qhara Qhata Suyu, JAKISA, TEKO, CCCh, K’anchay, Chasqui, TIM & TIMI) have encouraged the retention of children in school, leading to an increase in school completion rates for both primary and secondary school children.


The program has benefited 7,617 children (4,134 boys, 3,483 girls) between the ages of 6 and 18, and 1,000 teachers in 70 educational communities. Its main themes were harmful child work and Intra–and-Inter-Cultural and Plurilingual Education (IIPE). The implementation strategy was based on partnerships established with indigenous organizations and organizations of child and adolescent workers. The program supported working children, promoting access to quality education and skills to improve employability. To achieve this, it supported the development of productive skills in schools and worked directly to strengthen the efforts of the child workers’ organization – the Bolivian Union of Child and Adolescent Workers (UNATsBO), on issues of participation, organization and rights advocacy.

  • 96.8% of children who attended primary school in the program intervention areas successfully completed primary school over the five year program (96.6% of boys; 98.6% of girls), totalling 4,069 children (2,080 boys, 1,989 girls). This completion rate is a significant achievement when compared to the baseline, when 76.4% of boys and 78.2% of girls were determined to have completed primary school. The program target (90%) for both girls and boys was exceeded.
  • Ninety-seven percent (97.2%) of children who attended secondary school successfully completed their studies. In total 1,100 out of 1,132 students completed secondary school in the intervention areas (559 boys, 541 girls). This completion rate is significantly above the baseline (55.6% of boys; 57.1% of girls) and above the target (90%) for both girls and boys.
  • One of the most important results from the program is the consolidated implementation of sixteen productive education projects. These projects are based and supported by the new educational law (070), have a functioning system and are supported by approved curricula. The implementation of these projects has improved learning in most academic subjects, and has had an impact on school permanence.
  • Another important result has been the support and understanding created in rural areas of the country to the topic of working children and dignified work. Where before the rural population (parents, authorities and the children themselves) did not consider this topic as relating to their lives, they now have appropriated the concept and defend its importance. An indication of this change of heart is the fact that four of the rural, indigenous partners have supported the creation and functioning of working children organizations.
  • Indigenous partners report that children participating in the program are much more outgoing, extroverted, motivated, communicative, dynamic, and active than before. This difference is even more outspoken when considering the girls, who now have a more leadership role in their classes and communities.
  • The strengthening and support by the program to the UNATsBO has led to their active involvement with the design of the new Children’s Code. Important changes were made to various articles of this code book, due to the insistence and advocacy capacities of the leaders of the movement. Another result of the program’s implementation is the fact that the movement has now incorporated the voice of rural children into their functioning.

Bolivia CLW video


In Burkina Faso children work doing a variety of jobs although the greatest percentage (70%) of children do some form of agricultural work either for pay or to help their families. Twenty-five percent of children work in the service sector, including working as domestic help. Artisanal activities such as welding, metal fitting, and construction make up the work experience of only 5 percent of children. Work is still very much defined by gender for children and most artisanal or skilled work remains the prerogative of boys while girls generally find themselves in domestic services, retail vendors or mobile fruit and vegetable sellers.


Giving children and adolescents access to educational opportunities, including primary and secondary school, vocational training and apprenticeships; and creating positive learning environments were designed by the six partners – AEJTB, ABAMAQEBA, COBUFADE, MUNYI, TIE and SALAKI – to get children into learning environments and ensure that they successfully completed their education or training. Save the Children also partners with the Ministry of Labour to build their capacity to protect the rights of children involved in harmful forms of work.


Through these strategies the program benefited a total of 1,053 children (510 boys, 543 girls) in education interventions that included the provision of school kits and fees, access to vocational and apprenticeship training opportunities, and life skills and gender training; and Working Children’s Organizations that included child rights and life skills training and advocacy-related activities. The program also benefitted a total of 10,358 children (3,336 boys, 7,022 girls) under the Exclusive Breastfeeding component through in-school training and awareness raising on the benefits and proper practices of exclusive breastfeeding.

The program has achieved the following high-level results:

  • Over 200 adolescents were supported in alternative educational opportunities; 112 adolescents (30 boys, 82 girls) accessed vocational training opportunities; and 96 adolescents (46 boys, 50 girls) in accessing apprenticeship placements. Additionally 35 children (all boys) accessed non-formal education through non-formal education centres
  • Forty youth have set up their own businesses after participating in the program.
  • Ten schools covered under the All for One, One for All approach show a pass and achievement rate in schools of nearly 100% and an interest in the approach from surrounding schools is noted. This covers a total of 6,216 students attending the 10 schools, including 3,189 girls and 3,027 boys.
  • 144 teachers (59 women and 85 men) from all 10 target schools were trained in child friendly approaches and improved pedagogical practices.
  • To date 34 Working Children’s Organizations have been established as well as 47 grassroots groups from the intervention areas of CN/AEJTB. In total 81 children’s organisations have been supported, that bring together 1,555 children and youth including 945 boys and 610 girls.

Learn about Burkina Faso’s All for One, One for All education approach


In Kenya, children as young as five years old can be found working in agriculture, on cash crops such as coffee, tea, khat, and produce farms. They can also be found working in quarries, crushing rock. The commercial, subsistence agriculture and fishing sectors employ the largest number of working children (57.6%). Children also work in construction, retail and trading as well as the manufacturing and mining sectors.


Working in Kenya by Save the Children and its five partners – AfCiC, K-NOTE, Laare Catholic Waumini SACCO, KAACR and Kangaroo Actors 2000 – has focused on increasing access to educational opportunities for working children that has included access to primary and secondary school and vocational apprenticeship placements; with the objective of nurturing productive adults who can fulfill their dreams and aspirations.


The program reached a total of 21,879 children (10,977 boys, 10,902 girls) over the five years. Over 13,000 children (6,680 boys, 6,359 girls) were reached through education interventions that included the provision of school kits and fees, access to vocational and apprenticeship training opportunities, and life skills and gender training; and Working Children’s Groups that included child rights and life skills training and advocacy-related activities. While over 8,880 children were reached through HIV & AIDS interventions that included education interventions, health services, and livelihood grants. The program also reached a total of 11,465 adults (5,284 men, 6,181 women) with various training opportunities, awareness-raising activities, and livelihood grant disbursements, with participants including parents, teachers, employers, and government officials.

Program highlights in Kenya include:

  • 1,224 children (576 girls and 648 boys) accessed primary and secondary education and moved from one grade to the next;
  • 299 children (151 girls and 148 boys) accessed decent work through vocational and apprenticeship training;
  • 1,063 children (522 girls and 541 boys) attest to a greater understanding of life skills and are applying them;
  • 319 Teachers (173 Female and 146 Male) were trained on child protection, rights, and life skills;
  • 29 Child Rights Clubs established and members participated in decisions that affects children in school;
  • 450 households provided with livelihood grants – formed into socio-economic groups registered by the Ministry of Labour Security and Social Services (MOLSSS);
  • Formation of 25 Working Children Organization – 4 registered with the MOLSSS;
  • 17 operational Area Advisory Committees and 4 District Child Labour Committees strengthened – one in each region;
  • 6 operational Children Desks in police stations were established and trained in gender and child rights.

Videos on CLW in Kenya


In the regions where this project is being implemented the majority of children have paid or unpaid work, primarily in the coffee plantation industry. Boys are more likely to work outside the home since the domestic work, like caring for their brothers and sisters, is almost exclusively assigned to girls. Strong gender stereotyping particularly limits a girl’s opportunities, especially in education. Working in the home with no potential career back up means girls are more vulnerable to extreme poverty, early marriage and pregnancy. Agricultural work, including working in coffee plantations, exposes children of both genders to work related dangers like pesticides, snakebites, accidents and excessive workloads.


Working with CESESMA and La Cuculmeca, two community-based partners, Save the Children has broadened the scope of educational opportunities available to rural children, encouraging them to remain in school, and complementing the formal educational curriculum with on-formal learning, vocational and technical training, and life skills and gender training. Partnering with the Ministry of Labour (MITRAB) and the Ministry of Health (SILAIS), the program also ensures protection, health and safety to rural children in this coffee-growing region.


A total of 2,524 working children (1,265 girls and 1,259 boys) participated in the program, along with 936 adults (550 women and 386 men), including mothers, fathers, teachers, and workers and officials of the health, education and labour ministries. The main strategies implemented in the project have been:

  • The promotion of formal education (working children’s school access, attendance and promotion through linkage with municipal initiatives such as the Harvest Plan, Educational Bridges and Reading for Pleasure) and of non-formal education through rural technical or vocational training to increase adolescents opportunities to move into dignified employment or develop their entrepreneurial actions.
  • Promotion of the participation and leadership of working children in schools and communities based on their interests. Empowerment and leadership through education on rights with an emphasis on the prevention of gender violence, sexual and reproductive rights and the highlighting of life experiences.
  • Promotion of the comprehensive protection of working children in coordination with government bodies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

After 5 years of implementation, the main results of the CLW program in Nicaragua are the following:

  • 2,193 children are currently in school; 957 of those are also participating in vocational or technical training opportunities
  • The primary school completion rate increased from 40% at the start of the program to 73% in 2015
  • Successful completion of vocational and/or technical training increased form 4% at the start of the program to 40% by 2015
  • At the start of the program 183 boys and girls were not in school; by the end 96.7% of them were in school

Nicaragua videos on children & work in coffee harvest, and agricultural training for teens.


In Peru, children start farming and caring for smaller animals at a young age. Girls are also responsible for domestic tasks and taking care of their younger siblings.

In the areas where the program is being implemented the families often have up to 5 children in the household, and access to education for all is a challenge. In the communities where we are working there are elementary schools, but children must travel to larger cities to go to high school or vocational training. Our program addresses the needs of all children in the area including those who are not in school.


Working with partners IRW, MANTHOC and CODEHICA – one of the program objectives in Peru is to create enabling environments where working children’s voices can be heard, so that they have greater influence in programs and policies that affect them. This is done by building their self-esteem, leadership, organization and communication skills. We also advocate with local government and community leaders to listen to the opinions of working children and include them in decision making processes, such as setting the municipal budget.


A total of 3,370 children (1,612 girls and 1,758 boys) participated in the program. This was achieved by implementing in-school interventions that secured their access to quality education, the development and implementation of productive education, life skills training with a focus on promoting leadership, gender equality, child rights and participation; community centre activities that included after school tutoring and productive education; and Working Children’s Organizations that included child rights and life skills training and advocacy-related activities. The program also reached a total of 2,289 adults (697 men, 1,592 women) through various training opportunities and awareness-raising activities.

Highlights of the results of the program after five years of implementation are as follows:

  • In the area of education and working children, improving access to quality education and retention in school was accomplished by after-school academic tutoring, relevant productive education, strengthening the pedagogical skills of teachers and developing life skills programs with students and teachers. The after school tutoring provided academic support to children in order to make learning easier and improve their academic performance. By achieving this, children lowered their risk of failing the year. In addition, productive education was a tool for children to improve their grades and achievement, which proved to be a successful learning strategy. Students also improved their personal skills, particularly their communication skills, their levels of participation and their self-confidence. Boys and girls also developed entrepreneurial skills, with some implementing the knowledge they acquired in starting their own businesses. This was also achieved by developing a life skills program which included an important gender equality component. Teachers received training in life skills, gender equality, entrepreneurship, and environmental care, strengthening their pedagogical skills and empowering them to implement changes within the school environment.
  • In relation to child rights, activities were oriented towards boys and girls acquiring greater knowledge about their rights, developing and strengthening their leadership and participation abilities, exercising their right to play and reflecting on the importance of gender equality. By supporting and strengthening the working children’s organized groups, boys and girls were engaged with local and regional decision-making processes and became the voice within their communities. In Ayacucho, for instance, the first Consultative Council for Children and Adolescents – CCONNA – was established. Another strategy that enabled the objectives to be achieved was training boys and girls in communications and media which provided them the tools to effectively engage with the general public on issues that affected them.
  • In strengthening advocacy and protection systems, local and regional governments demonstrated and still demonstrate commitment to the issue of working children and participation. The results show that child participation has been recognized. For example with the establishment of the CCONNAs in Ayacucho and Ica, even outside the targeted areas; by allowing children to successfully participate in the Participatory Budget (Cusco and Ica); or with the commitment to strengthening protection systems shown through the establishment of the Municipal Defense for Children and Adolescents – DEMUNA – in Cusco and Ayacucho. In Ica, the Procedural Steps in cases of exploitation and harmful work were developed with children’s support. All of these were achieved because of the important work of SCiP, the partners and especially children. In Cusco, for instance, there was a collaborative relationship with the local Municipality and they even co-managed the centres opened for children.

Video: Five years of CLW in Peru

 See our videos, resources and reports for more information!

goc_logo_enChildren Lead the Way was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada (GAC)

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