TIHR has been monitoring of the child labour for several years. Following the adoption of the law "On guarantees of the right of youth to labour" in February 2005 which bans child labour, schoolchildren have been no longer sent to harvest the cotton. Instead, markets have become the main places of children's work.
A new monitoring conducted at the Dashoguz markets at the late February – early March 2008 shows that the number of the working children has dropped.
At the Nygmat market, three children were noticed working. A girl was selling flat cakes while two boys helped traders with goods storing. For comparison: in March 2005, up to 25 children worked in this market and 20 – in September 2006.
At the Bai Bazaar (largest market of Dashoguz) only two children were working. One was selling flat cakes while the other one helped transporting the goods. In March 2005 the number of working children at this market amounted to 93 in this market and in September 2006 – 39.
The decrease in the amount of working children in 2006 as against 2005 occurred due to replacing the children by adult workers. Widespread unemployment forced a lot of adults to get engaged into the "traditionally child occupation" - transporting of goods by carts, selling of cold water when the weather is hot and warm tea in winter.
What is the reason of absence of working children in the markets this year? Perhaps, some work places have been created and their parents managed to find employment, so there is no need for the children to work?
Unfortunately, the things are much more prosaic and are very much in the Turkmen authorities` style. The children were expelled from the markets by the police.
It seems that neither our local nor state authorities know the ways to solve problems which are different from administrative methods. It is always easier to give an order to the police to prevent children from coming to the markets than to create work places for their parents.
I have become a witness of a similar case. After the classes, a 10 year old daughter of my friend decided to stop by the Bai Bazaar where her mother sold dairy products. At the entry to the market a policeman grasped her arm and started explaining her something. A poor girl was so frightened that she was unable to say a word; she burst into tears and ran away. Later I learnt from my friend that this was the way the policeman checked why the girl was going to the market.
It is surprising how these two-three children manage to enter the market avoiding such diligent policemen, and to earn money to support their families.
Those children who are not able to work in the markets have become beggars. Their number is on a rise across the entire country including the capital.
Children gather at the entries to restaurants, large shopping malls and Houses of Happiness (this is how the Wedding Palaces are called now) and beg for cash. Turkmen children hold Orthodox icons begging for money in broken Russian. When they see a Turk, they start begging in Turkish.
There are many children who go from house to house selling brooms or scavenging for empty bottles.
What is better for a child: to beg or to work? It goes without saying that the best option is studying. However, this problem should be solved by the country's authorities by appropriate means and not by means of policemen at the entries to the markets.
Yet, it should be repeated that only few working children have been seen during the monitoring; thus, the Turkmen authorities can make glowing reports on having solved the problem of child labour is Turkmenistan.
Child labour has been nearly eliminated, at least at the large market of the major cities. And begging is not considered a form of labour.