Campaigning to End Child Labor
Today, June 12, human rights groups around the world are observing the World Day Against Child Labor. They hope that by raising awareness of the prevalence and devastating impact of child labor on children and on societies they can begin to make a dent in the problem. Stigmatizing child labor creates the kind of pressure that recently prompted the organizers of the Beijing Olympics to cancel contracts with Chinese companies for using child labor.
The chairperson of the Global March Against Child Labour, Kailash Satyarthi, said in a press release on June 11:
It is unethical to eat delicious food and wear expensive clothes which are produced by half fed, half naked and even enslaved children trapped in agriculture world-wide.
Heavy stuff. The causes of child labor are simple, mainly poverty. Yet eradicating the use of children as laborers is a complex task, involving economic, cultural and other strategies. But as grim as the facts are—for instance, one in every eight children 5 to 17 years old works in the worst forms of child labor—there’s reason for hope. Corporations are increasingly sensitive to their customers finding out they use child labor. Recent surveys show a decline in the global number of child laborers. And there are more organizations and campaigns to advocate for these children and run programs to help them.
One of these programs is run by a social entrepreneur in India previously profiled on PBS who created an innovative model for increasing poor children’s access to education. Groups like UNICEF have long argued that education is “a powerful means of preventing child labour.” Because homeless children are among the most vulnerable to being exploited, Inderjit Khurana set up schools in Bhubhaneshwar, a city in the northeast, on the railway platforms where these children congregate. Khurana founded the Ruchika Social Service Organization in 1985 to bring schools to the children. Watch a short clip of a video narrated by Robert Redford about Khurana’s groundbreaking work with children here.
Or check out a series of photographs of the train platform students here.
Besides learning about child labor, we can each take concrete steps to stop it by removing ourselves from the marketplace for goods produced with child labor. Coop America has created a list of products that are fairly traded, cooperatively produced, or produced in a unionized factory.