“There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.”
The above quote unfortunately does not hold true for every child on this planet. There are millions of them out there who have never experienced the dawn of life. A life devoid of innocence, callousness, care and a bleak future. When the age is to play with toys and indulge in merry making, these child labourers work in dingy cells to make such toys. When the festival of light approaches every nook and corner of the Indian households, the eyesight of the child labourer dims while working under hazardous conditions of the firework industries.
The International Labour Organization estimates that 246 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 currently work (or about 15% of the world’s children, about 35% of children in Sub-Saharan Africa). Despite its mushrooming wealth, India is believed to have as many as 23 million children up to age of 14 in work; more than any other country. Anti-Slavery International has estimated that one million children are engaged in India’s stone quarries. The World Day Against Child Labour was celebrated on 12 June 2009. The World Day that year marked the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the landmark ILO Convention No. 182, which addresses the need for action to tackle the worst forms of child labour. Whilst celebrating progress made during the past ten years, the World Day highlighted the continuing challenges, with a focus on exploitation of girls in child labour.
Consumers in affluent countries are appalled to think that their clothes or household goods might be the products of child labour. Strong international treaties are in place to outlaw the practice. But deep-set cultural traditions and impoverished economies do not respond readily to moral lectures from afar. Resistant to all but the most comprehensive development strategies, child labour shows no sign of becoming history. The most common cause for child labour is rooted in poverty and illiteracy.
A further class within this description is known as the “unconditional” worst forms of child labour which refers to prostitution, military enrolment, slavery (such as bonded labour), or trafficking (which involves the removal of a child from its home, often involving deception and payment, for a wide range of exploitative purposes). No statistics are available for this “unconditional” category but the numbers are likely to be close to a staggering 10 million.
There is perceived value in the particular skills that children’s dexterity can offer; for example in weaving or in tasks involving crop seeds. The unquestioning naivety of youngsters fits the purpose of child traffickers whose ventures are usually exploiting in nature.
The social malady of child labour can be brought under control, if each individual takes responsibility of reporting about anyone employing a child below the age of fourteen-years. Many people avoid reporting about such incidents in their neighborhood, as they fear the number of times they would have to visit to make statements against the culprits. Or then, people just prefer to turn a blind eye towards such employers, as they do not wish to spoil relations with people.
The fact is that one who is aware of something wrong happening and lets it continue to happen is as responsible for the wrong as the culprit himself/herself. Thus, instead of ignoring on should find out about reporting child labour and how such children can actually be saved.
The writer is a correspondent at Youth Ki Awaaz