As preachy as this is going to sound, it is something that is horrifying and soul stirring. It is a hidden disease. I know that there are Doctors, Engineers, Journalists, Lawyers, Activists, Students, Mothers reading blogs. My only hope is that someone who read this blog spreads the word and help me make a difference. It is a cause. My only request,don’t be indifferent. It requires every one of us to change the world, one child at a time.
I saw a movie today in school. A movie about how 246 million children around the world from Indonesia to the United States of America sit at the bottom of the poverty line forced to fish, farm, cook, clean, make rugs, pluck tobacco, make bricks, harvest coffee and cacao and often sell themselves all for less than a dollar a day to feed themselves and their debtors. “Stolen Childhoods” is a documentary shot in Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Kenya, Brazil, Mexico and US of A. It is a story of how around the world the needy consumer increasingly and often unknowingly feeds the child labour industry. Unlike other documentaries, this one had some solutions to offer too. That is what made the difference between being unaffected and passionate for me. The subtle message that by taking not of a few things, I can make sure another child is not beaten to death, or tied to a handmade carpet loom, or prevented from running away by cutting the soles of his feet and putting pepper in them.
It is a soul stirring moment. The little girl in the granite quarry in India who wants to have a education, who sees other girls marchng off to school wearing the matching uniforms and learning things, the fisher-boy in Indonesia who had to kill his captor to escape from an island and swim for two days and face manslaughter charges or be killed by his captor’s avengers all when he is 15 yrs. The children in Kenya who have lost their parents to AIDS and are working off debts by plucking coffee seeds amidst gruelling conditions, or the 11 year old in Brazil who is well developed to be sold off for prostitution. The native Indians in Mexico who work in the tobacco plantations living under trees, drinking water and breathing the air filled with pesticides that are banned everywhere else in the world because of their toxicity, their children as young as 5 and 6 dying of cancer, the immigrants in Texas hand farming onions and potatoes for under $2 a day and often dropping out. These are stark images, children whose live could have been instead of will never be. It is hard to sit there and watch the 13 year old putting in extra hours to let her 8 yr old sister go to school. It is hard to see her avert her eyes from the camera when asked if she would like to go to school.
The difference in the movie came not from these stories, but from the people who are working to put an end to this. Bal Ashram in India is one such organization giving an education and working sincerely to stop child labour and child abuse. Bolsa Escola is one of the largest scholarship programs in the world paying a stipend to families to send children to school in Brazil. Kenyan communities have gotten together to send children to school. While coffee prices around the world have increased, the income that the people earn have not. Companies make about 4000 times more money than they have been making and less than 1% reaches the labourers and even less than that the children. Fair trade coffee is one way of ensuring that eh proper amount gets to the right people and ultimately the children are in school where they ought to be. Starbucks sells Fairtrade coffee, but it is about 10% of their sales.
WHAT CAN THE CONSUMER DO
Look for the Rugmark symbol when buying carpets and rugs
Buy organic and local. It is expensive, I haven’t been buying organic or local, but I want to now. I realize I can send atleast one child to school if and when I do that.
Buy fairtrade. Demand Fairtrade when you buy coffee from Starbucks. By law they can’t refuse. Even if they have to open a packet, grind and give, they are supposed to…every shop has to.
Make people aware of the issues. the more the people become aware, the more easier it is to take steps.
Be aware. A little boy selling tea in the office, or the maid’s daughter or son coming o clean the house are things we can avoid and prevent. It is probably a very small thing, but it still feeds the monster.Stop it and you can ask others to stop.
India had a Shiksa Yatra, Native Indians are demanding the Phillip Morrises of the world listen to them, a movement demands that US one of the two countries along with Somalia ratify the Child rights treaty. There are STOP CHILD LABOR movements around the world. Be a part of it.