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A 14-Year-Old Mulls “The Price of Freedom” and Decides to Engage in the Battle to End Child Labor

By Nikeeta Singh

Nikeeta Singh is a 14-year-old student in New Delhi, India.

 

It is said that childhood is the best gift given to us by God. Everything is different when you’re a child: the trees are higher, the colours are more vivid than ever, and every new day is a new opportunity.

However, childhood is not the same for all. For some it is waking up at six in the morning and working till the sun sets; it is staying away from your parents to earn minimum wages; it is working in inhumane environments in hopes of a brighter future. This is the reality of child labour.

Nikeeta Singh

Child labour is experienced by every one in ten children around the globe. At the age when children should worry about their marks they are worrying about their health and economic status. But how can we blame these innocent angels? Uneducated parents are one of the major sources that contribute to child labour. It is the children of poor and marginalized communities who are often trafficked and forced into labour. Parents of these children are either betrayed or lured into schemes due to their lack of awareness and poor socio-economic conditions, forcing them to send or sell their children for better livelihood options. Traffickers promise daily wages to parents of young children and transport them to big cities where they are often treated as commodities. Families in dire financial conditions are can be approached by traffickers with an offer to buy their children, and with no other escape from their pitiful conditions, parents comply.

One of the major effects of child labour on children is losing access to education. Every day, some 218 million children around the world go to work instead of school—152 million are trapped in child labour (work which harms their development). Education is the route out of poverty for many children. It gives them a chance to gain the knowledge and skills needed to improve their lives; however, many a times their education is treated as a luxury, not a necessity.

In India, there is a great need for convergence and implementation of comprehensive child protection mechanisms. Indian children are exposed to multiple vulnerabilities. With thousands of children still working in brick kilns, construction sites, and agricultural land, trafficking for the sake of forced child labour is widely prevalent. Apart from this, horrific stories emerge daily of girls as young as 9 years old being forced into the sex trade. Apart from this, children are also sold by their parents to work in factories and industries in toxic environments that are highly dangerous.

“If a child is denied education and forced to work instead, violence has been inflicted,” noted Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi. “If a child and its parents are denied opportunities for a promising tomorrow, violence has been inflicted. If a child reels under poverty, violence has been inflicted. If obstacles are laid in the path of a child, inhibiting her progress and development, violence has been inflicted.”

As evil of a sin child labour is, there have been many improvements. Organisations such as Child Rights and You (CRY), CHILDLINE India Foundation, Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation, the International Labour Organisation and numerous others have taken up the initiative to ensure that every child in the world is free, safe, healthy, receives quality education, and has the opportunity to realise their potential.

Today, as we speak 100 million children have fallen prey to child labour. The current COVID-19 pandemic can potentially increase the number and further aggravate the problem in regions where child labour has been more resistant to policy and programme measures. The level of global economic integration and the current crisis are likely to have a large and possibly lasting worldwide adverse socio-economic and financial impact.

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Statement by Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi on the passage of India’s Child Labour Amendment Bill of 2016

The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2016 is a missed opportunity.

I was hoping that today the elected leaders of our country will acknowledge that the value of freedom and childhood is greater than the value of a vote; that they would respond to the voices of the most exploited and vulnerable children. I had hoped that the first phase of my struggle of thirty-six years would culminate in the creation of a strong law and I would work with the Government for its effective implementation.

Despite its progressive elements, the lacunae in this Bill are self-defeating.

The definition of family and family enterprises is flawed. This Bill uses Indian family values to justify economic exploitation of children. It is misleading the society by blurring the lines between learning in a family and working in a family enterprise.

The Bill reinforces status quo in society by hindering socio-economic mobility of the marginalised and furthers the rigid norms of social hierarchy.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals have fixed targets for elimination of child labour and accomplishment of universal, inclusive education for children, rights which I had fought and advocated for.  As the world progresses towards this goal, India threatens to unravel the pace of progress by opening a back door for large number of children to enter workforce.

Children of any age, under the garb of family enterprises, can now legally work in brick kilns, slaughter houses, beedi making, glass furnaces and other hazardous labour.  Children have been failed again.… Read the rest

Child Labor Advocate Kailash Satyarthi on the Recent Landmark Indian Supreme Court Decision on Trafficking

With great pleasure, I share my joy and accomplishment with you. As I write to you, I am holding a copy of the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court of India that will have far reaching impact on the lives of millions of children. This historic judicial verdict was delivered on 10th May 2013 in response to a petition filed by my Indian organization Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) which is the key partner of Global March Against Child Labor.

It is indeed a watershed moment not only in BBA’s three decade fight in restoring childhood but has also brought a fresh lease of hope for hundreds of thousands of missing children and their hapless parents, whose cries remained unheard due to the absence of legal protection and apathy of the enforcement machinery. Our argument that children do not disappear in thin air but go missing because of an organized nexus of traffickers and mafias has been finally upheld by the highest court of the land.

BBA's Kailash Satyarthi and Child Labor Coalition Co-Chair Sally Greenberg at last summer's international child labor confernce in Washington, D.C., organized by the Global March Against Child Labor.

India has a dubious distinction with one child going missing every ten minutes as per government records. Although the government admits that complaints for 90,654 missing children were received in 2011 but it was only 15,284 First Information Reports (FIRs) that were eventually registered by the police to investigate various crimes these children were victims of. This also was possible only because the parents had expressed their suspicion on someone.

The Supreme Court in its much awaited decision has ruled in for compulsory registration of all cases by police of missing children with the presumption that they are victims of kidnapping and trafficking; preparation of standard operation procedures in all Indian states to deal with such cases; appointment and training of Special Child Welfare Officers at every police station to deal with cases related to missing children; records related to all missing and traced children to be maintained by Ministry of Home Affairs and Police; and provisions for para-legal workers to be present at every Police station to assist the parents whose child maybe the victim of a crime.

The Honorable Court has finally defined missing children as “a person below eighteen years of age, whose whereabouts are not known to the parents, legal guardians and any other person, who may be legally entrusted with the custody of the child, whatever may be the circumstances/causes of disappearance. The child will be considered missing and in need of care and protection within the meaning of the later part of the Juvenile Act, until located and/or his/her safety/well being is established.”

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The Real Cost of Cheap Goods is High: The Scary Truth Behind Some Christmas Ornaments

With the holidays upon us, many American look forward to trimming their Christmas tree and spending time with their loved ones, especially their children. For many kids, Christmas invokes the happiest of memories, but not all kids are so lucky.

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is now the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, noted earlier this month that many children in India are virtually enslaved in sweatshops that manufacture Christmas ornaments. Check out what Brown had to say in this video and learn about the “nightmare” suffered by Indian children who make ornaments for consumers in the U.S. and other countries in the Western hemisphere.

In the video, Brown talks about a rescue raid by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) which freed 14 of the child laborers—some as young as eight—from a sweatshop in Delhi. BBA, like the Child Labor Coalition is a member of the Global March Against Child Labor, an international umbrella group that works to reduce the worst forms of child labor.

“Children are being asked to work 17, 18, 19 hours a day,” said Brown. “They are being asked to work in unsanitary conditions. They are being asked to work without sunlight. Some of them are lacerated because they are working with glass. We found these children in this basement, they were not being paid, they had been trafficked…” Several children had been beaten by their crew leaders. The rescuers actually found 12 of the children imprisoned in a locked 6-foot  by 6-foot cell

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