Honoring the Child
This week the UN drew attention to child labor issue through World Day Against Child Labor. Each year on 12 June, the World Day brings together governments, employers and workers organizations, civil society, as well as millions of people from around the world to highlight the plight of child labourers and what can be done to help them (Source: www.un.org). According to the International Labor Organization (a UN agency) 215 million children around the world are trapped in child labour. How does child labor relate to trafficking and slavery? And when is child labor not the same as slavery? 74 million boys and 41 million girls are victims of the ‘worst forms of child labor’. These include slavery, prostitution and pornography, armed conflict, and dangerous work such as untangling fishing nets, brick kilns, mining, quarrying, etc.
Children and teens in Made By Survivors programs have been involved in every one of these industries. The minimum age for full time employment, according to the UN convention, should be 15 years old. Children who work voluntarily over the age of 15 and younger children who work part time while attending school and live with their parents, or those who work on family farms or businesses may be child laborers, but they are not trafficking victims. However, there is a strong link between child labor and slavery: Child labor is often a transitional step on the way to slavery as in Sonia’s case, and many other girls in our programs. Working children who do not get an education grow up to be desperately poor adults, whose own children are then vulnerable to child labor and trafficking. We do not have to accept the worst forms of child labor as a necessary evil or an unavoidable consequence of poverty, or just another overwhelming social problem that we cannot change.
At age 13, Sonia was working as a child laborer in a textile factory in Northern India, with her parents consent, because they were desperately poor. She was then trafficked out of the factory and into a brothel by strangers or possibly co-workers. Thankfully, Sonia was eventually rescued and sent to Women’s Interlink Foundation. She will be one of the first girls to live in the new shelter Made By Survivors is helping WIF to build in Darjeeling. Sonia is also getting an education, as well as training in our newest jewelry program. Sonia’s story illustrates the connection between child labor and human trafficking.
Take action today against child labor and slavery. Visit MadebySurvivors.com and see how you can make a difference.