Child Labor: A Worldwide Problem

This young girl, who is from country Asia , is weaving. (Photo: International Center on Child Labor and Education)

     One Sunday morning in New Delhi, India, I had nothing to do at home besides watching TV, so my family and I decided to have lunch outside. I quickly dressed in my warm clothes, put on my gloves as my other family members did. It was freezing cold outside. We drove to a nearby South Indian restaurant a few kilometers from our house.
     While we were waiting, I happened to notice something very strange in that restaurant. All the helpers were children, maybe 7 to 8 years old, wearing short pants, dirty torn t-shirts, and no shoes. It’s not that I saw that for the first time, but it was the first time that I felt bad for them. My heart just cried out for those children, but I was helpless.
     I remembered this experience last year when I attended a talk at Blair by former child workers who were here at Blair for an open discussion hosted by the International Studies Academy. These children were from India, Colombia, and Mexico and today they have been rescued by the International Center on Child Labor and Education (ICCLE).
     According to Ms. Beth Lindley who is the Deputy Director for ICCLE, there are 240 million children around the world in situations similar or worse than what I saw. In some situations children are workers with some freedom. But in other situations children are slaves, forced by someone else or forced by their own conditions to work. Some lack food in their houses. Some must support their parents in running the house. Due to this kind of situation some children end up being forced to work in locked rooms. “Some of the worst form of child labor is prostitution, physical abuse, and pornography,” Ms. Lindley said.
     I watched some of this physical abuse myself one day in India when I was coming home from my boarding school for the Christmas vacation. I was full of excitement to meet with my family members. I remember it was a very cold night when I had to put on extra layers of clothes to keep me warm. Our bus driver stopped at a restaurant for a break at around 2:00 a.m. in the morning.
     When it was almost time to leave, I saw the owner of the restaurant shouting and using vulgar language at a child and beating him up with a wire just because he was two minutes late showing up at his place of work.

This very young child is making bricks in a Latin America country.

   I was full with anger within me looking at that act and I really wanted to stop the man from doing that. But I knew that generally the restaurant owners bought their children for some couple of hundred rupees or just picked them up from the streets. Because I didn’t know what else to do, I walked to this small boy and gave him one hundred rupees which immediately brought a smile on his face. I really felt good doing until I saw his owner take the money from his hand telling him to finish the work first. When I saw that, I doubted that the boy would ever see the money again.
     I have learned that the ICCLE along with a partnership with Mr. Kailash Satyarthi who is the founder of the organization called “Save the Children,” has been able to help many children in situations like ones that I saw in India. “We have saved more than 120 thousand children all around the world,” Ms. Lindley said.
     According to Ms. Lindley, the highest rate of child labor is in Africa. This continent has children from the age group of 5 to 8 years old and older working. She explained that some are doing physical jobs like working in gold mines. “You cannot reduce poverty unless you eliminate child labor,” Ms. Lindley said. “Our mission is to eliminate the worst child labor and provide free education to all.”
ICCLE is the North American secretariat for the Global March against Child Labor. This organization collects financial aid or any other kinds of aid to deliver to the children in need, in many different countries. So if anyone is interested in helping these children, then please contact this organization. There address is:
The International Center on Child Labor and Education
1925 K Street, NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20006
Tel: 202 778 6355


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