Sunday, 13 April 2014

Child labour - what can we do about it?

Worldwide, about 200 million children work , often full-time and are deprived of adequate education, good health and respect for fundamental human rights. Over 60 million children do not have any kind of education. This is a well-known problem and we keep seeing pictures of children working on social media. What can we do as consumers to ensure that the children on this earth have the childhood they deserve? Shouldn’t all children be playing instead of working? This is a complex issue.

Photo: GiveAwaySmile
The article 12 in the  UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children and young people have the right to be the actors of their own lives and to participate in decisions that affect them: Here we can read:

1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.
2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.

"The child should be provided the opportunity to be heard..."

Watching our children play fills our hearts with joy and love. We would give anything we could to our children and we would do anything for them, wouldn't we? But not all parents can do so. In many countries this is a dream that doesn't even exist...

Most of us give our kids all the love we can and many of us also often buy them toys and a lot of fashionable clothes. In the free time we spend time playing with them, trying to make sure they will have good memories of their childhood. We take them to the cinema and to the zoo, we invite their friends and arrange parties for them. We do anything we can to make them happy. When they grow up and ask for a pair of Converse shoes we buy them, often without thinking of who have produced them. We don't know and perhaps we don't want to know either. 

There are a lot of multinational companies that have been accused for using children as workers. Even at Apple a lot of cases of child labour have been disovered among Chinese suppliers. In 2005 the International Labor Rights Fund and Global Exchange  sued Nestlé and its suppliers for the use of enslaved labour and also Coca-Cola is probably one of the most boycotted multinational companies in the world. Due to the globalization multinational corporations , but not only, a lot of companies have moved their production to the poorest countries and for us consumers is more difficult to follow the policy .

According to UNICEF, there are more than 150 million children in the world who carry out jobs that endanger their physical and mental health, and condemn them to a life without entertainment or education. According to the organization The Child Labor Coalition 25-30 children a day die from work. The phenomenon of child labour is mainly concentrated in the poorest areas of the planet. According to the ILO (International Labour Organization) , 74 million children in the world are employed in various forms of hazardous work , such as working in mines, in contact with chemicals and agricultural pesticides or dangerous machineries. In addition, one million children each year are victims of sexual exploitation for commercial purposes. But there is also good news. According to UNICEF since 2002 ther has been a decrese of the number of children doing hazardous work, especially in Latin America and in the Caribbean.

What can we do as individuals combat child labor ? According to Melanie Gow, Manager at World Vision Australia, boycotting is not always the best solution. You have to find some good strategies that last over time. She writes that the company Levis Strauss offers education to children under 14 years instead of work and then take them to work after they have finished their studies. She explains that we can make our voices heard by writing to our favorite stores and ask about their policies on child labour. Melanie writes:

"We can all help by taking small initiatives such as contacting our local retailers and importers and asking them about their policies on child labour. This could mean asking about the products they buy from overseas or about the use of outworkers in Australia. Do they have any checks in place which help ensure that child labour is not employed to make their products?
If you are thinking about buying a carpet, ask traders about the availability of Rugmark and Woolmark carpets. As consumers we should be supporting those manufacturers and brands that don’t use exploitative child labour.

We can contact consumer bodies and pressure them to bring their trading practices into line with our consumer expectations."

There are also petitions on the internet that we can sign. Also campaigns such as Fair trade can do a lot .

In the meantime , let's try to get informed before buying an item. Let's think about what is best for the children and do our very best to use the power we have as costumers. Do you agree?


1 comment:

  1. I have signed this!