Thursday, June 15, 2006
Who Labored For That Thing You Bought Today?
Decu's day begins at dawn. Usually he does not eat, just drinks a little water. Then he sets off on a two-hour walk with his twin, Kaba. Both have torn sweatshirts and trousers with holes. By their side is Cedric, their friend and neighbour...
...By seven or eight each morning, the boys arrive at Ruashi mines, where huge mounds of red, brown and grey soil scar the landscape. They join the ranks of child miners - close to 800 of them, working alongside fully grown men.
We stand at the top of one enormous mound of silky soil, looking down into a crater about 40 metres deep. All the way down there are ghostly-looking figures digging for copper, coated in choking grey dust.
There are no safety standards. No-one wears a hard hat. In the midst of all this, there are some boys as young as Decu and Kaba, working with bare hands and bare feet.
The children here can be as young as five or six. "We saw boys standing waist deep in toxic water, washing soil away from nuggets of copper."
The new owners of this mine, Metorex Limited from South Africa, would not give us an interview on camera. They inherited the informal miners when they bought the mine. The company says it's a difficult situation because so many local people depend on the mine.
The irony is that without what they can scrabble together at the mine, life for Cedric and the twins might be a lot worse.
Unfortunately, the ILO is an arm of the United Nations, an organization I cannot trust to do anything in an honest, competent or unbribable manner.
The ILO does state something of which I agree:
All children have a right to a normal childhood, but worldwide an estimated 218 million of them are denied it.
From November of last year:
13-year old Mohammad Tabrez Alam, who has been working in Delhi for a year and a half now.
"We used to start work at nine in the morning. Most days we worked till 12 or 1 in the night," he said.
And for his pains, Tabrez was paid a pocket money of 50 rupees (just over $1) a week, and at the end of the month, his employer sent 800 rupees (roughly $17) to his parents.
Alam has never been to school and can neither read nor write.
There are four million child laborers in the Philippines and 2.8 million of them are employed in dangerous jobs.
More than half of Cambodian children aged under 14 are being put to work, forcing them out of school...Most of the work is unpaid and in the highly dangerous agricultural sector...While the government has significantly increased educational opportunities for children, it has admitted that it cannot enforce its child labour laws.
Jesus Christ people...this infuriates me. Children are not mules to be put to work like this. I don't doubt for a second that mules would treated better! I know the only concern for groups like PETA is their myopic and precious concern for all animals, but they could be doing something far more grand on the scale of helping to fight against child labor.
Who is guilty of perpetuating their plight? All of us are. We want the most for our money and we want it at the cheapest possible price. Even at the exploitation of children.
Think about that the next time you're in Target, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Sam's Club and all the other outlet and department stores. Yeah, sure, they tell us they do all they can to make sure their suppliers are not engaged in profiting from child labor. Somehow, hearing that doesn't make me necessarily believe it.
A decrease in child labor, the first ever, was reported at the end of May:
The new report says the actual number of child laborers worldwide fell by 11 per cent between 2000 and 2004, from 246 million to 218 million. The biggest challenges remain in the agricultural sector, where 7 out of 10 child laborers work. According to the report, Latin America and the Caribbean have seen the most rapid decline in child labor over the four-year period, with Brazil and Mexico taking the lead.
According to the BBC/OU:
It is estimated that the working child population aged between 5 and 17 years old is 352 million children. Of these, 246 million children are engaged in child labour. 73 per cent are believed to be engaged in the worst forms of child labour: hazardous work and the unconditional worst forms. This amounts to one child in every eight in the world.
Of the 171 million children engaged in hazardous work, nearly two-thirds are under 15. Over eight million children worldwide are trapped in the unconditional worst forms of child labour. These forms of child labour include:
* trafficking (1.2 million)
* forced and bonded labour (5.7 million)
* armed conflict (0.3 million)
* prostitution and pornography (1.8 million)
* illicit activities (0.6 million)
In Sub-Saharan Africa, almost one child in three below the age of 15 is economically active. However, the Asian-Pacific region harbours the largest number of child workers in the 5-14 age category: 127.3 million in total. Rich countries have the lowest numbers of child workers.
So who labored for that thing you bought today?
What you can do:
Children's Rights/Child Labor
Stop Child Labor
Unicef: Stop Exploiting Child Labor
- - -
I debated over and over and over on whether or not to include the following paragraphs in what I wrote above. I deleted them and then I put them back, then I deleted them again. Finally, I decided to include them here. They are the concluding paragraphs of what I wrote above:
With this issue of child labor, we have the numbers crunched and verified. We can see it, the evidence exits, there is no doubt that it is a huge problem not only for the heinous way in how this exploitation mistreats children but how it affects all of us. It is real, it is defined, it is factual.
And on the other hand - and I suppose I'm going to catch some grief from some folks for making an intangible analogy, but that's never stopped me in the past - we have the Albert Gore jet-setting around the globe applying undeniable truth to so-called global warming, and he expects people to listen and believe his words.
You know, if Gore would have taken up the issue and cause of Child Labor, damn, I would have been right there with him. But then, Child Labor probably doesn't have the political and financial clout, and the cause-celebre, that so-called global warming does to carry him into making another bid for the presidency.
What I'm saying is this; so many people have misfocused attention on something as ambiguous and scientifically unproven as global warming, (if you don't believe that, please see this link: http://www.canadafreepress.com/2006/harris061206.htm), yet, on the issue of Child Labor, which exists, is proven and is identified, the most vocal voices on what should be a Number One Ranked Worldwide Issue and Concern are deadly silent.
We have our sneakers made in Vietnam for pennies on the dollar by near slave labor yet pay $150 dollars for them. We have electronics made in China for little pay and long hours by children.
And this does not even get into the abuse children are subject to in these and other countries. Forced genital mutilation on girls in Africa, girl babies killed so that boys can be born, sickness, starvation, war… It is an ugly picture that needs to be discussed at least as much as some spoiled rich, bimbo stars new pet dog.
Thanks for posting this.
They'll jump on this issue when they can also rip on a celebrity, like Kathie Lee Gifford, when it was shown some of the clothing line she endorsed with her name on it was being manufactured by slave labor. She contended she was not aware of it, and that may be true, my point here is not to point blame at her. But more the media for not covering this story, as you say, they way and manner that they cover some "spoiled rich, bimbo stars' new pet dog."
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