Where were you at 12? Most likely at school, playing, dealing with puberty, growing up and dreaming up your future. Most likely you weren’t invisible, tucked away in a factory making toys, or cleaning dishes for the affluent in your neighbourhood. But if you were, you would for sure have wished the government, politicians, lawyers and civil society had not made excuses for why it’s alright for children to work.
There’s 10 million children in India who work because they are poor and can’t afford not to. Does their poverty make them any less deserving of a labour-free life than other children? We need to ramp up collective efforts of state, civil society, communities, and families to address child labour.
We bring you some gripping and implicative anti child labour print ads from around the world that made people stop, think, and take a stand.
Hopefully, you will #saynotochildlabour
A dress shouldn’t cost a childhood
Some things should never be for sale
Help remove the labour out of the game
We must make this a thing of the past
What child deserves this?
Child labour is a crime
Children should be making sandcastles. Not bricks.
Employee of the month
Don’t deny them the chance to be children.
Some kids play around with tea cups intead of shuttles
Child labour might still be a necessary evil in a country like India but the new law proposed by the government will worsen the condition of child workers in the country. The burden of the government’s lofty ‘Make in India’ dream cannot be allowed to rest on our children.
While poverty remains the main reason why child labour is prevalent it certainly doesn’t mean that children who work can help their families to break out of poverty. It is like a vicious circle. When children are either not sent to school in the first place or are forced to drop out and start working as cheaper labour they miss out on acquiring formal education and skills which are crucial to getting a decent job and a significant improvement in their standard of living. So, in fact child labour helps in perpetuating the cycle of poverty instead of breaking it.
Many well-meaning people in our society feel they are in fact doing a favour to Child Domestic Workers by employing them. This is at best a self-serving delusion. While many of us may treat them humanely, we still make them work for us and our children. Yes, in most cases these children come from poor families, often from remote villages where they live a life of abject deprivation. But, our goal should be strengthen the hands of those work for creating the required social and economic infrastructure in such so that these children don’t have to work in our homes and miss out on their childhoods and a chance at a better life.
In most cases, these children who are sent to our homes by dubious placement agencies are exploited, abused and cheated. The money promised to them doesn’t reach their families. Unwittingly, we have become part of the systematic exploitation of such children as their employers.
It is a common myth that to save ancient craft children need to start working in hereditary occupations like carpet-weaving, glass-blowing etc… In any case should the cost of ‘saving’ such ancient crafts be millions of lost childhoods? Should the burden of this ‘saving’ befall the tiny and still unformed minds and bodies of little children? It is nothing but a cruel ruse by the industry lobbies of such sectors to continue to get government benefits by retaining the status of cottage and hand-loom industries.
Many of us come from impoverished backgrounds, some of us might even have ancestors who were petty artisans, or even labourers, but education and economic opportunities enabled us to rise and live a dignified life. If there is a skill that really needs to be preserved it can be done so through government-aided training programmes. Children, if they want to learn a family skill should be allowed to do so but not at the cost of their future and childhood.
Is it possible to track what goes in people’s homes? The notion that children can ‘help’ their family-run businesses after school hours seems benign but is loaded with risks for millions of child labourers who will now have no recourse to legal remedies to get out of forced child labour. How will the government track if the child is really working in her own family-enterprise given the poor state of monitoring agencies? Besides in the Indian context the definition of who is family is also ambiguous.
Most children below the age of 14 years already work in family enterprises, agriculture, artisanship, entertainment industry (except circus), this amendment will pull even more children into unregulated child labour settings.
The truth behind family businesses is that these are most often unorganised cheaply outsourced paid per piece production jobs, where children are pressurised to work for hours together for very meagre income leaving them with no time to study, or for recreation.
It’s like the same argument proposed by supporters of show-fighting. The one who survives is better. Children’s lives are not to be played around with just because they are born in poor families. They deserve education and a healthy childhood as much our children.
To be tabled in this season’s parliamentary session, the government proposes an amendment to the child labour legislation. The amendment proposes a ban of all child labour upto 14 years of age, but contains a provisio, which allows children under 14 years to help their parents after school, and during vacations in fields, home based work or forest gathering.
The government envisages that this provisio will help impoverished families earn a living and give children an ‘entrepreneurial spirit’. India has 10 million children who work. We have no system or services in place to monitor, rehabilitate or even to obtain justice for children who have been exploited at their work places. Such an amendment will allow for millions of children to fall into the ambit of work. In the Indian context where definitions of family are ambiguous (everyone is an uncle and nephew), the provisio in the amendment will deny children who are being forced to work, the right to legal recourse.
“The new economic growth model is pushing more and more work from factory floors to homes. In cramped, poorly lit and barely ventilated slum shanties, children bend over for hours moulding, stitching, embroidering, weaving and folding,”writes human rights activist, Harsh Mander. We would be fooling ourselves if we think that children who work under these conditions would be in a position to attend school, and have time left over for study and recreation.
For those of us who are under the illusion that children helping their parents in home based work is alright, here are some images that capture what it really looks like. Invisible and dangerous.
Murram (the tray one makes beedi on) and Suri (the knife that is used for closing the tip of the beedi) instead of toys
Nimble fingers move with robotic precision- placing the tobacco inside the dried leaf, tightly rolling and tying it up with a thread, and closing the tip with a sharp knife. Continuous beedi rolling leads to thinning of skin on the fingers and results in direct absorption of high doses of Nicotine.
Soft hands that harden mud clay into the bricks
Smoke rising off huge furnaces of brick kilns amidst green fields beside highways. Déjà vu? Yes we’re sure. But, what you have probably failed to notice is the black coal dust smeared faces of children working alongside their parents, carrying and placing the bricks to dry under the sun. Their eyes burn, their lungs fill with coal dust. Would you want them to do this for even a minute?
Ever heard this?“Woh apna chacha se kaam seekhne Mumbai chala gaya?”
Eyes strained, staring at the patterns they are sowing, finger tips sore from handling needles, they strain their spines, sitting with their necks bent. These are not factories with protection standards and workers’ rights. Many of these are units operating out of people’s homes in urban shanties.
Bangles or handcuffs?
In the confines of their homes- on the floor, they solder, mould over a flame and finish by dipping in acid. Too soon to be learning a traditional family skill?
Childhoods lost a stick at a time
Each match is coated the chemical mixture. Then packed. Hundreds in a day for a meagre some of money. The low price of each piece makes the volume of her work overwhelmingly high. She could be one of the many children we’ve heard of, who get home from school and get to work.
Incense of a childhood lost
Exposed to chemicals in incense paste, their eyes and lungs get affected over time.
Where are the colours in their lives: The white cotton pickers of India
Children are involved at every stage – seeding cotton, picking and ginning- the ugly side of a global business chain which provides raw material to high-end garment brands. According to an article in Reuters, India is the largest producer of cotton, an industry which thrives on cheap labour offered by children. As seasonal labour children are taken in droves across states far away from their homes.
Chotu serving you Chai? Everywhere, isn’t he?
Even if you try telling the owner that child labour in dhabhas is banned, he’ll most likely tell you Chotu is his nephew, and that he goes to school and helps in his free time. Chotu’s eyes however, will tell you another story. One that you won’t be able to do much about if the proposed amendments pass.
While most of us use walls for spitting, sticking bills, urinating, and writing cheesy love messages at will, there are some people who have made walls the perfect tool to give voice to millions of children. Street art was and continues to be an important medium for artists to express their thoughts on varied matters, even in the age of social media!
Here’s a collection of street artists across the world who are painting childrens’ worlds and expressing their stories of struggle in an attempt to draw attention to a whole generation of young people living discoloured childhoods.
Banksy is a quasi-anonymous, elusive, English graffiti artist. His satirical pieces of art often include children amongst others. From children whose lives have been ravaged by Syria’s civil war, the plight of child labourers in third world countries, the child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, lost childhoods, and a host of social and political issues that affect the next generation, Banksy’s art never fails to leave an impact.
Today, the name Banksy ignites controversy, starts conversations and piques curiosity; forcing us to stop and think—something that we often avoid doing in our day-to-day lives. The most controversial street artist to emerge on the global stage, his works have appeared in America, Australia, Canada, England, France, Israel, Jamaica and Palestine.
‘I am just a scream on [a] wall’ is how Nafir aka Scream humbly describes himself. The history of revolution in Iran is deeply connected with graffiti. In Iran, urban art is on the rise thanks to artists whose public work questions the country’s social and political status quo. Nafir is one such artist. Working constantly and stubbornly, refusing to be silenced by the powers-that-be. As many of his subjects are children, with an emphasis on child labour, substance abuse and poverty, a clear message emerges: this is the lost, forgotten generation with a diminishing identity. But Nafir seems to counteract that by documenting their faces, in groups and alone, on all urban surfaces. His involvement in charity work and deep sense of empathy shine through these touching portraits; despair, melancholy, but also pure happiness flourish in Tehran with every new stencil. Even though his works are usually erased by the Iranian authorities within a 24-hour period, Nafir continues on with what he calls his fight against oppression.
Nemo has been an active street artist since 2008. He believes in ‘social graffiti’, graffiti that addresses political and social issues, showing both the problem and proposed solutions within the art. His work discusses issues like street children, poverty, sexual harrassment, feeding homeless children and also lends a voice to the troubled youth of Egypt. He sees his art as the honest media of the city, free from bias or vested interest, and able to communicate with the viewer on their level.
Alias is the busiest Berlin based street artist. The streets are literally covered with his paint. From his introverted characters, an audience can observe that Alias feels exhausted by a disconnected society – making him one of the most poignant street artists around. Most of his work depicts children and teenagers in dangerous situations. Their faces look soft and angelic but there is always something dangerous going on in the background. His work on children’s issues includes the dangers of social media for children, the emotions of innocent children, faceless children disconnected from the world, children sitting on bombs, and many more. Today, his work can be found across Europe.
“I care about the social problems and more specifically about the kids and the new generations. The political circumstances affect all the problems of society, so they possibly also affect my work and inspiration.”– Stamatis
A street and fine artist from Athen, Stamitis is both passionately creative and socially active. His every piece of art carries a deeper message or a statement about social values, popular opinions or current events. Stamitis conveys messages from the next generation by giving a voice to an often voiceless group in society; young children. This is not to say that each street art poster addresses serious issues – many paste-ups show children laughing, smiling and celebrating all of the possibilities that the future may bring.
French street artist Dran uses his art to comment on issues concerning contemporary society. Being labeled “the French Banksy” by some, he utilises his dark sense of humour to criticise modern culture, often tackling topics concerning art, creativity, and the freedom of expression. These recurring themes in Dran’s works are often depicted through children equipped with crayons- bringing to light the naturally imaginative mind of children while questioning the suppression and imprisonment of such creativity.
Bumblebee, Los Angeles
With a focus on themes of innocence, communication and coming of age, Bumblebee’s stencil and sculptural works are most often rendered in the simple, but instantly identifiable colour palette of yellow and black. Ongoing campaigns range from the remodeling of urban furniture such as abandoned phone kiosks and newspaper boxes to large-scale mural projects that address and work to raise awareness of issues such as youth homelessness.
He is the Vancouver artist who has caught Banksy’s attention- iHeart! He stencils graffiti with social commentary on contemporary issues with minimal use of colours, similar to Banksy himself. He too believes that anonymity is a must and mostly features children in his works to convey his message.
Leena Kejriwal, India
A photographer and installation artist by profession, Leena was also involved with 2 NGO’s in Kolkata, India working on the issue of female trafficking and prostitution of young girls. She learnt that 1.2 million girls were being trafficked at an average age of 11-14 years, backed by a lucrative business model leaving few risks for the traffickers. Project “Missing” was Leena’s brain child to make people take notice of the magnitude of the issue by creating engaging pieces of art that draw people and spark conversations in large public spaces. Her large scale installations and stencils of faceless, lifeless, dark and voiceless girls are a reminder of how many vulnerable girls go missing in India.
Almost unnoticed, one of the greatest civil rights struggles of our times is being fought in our midst. Not by political honchos or country leaders, but by young determined children, turned activists. In the middle of religious opposition, deep rooted customs & traditions and the battle for basic rights, there is a silver lining. Across the world, young supporters of children’s education are being threatened, assaulted and in some instances, murdered. Yet, they remain bold, restless and purposeful.
Be it in a refugee camp, a rural village or at school, these children are starting to shape their own destinies and those of thousands of children around them. There’s a Malala is every child waiting to be unveiled.
Meet the oh-so-inspiring young ones who are changing the scape of activism for education world over!
Razia Sultan, India:15 year old Razia is a resident of a village in Meerut, India. A child labourer since the age of 4, she stitched footballs for a living like many other girls in her village but struggled against the odds and succeeded in passing Class 11. After being rescued by an NGO, she joined a school and eventually became a youth leader in her native place, encouraging other children in her village to join school. Razia has helped stop the exploitation of 48 child labourers and made sure that they were enrolled in school. Razia’s struggle against child labour and illiteracy was not just confined to her own place. She travels to different places as a youth leader and continues to carry out a door to door campaign for the education of children.
Hadiqa Bashir, Pakistan: 14 year old Hadiqa Bashir fights to stop child marriage in the Swat valley in Pakistan- a place where girls are offered for marriage in exchange for settling a dispute or to keep land in the family, a place where girls still struggle for basic rights. Changing the mindset and traditions of a conservative society is never easy – especially for a young girl. After school she goes to local neighbourhoods to spread awareness amongst girls and families who are deeply rooted in traditional customs. But, she hopes that with her efforts at least some children can have an education and a normal childhood.
Muzoon Almellehan, Syria: Muzoon has been living in the Za’atari refugee camp after feeling Syria in 2013. As she struggled to adjust to the curriculum and understand her teachers’ accents, she noticed girls her age disappearing from class. She was furious to know that two of her classmates had dropped out to get married. Child marriage wasn’t something she saw commonly at home in Syria, but in the camps it seemed rampant. Today, 16 year old Muzoon who works to convince parents in refugee camps to let their daughters stay in school rather than marrying them off.
Amina Yusuf, Nigeria: Inspired by Malala, 17 year old Amina is advocating for girl child education in Nigeria. “I want world leaders to consider attacks on girls’ education. Insurgency in Nigeria means that there is fear in my community and fear for girls’ safety. Before now, we all thought that school was the safest place but now it’s scary. I’ve heard that many girls in boarding schools have been taken out by their parents or organisations for security reasons. People are scared that their girls may be abducted too. I know that I’m scared too, but it won’t stop me from doing what I aspire to do. People weren’t able to stop Malala, and they can’t stop me.” Amina contnues to work to ensure all girls get equal opportunities.
Keshab Roy, Bangladesh: In class seven, Keshab, quit school to work as a labourer at a scrapped-iron shop as his father was seriously ill and he needed to provide for his family. Despite his conditions, Keshab was determined to complete his education. The world around Keshab became narrower. But he never lost hope of going to school again. With the help of Surjomukhi NGO, he was able to do so. Keshab, 18, went on to start ‘wedding-busters’, a youth led organization that runs child marriage free zones. With the help of his team, he succeeded in preventing 25 child marriages in his area, and counselled over 50 dropout school students to continue with their education.