Stop for a moment. Hold your breath. Now breathe deep. Didn’t that feel good?
Now ask yourself this – did you question the existence of the air around you in the moment when you held your breath? Or was it still there, and was it that you chose not to take it in? We know that it was your choice not to breathe it in.
It’s the same with child labor. Its existence is as present as the air around us, yet, whether we notice it or not. The choice to not notice it doesn’t annul its existence. But, the choice to be aware and understand its prevalence will move you to act on it!
India is known to have the highest number of child-laborers in the world. The Indian law says that any child below age of 14 years cannot be employed either in a factory or office or restaurant. However, the Global Slavery Index (GSI) estimates, an appalling 18.36 million people in India live in slave-like conditions, of which most are underage children. The 2011 census of India revealed that about 4.3 million children between the age of 5 and 14 years are working in hazardous and non-hazardous jobs. Furthermore, a report by International Labor Organization (ILO) claims that this number is much higher, at 10.3 million child laborers, of which 70 percent are girls.
So, what exactly is child labor? How do we understand it in simple terms? ILO put together a definition of child labor which says that it is “Work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It refers to work that mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children and interferes with their schooling by- depriving them of the opportunity to attend school; obliging them to leave school prematurely; or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.”
India is home to about 10.3 million children who, simply put, do not even know what childhood is. Who do not even know what it is to play, or what it is to have an afternoon’s nap, or what it’s like to lie around or have fun at the park on the weekend. Child labor is not a choice they made for themselves. Child labor is a choice that was made for them even before they could even realize what was happening.
Why does child labor exist?
There are several reasons for the existence of child labor in India. However, the biggest of them all has been identified as poverty. Often, it is those families with the least resources who force their underage children to work in order to support the family’s income. In fact, in a vicious cycle, many of these families possess the idea that more children would mean more income. They, therefore end up having more children. This sends them further down the spiral and all their children end up in child labor to contribute towards their own living.
Lack of education is yet another cause of child labor. Parents who cannot afford to educate their children force them to work and contribute to the family’s income.
Demand for unskilled and cheap source of labor is also a major cause of child labor because children put in more hours of work for much lesser wages.
Bonded labor is one of the greatest contributors to child labor in India. Children are sent by their parents to work for moneylenders in light of unpaid debts. The children however are rarely paid or never paid for their labor and are forced to endure physical, mental and sexual exploitation.
Domestic Labor is one of those forms of child labor which is often welcomed even by the well-educated sections of society. Often times, underage children in poverty are sent to work as domestic aids or join their parents who work in the same industry.
Child Sex work sees thousands of young girls become victims after being lured with hopes of things that ought to be their right – education and better life and just the simple joys of meeting famous actors they see in movies.
Five Indian states – Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra – are the biggest employers of child labor, accounting for about 20 percent of India’s child laborers.
How can child labor be eradicated?
There are many steps that can be taken to eradicate child labor at the higher level such as:
- Strict enforcement of child laws by the government
- Increased awareness among the general public of the severe consequences of child labor.
- Increased employment opportunity for adults which would help in overcoming the problem of poverty and child labor.
- Strict enforcement of Indian laws to make education available to each and every child
- Factory and mine owners of factories should pledge to not engage children in their place of business.
While all these are the ideal solutions to end child labor, we know and have witnessed that it is far more effort to eradicate the devastation. There are many systems, authorities and structures that need to come together for this to be made possible along with individuals who have a heart towards children and a deep interest in restoring childhood back to these children.
This is where Love One More plays a role – in making individuals across the world aware of this hard truth of the existence and prevalence of child labor, particularly in India. You may not see it, but it is prevalent and it is growing. It is so widespread and in many ways beyond our imagination. But, there is a way you can help stop this evil and distance is least of the factors to worry about.
Through Love One More, you can help stop child labor by giving these vulnerable children a chance to experience childhood the way God intended it for them. Through your donation with Love One More, you can give a child the right to choose childhood, education and health over working for their family. Join us in our fight against child labor the way we know how. Let’s do our part in making a choice to recognize the air around us!