CW: This article discusses topics of mental illness and suicide which could be distressing to some readers.
Childhood is a time when we create the happiest memories of our lives. In a way, it is a very significant stage that shapes and defines our character. Imagine If this phase was replaced by abuse and physical exploitation?
Today, many children are not given the chance to develop those happy memories and it isn’t fair. Every child should be allowed to learn and live in a healthy environment. Instead, these prospects are shattered by conflicts, poverty, and discrimination.
What is child labour?
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) 160 million children work in child labour around the world. Child labour is the exploitation of children by any means that deprives them of their freedom, their childhood, and their ability to attend school.
We often hear about these societal issues however, do we stop and reflect deeply on them?
Child labour happens in many countries and yet nothing crucial seems to be happening to prevent it. These children are too young to realise what is happening to them, they are forced into a world where they are not allowed any rights or compassion. They work for excruciating hours under hazardous conditions, and they are paid so little. Millions are forced to leave school, a place where they could learn, grow and acquire knowledge. They are stripped of these experiences, and it is not okay.
Sonali, a young 5-year-old started working to support her family. Her father earned around US$ 1.60 a day, which was not enough to support his children. Sonali had to help her mother make jewellery, leaving education at an early age.
Another case is Ima, a child from India. She was forced to work in a shrimp depot. She was subjected to long hours of work in which she often cut herself with a knife when scraping fish. She was constantly scared of her bosses because they would beat her when she made mistakes.
We must ask ourselves why we are allowing these vulnerable kids to be stripped of their innocence. Child labour often leads to sexual exploitation, trafficking, and slavery. According to UNICEF, 1.2 million children are trafficked yearly. At least twenty-thousand Nepal girls of the age of 9 or younger are sent to brothels in India. Others are sent as domestic servants or are involved in the drug ring. Child labour often causes negative and irreparable harm to a child’s physical and psychological development. Usually, they grow up with respiratory diseases, malnutrition, skin infections, musculoskeletal deformities, hearing, and vision problems as well as behavioural disorders.
Why does it exist?
Child labour is frequently justified by a lack of international agreements, Socioeconomic disparities as well as poor governance. It is often said that poverty is the root of child labour, as many parents are neither employed nor paid enough to support their families. Poverty is often used as an excuse for exploiting children. This makes them vulnerable and susceptible to all kinds of exploitation.
Additionally, without proper education, child labour will continue to be a vicious cycle where children without education are forced to work in order to survive. Social norms and the educational system are also to blame. We are not doing enough to stop this.
Providing free and compulsory education might be a first step toward combating child labour as well as birth registration for children to ensure their rights. I believe that these measures could help reduce child labour and provide these children with a real chance at life.
Child labour in supply chains
Many companies seem willing to ignore child labour practices today. It is not unusual to find young children working in substandard conditions in a global economy that values profit over ethics. No excuses can make up for the mental and physical abuse these children are inflicted. Throughout the supply chain, slavery is present at all stages. Is it really hard for companies to determine whether their materials are acquired ethically or not? Or is it easier to hide these unethical behaviours?
Many companies struggle with transparency. They often present themselves as ethical whilst hiding issues in their supply chain. Businesses have social responsibility duties, and respecting human rights is one of them. When exploiting children, they breach this ethical obligation. Companies need to start investigating the steps of their supply chain in order to tackle this issue.
Slavery was thought to be ended hundreds of years ago, yet it still takes place today. Child labour is a cruel fate many children are forced to live. Abusing power must stop, children should not be taken advantage of. In order for them to have a fair chance in life, they should be given education and freedom. Children are our future, if we allow them to suffer such injustice, what will our society become?