2015 Child Rights Essay Competition: 2rd Place, Group 2 (Grades 9-12)
Raiba Soada – Fayetteville, NC / Terry Sanford High School
All children deserve to grow up in a world where their comfort, health, and safety are the priority. Children are our primary motivators to move forward in the world, because the future of the world depends on their prosperity. We must support and protect them in every situation. They deserve to have parents who can care for them and keep them happy and healthy. They deserve to be innocent, free, and even sometimes naive. They deserve to live their lives with a blissful unawareness of the harsh realities of our world. They deserve to receive a multifaceted education that that they can one day use toward a successful career in a profession that they enjoy. They have the right to a normal, beautiful childhood.
Unfortunately, many parents are not able to provide a good quality of life for their children because of their income. Some parents end up giving up their children because they cannot provide for them with the money that they make. In countries that don’t have enough resources in place to take care of these children, they are forced to grow up without parents, and they must become self-sufficient — many of these children become independent at the tender age of 6 or 7. They resort to taking on jobs which require them to work 12 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week, under the harsh sun and in the biting cold. Despite the uncomfortable and sometimes life-threatening conditions they work in, they are paid less than one dollar per day, barely enough to live on. Indeed, many of these children end up passing away due to the stress of the work environment, exhaustion from overworking, diseases passed to them by other children working in close quarters, or starvation because they could not pay for food with their meager wages. The ones who survive experience stunted intellectual and physical development, chronic lung diseases, visual impairment, and bone deformations, conditions which make their quality of life very poor. Even if these children grow up to have their own children, since they are already living in poverty, their children end up having to work in the same places they did, and the terrible tradition continues from generation to generation.
The abhorrent practice of child labor is a widespread problem in densely populated countries such as India. Although the law in India is that any child below the age of 14 cannot be forcibly employed, child labor is being used in various workplaces, such as crop fields, industrial manufacturing, packaging plants, restaurant services, housekeeping, and even stone breaking. International companies outsource to India because of the government’s lax attitude toward child labor. The companies take advantage of how desperate the children are for a job. They only want to decrease their labor costs; they do not care how the children are being treated in the sweatshops and factories.
When it comes to creating effective strategies to eradicate child labor, the government is at a loss. They have to keep in mind that these children’s jobs are the only thing keeping them alive; shutting down the sweatshops and factories they work at would only take their source of income away from them and probably make their lives worse. It is estimated that anywhere from 12 million to 60 million child workers exist in India, and the government does not have the resources to take in that many children. Also, it is difficult to track down child labor in India, because most labor is done informally, with little documentation. And since job prospects are much broader in cities and urban schooling is cheaper than rural schooling, child labor is much more widespread in rural areas, which are remote and therefore especially hard for the government to monitor. The government does not know exactly how big of a problem they are dealing with, since there is a dearth of statistics on Indian children living in slums and rural areas.
In order to eradicate the abusive and life-destroying quality of child labor without taking away these children’s sustenance, the government must be careful with its solution. First, they must tackle the underlying problem: poverty. They must create more jobs for adults in both rural and urban areas, as this will prevent their children from having to take on jobs to support their families. This would also prevent destitute parents from having to give up their children just because they cannot pay to support them. Additionally, it would stimulate the economy and benefit everyone in the country. Next, the government must put into effect a checking system to thoroughly inspect all workplaces for their integrity of labor, and if they cannot do away with child labor completely, they should ensure that the working children are not under a certain age, are not being mistreated, and are being paid a living wage. Above all, however, the most important action to take would be to increase the public awareness of the detrimental effects of child labor. Media pressure is an extremely strong tool. When the government and the companies that utilize child labor are called out for allowing these children’s lives to be ruined, only then will they begin to make a change.
“Child Labour in India.” Childline India Foundation. Childline India Foundation, n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2015. http://www.childlineindia.org.in/child-labour-india.htm.
“Children in India.” Friends of Salaam Baalak Trust. Friends of Salaam Baalak Trust, n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2015.
“Child Labor in India: A Poverty of Schools?” Poverties.org: The Politics of Corruption, Discrimination & Hunger. Poverties.org, Jan. 2013. Web. 11 Sept. 2015. http://www.poverties.org/child-labor-in-india.html.
“Child Labour.” UNICEF. UNICEF, 11 June 2015. Web. 11 Sept. 2015.